AnarchAngel (anarchangel23) wrote,

OrcCon 2013: Sunday

I only played one game on Sunday, Sagas of the Icelanders, a game about 10th century Icelandic settlers, and it was great.

I played Hallbjorn, the Man; a playbook for the quintessential farming settler, complete with Agricola chargen minigame to determine the health and wealth of the farm. The other players were my wife Ingrid (the Woman), our ten-year-old daughter Thora (the Child), and my brother-in-law Grim? (the Huscarl). Ingrid and I also had two sons, Valli, 8, and Ari, 5. The presence of a child as a PC lead to several memorable scenes between Hallbjorn, Thora, and Ingrid, and the seating order (with Thora's player between me and Ingrid's) shaped the family dynamic.

The basic shape of the story was set when I rolled spectacularly badly in that Agricola minigame, missing a pre-game move roll to determine labour resources and rolling very low for the number of cattle that survived the winter. With the farm in peril, I set about attempting to drain a swamp which had built up and frozen over on my land. While my children played on the beach nearby, I almost died when a ditch I was digging collapsed on me.

(There is an alternate reading of the fiction which holds that I did die digging the ditch, and everything that followed was a dying fever-dream.)

The story covered the increasingly strained relationship between Hallbjorn and Ingrid culminating in our failure to conceive a fourth child and the interpretation of that as a failing in Hallbjorn's honour. When Hallbjorn was backed into a corner by the paranoid of his neighbour Njal about the intentions of some newly arrived vikings (one of whom had caught Ingrid's eye), he agreed to a night raid on the new arrivals. However while discussing this with Ingrid, his son Valli, pained at the dire situation of the family and too young to know better, snuck off to kill the viking leader himself. When Hallbjorn discovered that Valli had gone and realised what had happened, he frantically strove to overtake his son, and did so, but not before Valli had falled in a treacherous ditch and broken his leg. One of the game's most powerful scenes was Hallbjorn carrying Valli to the threshold of his property and silently passing the body to Ingred, turning and walking back to Njal's house to arm himself for a futile attack on the newcomers.

That same night, Hallbjorn, Njal, Grim and a few other locals charged into the viking camp, killing them all, including the viking warlord who had interacted with Ingrid and Thora. In the bloody conflict, Hallbjron was mortally wounded. He struggled back across the cold unforgiving hills to his farm, and with Thora running towards him, he collapsed and died as he crossed the boundary of his land.

One of the most interesting facets of this game is that the basic moves are gendered. There are a set of shared basic moves, but all the commonly used moves are divided into Male and Female moves. The interaction between these is elegant and thought provoking. Male characters can interact with the world according to codes of honour and threats of violence, while women have a monopoly on persuasion and rational discussion. I highly recommend playing this game.
Tags: conventions, los angeles, sagas of the icelanders, strategicon
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