Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: Tragedy Looper

Tragedy Looper is a rather confusing team vs. one player game. One player controls a Mastermind who is trying to accomplish his goals, which are the tragedies, while the other players control a team of Protagonists who are trying to stop him from accomplishing these hidden goals by playing cards on the characters on a modular board. The problem is that the Mastermind is also playing cards on these characters and you are reacting to these moves with your own card plays and little information about what the Mastermind may be doing. Honestly, the whole process can be overwhelming as you are set in a situation to stop hidden plots from occurring by the mastermind triggering characters with hidden roles. In the end, you might as well be just laying down your cards on characters at random because you have no idea what is going on since all of the information--every possible bit of it--is hidden from you. The Mastermind plays three of his cards down on characters and then each of the three Protagonist plays one of their cards on one of the characters. However, even after you see what the Mastermind has played and you resolve the cards, you are no closer to knowing what is going on as the characters move around the board, trying to fulfill hidden goals that you know nothing about until the Mastermind announces that because of the set up, one of the characters is dead.


[A Murder Has Occurred. Timeline Aborted. Initiate Loop Reset. Entering Time Spiral.]


Tragedy Looper is a complicated team vs. one player game. One player controls a Mastermind who has hidden goals that he is trying to accomplish. The remaining players control the three Protagonists who have to try to stop the Mastermind from accomplishing these goals. This is done over "Loops". When the Mastermind accomplishes one of his hidden goals, the Protagonists lose as they failed to avert the tragedies that he was attempting to bring about. However, the Protagonists have the ability to travel back in time, initiating what is called a "Loop". The board is reset as it was in the first turn and now they players are potentially armed with some more knowledge of what the Mastermind needs to do to fulfill his tragedies and what they need to do to stop it. For example, if a Loop ended because a character died, the Protagonists now know that this character is important and needs to survive throughout the game, otherwise the Mastermind will have won.

Both sides can play cards onto characters on the board to try to affect the characters and their involvement in the story. The Mastermind lays cards first and plays three cards face down onto the characters on the board. His cards can effect the movement of the characters around the board, or it can add Intrigue or Paranoia to the characters. Intrigue added to certain characters can trigger certain Plot losses. If enough Paranoia is placed on a character to reach their Paranoia limit, then they Panic, which means that they can trigger Incidents that may occur. Incidents could be something such as "On day three, a murder will occur." However, for that murder to occur, the Mastermind needs the Killer to have enough Paranoia placed on him for him to commit the murder. Also, he needs to be in the same location with another character who has at least two Intrigue on him. If this occurs, then the Killer will kill the other character on Day Three.

The board with characters on it.
However, the Protagonists also play cards. If they've seen a character die and then the Loop end as a result, they know to keep the character alive. Knowing that on Day Three a murder is supposed to occur, they can play their cards to try to counter the Mastermind's movements. Perhaps they will play their cards that will reduce the Paranoia of characters, trying to keep the suspected Murder's paranoia too low so he doesn't commit the murder. Or perhaps they will try to move the characters so that the murderer and the Key Person whose death ended the last Loop stay far away from one another. Or perhaps they will use their cards to lay Goodwill on characters. Each character, once they have enough Goodwill tokens on them, will be able to use their unique special abilities that can benefit the Protagonists. Perhaps their ability will reduce Paranoia in other characters they are with. Or perhaps their ability will be to reveal their role.

The Mastermind and the Protagonists each have cards that can be played to counter the other's card abilities, but since everything is played face down, it is a matter of trying to anticipate the Mastermind's movements to counter them. I also forgot to mention that the Mastermind can play cards to Locations instead of just to characters. Ah, dammit! That's right. He can play cards to Locations as well. Shit! We're fu--


[Timeline Aborted. Initiate Loop Reset. Entering Time Spiral.]


Tragedy Looper is a complex team vs. one player game. One player controls a Mastermind who has MULTIPLE hidden goals that he is trying to accomplish. All he has to do is to complete any ONE of these goals and he wins. The remaining players control the Protagonists who have to stop him from completing ANY of these goals. When the Mastermind completes a goal, the board is reset and players begin again with a new Loop. However, the Protagonists only have a certain number of Loops to play. All they have to do is to make it through a Loop one time without the Mastermind completing any of his goals. If they do, they win. Each Loop gives the Protagonists more insight into what the range of goals the Mastermind has to accomplish.

