When I was a teenager I was a huge fan of a couple of shows. You may have heard of them, X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know, I know, kind of esoteric shows, but some uber nerds out there might get the references. 😆 Anyway I have always been looking for a game that fits that monster hunting and exploration of strangeness vibe I wanted. Overall I have yet to find a game that properly fits what it is I am looking for. Some have come close, Dresden Files, Monster Hearts, and a couple others have very nearly matched what I am looking for. I even tried my hand at designing a game to fit my needs, though that project has been on the back burner for a while. I think the closest I have found to my ideal is today's game of Christmas, though it doesn't quite do what I want...or I am just bad at playing it...could be that. Anyway, lets dig into...
Monster of the Week
Apocalypse World changed a lot in the world of gaming. It was like a meditation on the use of classes and GM methodology. It swept through the gaming sphere like a storm, depositing interesting ideas wherever it strikes. Monster of the Week is one of those expansions on the basic mechanics and ideas of Apocalypse world. I really dig how this game works on a number of levels, but I do have some...not complaints really, but areas of possible concern. We'll get to that as we look through it all.
Peritextual ElementsThe book is single column and black and white art and text. The art is solidly done, black and white with lots of negative space. By and large it is serviceable and well done. There isn't a whole lot to say about the art, layout, or font.
MechanicsThe mechanics are really simple and have a fair degree of depth in spite of that simplicity. To accomplish your goals you must roll 2D6 and add the relevant rating(in Cool, Tough, Charm, Sharp, and Weird) and look at the results. a six r less is a failure, which means the situation will get worse. Seven to nine you get what you want but their is a complication or more badness attached. Ten or better you get what you want with a little bit of fuss. The rest of the rules are really just letting the GM know when and how to apply that simple mechanic. Players and GMs have moves, some are general moves usable by any player, some are special moves usable for specific playbooks. The playbooks are basically classes that focus on a specific type of character and style of play. The GM has a series of moves, but none of them require the rolling of dice, instead they let the GM(in this game called the keeper), most of the book is devoted to telling the GM when and how best to make their moves, and what that will mean. There is also a unique mechanic called luck. It is something you use to make rolls better or get useful positioning in the game. However if you run out of luck really bad things happen. I like this mechanic a lot. It really fits the the genre it is trying to emulate.
I think this is where my issues start with this. It has a lot of action elements to the game. The fiction this game tries to present is very action heavy with somewhat larger than life heroes fighting villains. However, the mechanics don't fully support that always. If you get into fights you are going to take damage, and damage(called Harm) builds up pretty quickly and it can get quite detrimental. We ran into this issue in a couple of games we played a whale back. I don't think that it is necessarily a bad design choice, but it is something to bear in mind when you play the game. The other issue is that the mechanics for dealing with a mystery never quite felt like they were...enough? Its hard to say exactly why that is. Maybe I just got spoiled with the Gumshoe system, and anything less just felt like not enough. I think this might be a personal issue I have with the game and not a full blown criticism.
SettingThe setting is highly dependent on what play books are chosen by the players. You could end up with something that feels like Buffy, Angel, The X-Files, Supernatural, Dresden Files, or even Kolchak the Nightstalker(My favorite show of all time). The setting is basically the world as we know it, but with a layer f supernatural weirdness on top of it. It tends toward a monster of the week style play, which is not a surprise as it is the name of the game. You can build arcs in and all that, but the main thrust will be on defeating individual monsters and dealing with the mundane and supernatural fallout from doing so. As you play you will be building a mythos and a world that is like those other stories, but is not them.
Thus ends the Eighth Game of Christmas. Tomorrow...