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Cardboard Children - Tragedy Looper

Can't Go On

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Hello youse.

I’ve been very busy with the release of my horror feature film (on Vimeo On Demand and 10% of every rental or sale to women’s aid charities – do excuse the plug) but I’ve still had time to play some board games.

Shall we enter the loop?

TRAGEDY LOOPER

In this week’s column I am going to try to talk to you about a game called “Tragedy Looper”. If you come with me into this room, I’ll explain to you how the game works.

You are dead. The loop is over.

TRAGEDY LOOPER

In this week’s column I am going to try to talk to you about a game called “Tragedy Looper”. If you come with me into this room, I’ll explain to you how the game works.

No? You want to stay here? Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a Japanese design, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever played. The English language edition of the game has just been released by Z-Man Games, and I worry that the game might pass by without getting the attention it deserves.

It is utterly weird and brilliant.

First of all, it reminds you of the Japanese video game RPG Persona.

Have you played that game? You have?

You are dead. The loop is over.

TRAGEDY LOOPER

In this week’s column I am going to try to talk to you about a game called “Tragedy Looper”. If you come with me into this room, I’ll explain to you how the game works.

No? You want to stay here? Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a Japanese design, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever played. The English language edition of the game has just been released by Z-Man Games, and I worry that the game might pass by without getting the attention it deserves.

It is utterly weird and brilliant.

First of all, it reminds you of the Japanese video game RPG Persona.

Have you played that game? You haven’t? Okay.

Well, it has that nice anime look, and it’s set in a School, a City, a Shrine and a Hospital. These locations are massively important. For example, come with me to the Shrine, and we’ll talk about why the locations matter so much.

I am dead. The loop is over.

TRAGEDY LOOPER

In this week’s column I am going to try to talk to you about a game called “Tragedy Looper”. If you come with me into this room, I’ll explain to you how the game works.

No? You want to stay here? Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a Japanese design, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever played. The English language edition of the game has just been released by Z-Man Games, and I worry that the game might pass by without getting the attention it deserves.

It is utterly weird and brilliant.

First of all, it reminds you of the Japanese video game RPG Persona.

Have you played that game? You haven’t? Okay.

Well, it has that nice anime look, and it’s set in a School, a City, a Shrine and a Hospital. These locations are massively important. For example, come with me to the Shrine, and we’ll talk about why the locations matter so much. No? We’re going to the City?

Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a game for up to 4 players. One player must be the Mastermind, pulling the strings to make sure that every day passes the way it is supposed to, so that tragedies might occur.

The other players are time travellers. They are repeating the events of these fateful days again and again, in “loops”. The board is laid out with four locations – School, City, Shrine, Hospital. For each “script” in the game, each “scenario” (of which there are ten), there are a number of characters to be placed on the board.

Every player has a set of action cards that can be used to move characters, or increase their paranoia and intrigue levels. The loopers, the good guys, can also place Goodwill on characters, so that they can use their special powers. Once every player has played cards on the locations and characters, the cards are resolved and –

if a certain game state develops

according to the script

the loop ends in tragedy and resets to the very first day.

If not, a new day dawns. If the players can reach the end of the script’s days without losing the game, they win immediately.

EXPLAINING TRAGEDY LOOPER

How the hell do you explain Tragedy Looper?

I am the Mastermind. It is my job to make time flow to my liking.
You are the protagonists, and you must try to stop a tragedy from happening.
You do not know what that tragedy is.

It’s like Quantum Leap, a bit. You arrive at the start of a story. Something is going to happen. Something bad. But you don’t know what. Your first loop is usually spent watching what is happening on the table and around you. The Mastermind increases paranoia on the Police Inspector. Interesting. The Mastermind moves the Schoolgirl to the shrine. The Shrine Maiden is alone with her. Hm. The Schoolgirl is DEAD. The loop ends there.

Do we save the Schoolgirl? Is that why we are here? It’s like Quantum Leap, except with no Al and Ziggy to explain what the fuck you’re doing there.

There is a script that I must follow. This script will contain a “Plot” and a number of “Subplots”. Any of these might lead to the end of the loop, bringing you protagonists closer to defeat.