Both sides can play cards onto characters on the board to try to affect the characters and their involvement in the story. These cards can affect movement, add or remove Paranoia (which could trigger Incidents), or add or block Intrigue (which can trigger Plots or make characters targets for Incidents), or add of block Goodwill (which allows characters to use their special abilities).

The Mastermind can also play cards to Locations. Locations can have Intrigue added to them as well, but if the Mastermind lays a card to a Location, the players could lay a card to the same Location to try to block the Intrigue from being placed. If a Location has Intrigue on it, it is possible that it could end the Loop. For example, if the Loop ended after the School had 2 Intrigue placed on it, the Protagonists can look at their reference sheet and see that the Plot "A Place to Protect" creates a loss condition if 2 Intrigue is placed upon it. Also, the Plot "Light of the Avenger" creates a loss condition if 2 Intrigue is placed upon the Brain's starting location. The Brain is a hidden role in the game that the Mastermind is aware of and one of the characters has.

Characters with Paranoid tokens (their
Paranoia limit is in the upper left) and with
Goodwill tokens (their Goodwill abilities
are on the bottom of the card.)
So, if the Loop ended with 2 Intrigue out on the School, then one of these two Plots must have been triggered. The Protagonists have narrowed down the Plots. And each Plot lists what hidden roles are involved in it. This means that the Protagonists have a better idea of what the Mastermind has at his disposal.

So now the Protagonists begin the next Loop remembering that they have to stop the Key Person from being killed. They know who the Killer is. And they also realize that if too much Intrigue is added to the School, they will lose. So they watch where the Mastermind plays his cards. He plays them face down, but they can see who or where he is effecting. The Protagonists then try to figure out what he is doing and, armed with more knowledge, try to counter everything that they believe he is doing.

Countering the card on the Location is easy. That is an obvious play. The day of the Murder is coming up and we've limited the Killer so that he is one Paranoia short of becoming panicked and killing. The Mastermind places a card on him, so we lay a card as well. We are certain that the Mastermind is laying his +1 Paranoia card to the killer, so we lay a -1 Paranoia card to him. They'll cancel one another out and the killer still will not have enough Paranoia to commit the murder. The other Protagonist has blocked the card on the School Location. We have this sewn up. Though... why the hell did the Mastermind play a card on that character over there? He hasn't touched him this entire game.

Cards are revealed and the Intrigue at the Location is blocked. The Paranoia is kept one below what the Mastermind needs on the Killer. And the Mastermind moves that character he hasn't touched since to the same location as the Killer.

Then the Mastermind announces that he is adding a Paranoia to the character who is the Killer. What? Fuck! We look at the sheets are realize that the hidden role of "Conspiracy Theorist" allows the Mastermind to add one Paranoia to a character in his location. That character MUST be the Conspiracy Theorist. The Killer has enough Paranoia now and the Mastermind announces that there has been a murder and he indicates that the Key Person is killed. Son of a--


[A Murder Has Occurred. Timeline Aborted. Initiate Loop Reset. Entering Time Spiral.]


Tragedy Looper is an amazing team vs. one player game. One player controls the Mastermind, who has multiple hidden goals that he is trying to accomplish to win. The other players control the three Protagonists who have to stop him from completing all of these goals. When the Mastermind completes a goal, the board is reset and the players begin again with a new Loop. However, the Protagonists only have a set number of Loops to play. All they have to do is win one Loop and they win the game. However, the Mastermind has all of the information, from hidden Plots, Subplots, and knowledge of the hidden roles of each of the characters. However, as the Loops play out, the Protagonists begin to realize which Plots are involved in the game and which characters are assigned which roles.

