While catching up with a friend for her birthday, I asked what she had been playing recently. Two games that she mentioned: Asmadi Game’s We Didn’t Playtest This At All [Amazon] and Monocle Society’s Weave.
This post is about Weave, but a quick note about We Didn’t Playtest, don’t play with only two people, it’s not fun. At four players, we got some laughs out of it.
A quick re-hash of what the Weave site will tell you: Weave is a game that uses a app for your mobile device, which utilizes its camera to use a Tarot like deck of cards to generate elements for a roleplaying game. If it’s not obvious, the game is played tabletop style, not entirely on the phones themselves.
I did watch PA Presents: Weave - Storytelling Redefined, which is a two hour video of the game being run by Kyle Kinkade, who is, as far as I know, the sole employee of Monocle Society.
The game shares elements from Fiasco that I like. Fiasco utilizes playsets, like Weave. With Fiasco, either you’re working from a book of tables or a print out of tables and use dice to pick elements from those tables. Weave utilizes playsets that are delivered through the app and use the story cards as a randomizing element instead of dice. I enjoy the randomizing elements which takes some narrative control (read: work) away from the GM, which is nice, and also lends some elements of surprise.
I want to quickly sum up my initial thoughts, because although I really appreciate what this game is and what it could become, our quick session was quick because of one of the weak areas of the game’s implementation, some of which is outside of the hands of the developer. So, I’ll tell the story of that.
First and foremost, when the small box that includes the cards came, I immediately saw on the side of the box that the game plays 2-5 players. I between ordering the game and receiving it, we had invited four people to come over and play it, putting the headcount at 6. Further research online found some anecdotes of people saying that it can play more, but the 2-5 is the “recommended”, but I had no way of testing that, and when a game company says 2-5, I take it that the high number is the player cap, not a soft limit. Two of our players, stayed home due to a surprise health thing, so we were down to four. And then we found out that one of our players had damaged her phone in the meantime, and now we had four players, and three phones. The game technically doesn’t require everyone to have a phone - but let’s be real - it does. The game will allow a phone to have multiple characters on it, or everyone can share the same device, but - nah.
During the game setup, the app on two out of the three phones kept keeping the last scanned card in its memory instead of prompting for a new one at each step, which was confusing, It’s an obvious bug. And after setup, on my screen (as story teller) the UI held the bottom card under the bottom of my iPhone SE’s screen, meaning that it’s not probably not optimized for that screen size, which is Apple’s currently smallest iOS device size. One of the players, when finalizing her character, ran into a situation where the app appeared to not accept her character’s name input, and after cancelling and trying a few times, my cast of characters screen, had that same character listed eight times. No obvious way of cleaning out the duplicates either. And, we wrapped up the session when one of the phone’s batteries ran out of juice, after determining that hunting down a charger, getting it booted back up, and back into the app would be too much work at the time of the evening that we were at.
We did play the brand new playset Goblins R Jerks, which I believe was only hours old when we started. We had lots of laughs. A good time. I think that everyone enjoyed the character creation process, which is randomized by the provided cards. Weave does do a very good job of making the process of coming up with colorful characters for players. Sometimes in role playing games, putting a blank character sheet in front of a person is overwhelming. With a limited set of choices instead of infinite possibilities, this really gets a game up off the ground much faster.
My point in all of that is: the app is the greatest strength of the game, but it’s also it’s biggest weakness, in my opinion.
Things I Like
- The app gives new playsets quickly without having to get new physical books or print anything out. This may give a very bright future to Weave and the Weave community.
- The Tarot card mechanics are playset agnostic and reminds me of Bill White’s Ganakagok.
- Character creation is fun and streamlined.
- The story teller’s section of the app seems to be rather well laid out for long term play.
Things I Did Not Like
- The app has bugs. And judging from the dates on some posts around social media, some of these bugs there from launch.
- The game requires everyone to have a functioning, supported device, with a full charge or charger to play. As I mentioned before, I know that there are ways of having people at the game that don’t have a device, but I’d like to see this done with people who aren’t veterans with the game and it not be awkward. I do feel a bit awkward myself having this in the “Didn’t Like” category, because it’s also in the “Like” category. The app is the game’s strength and it’s weakness.
- The game comes with no printed manual. It’s all in the app. I think the developer really wanted to have a game that’s contained in the app, but I’d really have liked to have even had the opportunity to, at least, print something out to read, instead of tap around in my phone. Some PDF like this might exist, but Weave’s website is very sparse on details.
- The non standard dice. The Streams/Stones/Gales/Flames stuff I think might have been added to keep the game agnostic for any future playsets, but I, personally, don’t think it adds anything novel to the game other than everyone having to try to memorize what’s what. If we keep at Weave, maybe this will fall off the “Didn’t Like” list, but as of now, didn’t care for it. It’s like the Star Wars RPG’s dice, some think it a stroke of creative genius, I’m not sold that it adds anything other than complication to the game.
- The game requires a seasoned storyteller. If I was a middle school kid and someone gave me this game - after setup, I’d been lost. Nearly every role playing game I’ve ever read had that section in the front that presumes you’ve never heard of Dungeons & Dragons or anything similar to it, and gives you some tips. I think that Monocle Society has a YouTube channel that might help with that.
To sum things up - I think that I could get my $50 out of the purchase of this game, but there are some rough edges. One of the things that is good for Weave is that because at it’s heart is the app, which doesn’t require a second edition printing or distributing errata to fix things, like a traditional role playing game system would have to do - it just gets done. I think it’s fun and I look forward to playing or running again. However, it does have some work that needs to get done, in my opinion, for Weave to graduate to a platform for playsets and have a large and loyal community.