Airship Assassin - Designer Notes
The trouble with games in general and a lot of party games in particular is that they get in the way of the party. They are games which must be “played” and everyone focuses on the game instead of the party.
Airship Assassin gets away from that problem by being a game where participation is “relaxed”. In other words, some players may be completely inactive, some may occasionally play, some may play enthusiastically. Yet at the same time you can socialise, chat, drink, laugh and it not get in the way of the game. And the game does not get in the way of the party.
When “Two Rooms and a Boom” was released I was struck by the way it encouraged players to relate to each other, I thought that was a good party mechanic. But 2RaaB also makes all players concentrate on the game, not the party. I have sort of built on the ideas behind 2RaaB to make something more social and less restrictive.
OUTLINE OF THE GAME:
The party guests are all travellers on an airship. Amongst the passengers there is a King and an Assassin. The King must avoid the Assassin, the Assassin must find the King, other players must identify the Assassin. But there are other characters too, who also have their own personal objectives. So there may be several or many winners at the end of the game.
Each guest is given a Boarding Pass. This gives them a character and a mix of either an ability, a challenge or a behaviour. Guests may reveal their cards to each other secretly. Some circumstances require cards to be swapped – so although you may identify a character at one point, the character may have moved on. Some cards require you to perform certain actions. There is a dose of silliness dropped in throughout.
For example. The “ASSASSIN”, “DIAMOND THIEF” and “SHY” characters cannot reveal their card – that will make them look suspicious. The “POLICE INSPECTOR” can force someone to reveal their card. The “HYPNOTIST” can give another player a new behaviour and so on.
During play an online (and downloadable) soundtrack provides instructions and a timer. So at a certain point players may be plunged into darkness and some secret trading take place. As the Airship arrives at port, then all the game ends and guests must reveal their characters and vote on who the Assassin is, while they in turn must be standing next to the King to win.
Of course, there are decoys, red herrings, backup killers and other stories as well.
A good party game ought to encourage interaction and discussion between guests. It should act as an ice breaker and allow guests to chat with each other using the game as an introduction. Airship Assassin works by having players reveal or swap cards – but only if there has been some sort of chat between guests first.
However, it does not fail if there are some guests that are too busy in their conversations already, so it does not break the flow.
EASY TO HANDLE
Party guests are already managing glasses, plates of food, handbags etc., so I didn't want to give them lots of things to carry, hold in their hands or read. The cards are short and simple. Can be quickly dropped in a pocket or purse while drinking and keeping hands free. They are small enough and light enough – but easily found, read, shown and swapped.
ALLOWS THE HOST TO PLAY
Many games are host driven, preventing the host from playing properly (and enjoying the party). By using a soundtrack as a timer for the game, where instructions are given from the soundtrack the host can play as well as anybody else.
The soundtrack is a timer for the complete game and is available at different lengths, from 15 minutes to 2 hours. With the 15 minute timer Airship Assassin can be played as a game. With the 2 hour timer it can be played over the course of an evening.
The soundtrack does not include music, since that can be very personal. I was tempted to create a soundtrack with electro-swing music that would sort of fit a steampunk, electric, 1930's feel. In the end I decided against this since parties may be very different.
HANDLING MANY GUESTS
A more traditional murder mystery game is aimed at 6 to 8 players and all the guests are deeply involved. But with a game for 20 to 50 players you cannot rely on everyone's involvement and interest. The game had to work regardless. That said, there are a few key roles which really need to be given to more active players, for example if the King and Assassin belong to guests who just sit the game out then it's going to be a harder play. Around a dozen cards are specially marked, so they can be given to the more extrovert guests.
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