Each game is played with a "script" which defines which Plots and Subplots are used, as well as which Incidents will occur on what day. The scripts also denote which character has which role. There are ten scripts that come with the game, which may not seem like a lot. However, a good portion of the book instructs (and encourages) you to make your own script. It walks you through the process, letting you know which characters are better for the Protagonists and which are better for the Mastermind. A Protagonist player can really only ever play a script once before they know it. However, the replayability is infinite once you realize how things work and try your hand at your own stories.

Both sides play cards onto the characters on the board as well as the Locations on the board. The Mastermind will try to use these cards to arrange situations to bring his tragedies to fruition. However, the Protagonists, armed with more and more knowledge each Loop, will try to counter every move and plan of the Mastermind's before he can set anything in motion. They now know who the Killer is and who the Key Person that they want to live is. They know that too much Influence on a Location can end the Loop for them. They also have deduced one of the hidden roles that adds Paranoia to other characters. So, even though the Mastermind lays his cards face down, they can deduce what his cards and plays might be. They need to keep the Paranoia on the Killer low. They need to keep Intrigue off of the School. And they need to keep the Conspiracy Theorist away from the Killer so that he doesn't get Paranoia added to him that way.

Characters with Mastermind cards and
Protagonist cards played on them. A
Movement card was played, but a
Forbid Movement card will cancel that
card's effects.
So the game becomes much more focused as it proceeds. But the Mastermind's role isn't exactly easy as well. The Mastermind has all of the power in the first Loop. The Protagonists are blind. He can end the Loop at his leisure. However, with each successive Loop he is arming the Protagonists with more and more information. If he had simultaneously added the second Intrigue to two Locations, then the Protagonists wouldn't know that it was the School that ended the Loop. If the Key Person victim had died in a room with two characters at full Paranoia in it, then they wouldn't know for certain which character it was that was the Killer.

While the Protagonist's role becomes increasingly focused, the Mastermind's becomes increasingly difficult. The Mastermind must plan for diversions for Loops that haven't even occurred yet. The Protagonists are playing a deduction game as well as a puzzle of how to block certain things from happening, but the Mastermind is playing the long game to bluff for future Loops. In fact, the Mastermind cannot simply go for a win condition for the Loop. He must go out of his way to make it as vague as possible as to why things occurred and why the Loop ended. The Mastermind's own worst enemy in this game is his own short-sightedness. The Protagonists become more and more aware as the game progresses, but only ever as aware as the Mastermind allows them to be.

By the third Loop, the cat and the mouse roles may have, in fact, changed. And the Mastermind is now the mouse trapped in a maze only as small as his own failure of forethought.

But that is the thing about this game as the Mastermind. You need to bide your time when you set up your bluffs. For example, that errant character that you moved last turn that the Protagonists thought was the Conspiracy Theorist? Well, you just moved him to make them think that. The Conspiracy Theorist has been standing next to the Killer this entire time. And now, you see the Protagonists playing---no, wasting--their cards on that pointless character trying to ensure that he remains far away from the Killer.

And now, as the third day ends and cards are resolved the Killer is one Paranoia shy of murdering the Key Person victim. It is hard not to smirk when you pick up a Paranoia token and add it to the card and say that the character gains a Paranoia. You see all of the Protagonists quickly look over their reference sheet, trying to deduce who or how that Paranoia was added, too late realizing that you've played them on who the Conspiracy Theorist was this entire time.

Knowing that this was their last Loop to get things right, you feel like Moriarty as you rotate the Key Person victim's character card and announce to the players that a murder has occurred.


[A Murder Has Occurred. Failure to Initiate Loop Reset. Time Spiral Shutting Down.]




8 comments:

  1. This was easily the best review I have ever read! Well done and very clever!

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  2. Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post he is a great human..thanks for sharing.

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  3. Awesome review, thanks for sharing.

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  4. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.
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  5. Really great review. I just bought this game, and after a while of struggling through ybe rules, played it with my wife. Great game, and best review I've read thus far.

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  6. Really great review. I just bought this game, and after a while of struggling through ybe rules, played it with my wife. Great game, and best review I've read thus far.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Really great review. I just bought this game, and after a while of struggling through ybe rules, played it with my wife. Great game, and best review I've read thus far.

    ReplyDelete