It is crucial to understand that the players have NOTHING to go on at the start of the game. They have a reference chart that show the possible “plots” of the story. By cross-referencing which roles they think are in play and which game-states are developing, they might be able to deduce which story is actually taking place. Maybe. MAYBE. It’s not good enough just to work it out, though. They also have to prevent it.

This murder plot is in play, yes. But what you fools don’t know is that there is a serial killer subplot in play too, to complicate matters. A conspiracy, yes. A pre-meditated murder. Yes. But also a serial killer, killing seemingly at random. Good luck to you.

Good luck, indeed. All these characters on the board may have hidden roles. The Shrine Maiden might be a serial killer. Now – she might not have anything to do with the main plot. But she still might end a loop, if she kills a key person. Now, consider this – even the protagonists, the good guys, can manipulate the serial killer if they work out who that serial killer is.

So, you use my own puppets against me. You deduced that there is an Assassin in this story, and that the Assassin is here to kill the schoolgirl. So you moved my assassin until he was alone with my serial killer. And my assassin died. Very clever. But there are other ways to reach our fated end.

With enough knowledge, the story can be pushed in different directions by the players. As long as the script’s game-end states never take shape, the good guys are going to win.

But on certain days, incidents occur. Everyone at the table knows when these incidents will happen, and what they are.

On Day 2 – a murder.

On Day 3 – a suicide.

Only the Mastermind knows who might commit a murder, and who might take their own life. It’s his job to place enough paranoia onto these characters to make the events take place. Remember, this all happens through simple face-down card play. The Mastermind raises some paranoia. The players lower that paranoia. Fine, but what if that is all a bluff? What if that stuff is completely off-script, and the Mastermind is pursuing his plot elsewhere?

By placing Goodwill on characters, the players can use the characters’ unique special abilities to further tweak events.

BLANK EXPRESSIONS

Tragedy Looper is a dark, weird game that is completely baffling at first. It leans on exactly none of the popular mechanics of current board games. It is it’s own thing. The central concept of replaying the same situation over and over again is frankly bizarre, but eventually wonderful. People, here is a game where you don’t even know how to win.

Look, here’s what the game really is – an all-versus-one battle to avoid certain game states.

The first time a loop ends on the players is always shockingly, brilliantly brutal.

A character is moved somewhere and then the Mastermind says – “The Office Worker is dead. The loop ends.”

No more information than that.

That’s when the game is afoot. Why did he die? How did he die? Who killed him? Why does it matter that he died? Why did he end the loop? What role is he playing? WHAT STORY IS THIS?

WHAT STORY IS THIS?

We’re talking about a game that has you asking “WHAT STORY IS THIS?” How wonderful is that?

Do you think it’s wonderful?

You are dead. The loop ends.

TRAGEDY LOOPER

In this week’s column I am going to try to talk to you about a game called “Tragedy Looper”. If you come with me into this room, I’ll explain to you how the game works.

No? You want to stay here? Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a Japanese design, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever played. The English language edition of the game has just been released by Z-Man Games, and I worry that the game might pass by without getting the attention it deserves.

It is utterly weird and brilliant.

First of all, it reminds you of the Japanese video game RPG Persona.

Have you played that game? You haven’t? Okay.

Well, it has that nice anime look, and it’s set in a School, a City, a Shrine and a Hospital. These locations are massively important. For example, come with me to the Shrine, and we’ll talk about why the locations matter so much. No? We’re going to the City?

Okay.

Tragedy Looper is a game for up to 4 players. One player must be the Mastermind, pulling the strings to make sure that every day passes the way it is supposed to, so that tragedies might occur.

The other players are time travellers. They are repeating the events of these fateful days again and again, in “loops”. The board is laid out with four locations – School, City, Shrine, Hospital. For each “script” in the game, each “scenario” (of which there are ten), there are a number of characters to be placed on the board.

Every player has a set of action cards that can be used to move characters, or increase their paranoia and intrigue levels. The loopers, the good guys, can also place Goodwill on characters, so that they can use their special powers. Once every player has played cards on the locations and characters, the cards are resolved and –

if a certain game state develops

according to the script

the loop ends in tragedy and resets to the very first day.

If not, a new day dawns. If the players can reach the end of the script’s allotted number of days without losing the game, they win immediately.

EXPLAINING TRAGEDY LOOPER

How the hell do you explain Tragedy Looper?

I am the Mastermind. It is my job to make time flow to my liking.
You are the protagonists, and you must try to stop a tragedy from happening.
You do not know what that tragedy is.

It’s like Quantum Leap, a bit. You arrive at the start of a story. Something is going to happen. Something bad. But you don’t know what. Your first loop is usually spent watching what is happening on the table and around you. The Mastermind increases paranoia on the Police Inspector. Interesting. The Mastermind moves the Schoolgirl to the shrine. The Shrine Maiden is alone with her. Hm. The Schoolgirl is DEAD. The loop ends there.

Do we save the Schoolgirl? Is that why we are here? It’s like Quantum Leap, except with no Al and Ziggy to explain what the fuck you’re doing there.

There is a script that I must follow. This script will contain a “Plot” and a number of “Subplots”. Any of these might lead to the end of the loop, bringing you protagonists closer to defeat.

It is crucial to understand that the players have NOTHING to go on at the start of the game. They have a reference chart that show the possible “plots” of the story. By cross-referencing which roles they think are in play and which game-states are developing, they might be able to deduce which story is actually taking place. Maybe. MAYBE. It’s not good enough just to work it out, though. They also have to prevent it.

This murder plot is in play, yes. But what you fools don’t know is that there is a serial killer subplot in play too, to complicate matters. A conspiracy, yes. A pre-meditated murder. Yes. But also a serial killer, killing seemingly at random. Good luck to you.

Good luck, indeed. All these characters on the board may have hidden roles. The Shrine Maiden might be a serial killer. Now – she might not have anything to do with the main plot. But she still might end a loop, if she kills a key person. Now, consider this – even the protagonists, the good guys, can manipulate the serial killer if they work out who that serial killer is.

So, you use my own puppets against me. You deduced that there is an Assassin in this story, and that the Assassin is here to kill the schoolgirl. So you moved my assassin until he was alone with my serial killer. And my assassin died. Very clever. But there are other ways to reach our fated end.

With enough knowledge, the story can be pushed in different directions by the players. As long as the script’s game-end states never take shape, the good guys are going to win.

But on certain days, incidents occur. Everyone at the table knows when these incidents will happen, and what they are.

On Day 2 – a murder.

On Day 3 – a suicide.

Only the Mastermind knows who might commit a murder, and who might take their own life. It’s his job to place enough paranoia onto these characters to make the events take place. Remember, this all happens through simple face-down card play. The Mastermind raises some paranoia. The players lower that paranoia. Fine, but what if that is all a bluff? What if that stuff is completely off-script, and the Mastermind is pursuing his plot elsewhere?

By placing Goodwill on characters, the players can use the characters’ unique special abilities to further tweak events.

BLANK EXPRESSIONS

Tragedy Looper is a dark, weird game that is completely baffling at first. It leans on exactly none of the popular mechanics of current board games. It is it’s own thing. The central concept of replaying the same situation over and over again is frankly bizarre, but eventually wonderful. People, here is a game where you don’t even know how to win.

Look, here’s what the game really is – an all-versus-one battle to avoid certain game states.

The first time a loop ends on the players is always shockingly, brilliantly brutal.

A character is moved somewhere and then the Mastermind says – “The Office Worker is dead. The loop ends.”

No more information than that.

That’s when the game is afoot. Why did he die? How did he die? Who killed him? Why does it matter that he died? Why did he end the loop? What role is he playing? WHAT STORY IS THIS?

WHAT STORY IS THIS?

We’re talking about a game that has you asking “WHAT STORY IS THIS?” How wonderful is that?

Do you think it’s wonderful?

You don’t? You don’t even understand it?

TO SUM UP

This is the most exciting game I’ve played this year. I need to dig into it some more, and dabble with the script-creation tools that are included with the game. I need to get my head around it – right around it. But you must play it. If you have any interest in game design at all, you must play this startling, mind-bending thing.

I thought I knew what my Game of the Year was going to be.

And then I got stuck in this loop.

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