So my first experience playing a megagame wasn’t amazing, but the adage holds true that Tragedy + Time + Expensive Counselling = Comedy.
All that time spent talking about my feelings helped late last year when I saw a post in a local boardgame group about a proposed megagame.
’32 players’?, ‘Vampires’?- GOOD GOD IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN!- but just as my PTSD flashbacks started I noticed the proposed cost- £5!
Even if it was a bad experience at least I’d only lose a fiver. And it was on a weeknight I’d be playing Boardgames anyway so it’s not like I’m risking a whole Saturday. I convinced Charlie to come with me, neglecting to mention how bad the first one I went to was. If it was as awful as I suspected it could be, misery loves company! It was only after Charlie was locked in, that I briefed him about my apprehensions and touched on the events of my last experience with Megagames. I wanted to lower both of expectations as I get enough of disappointing people at home right lads!…lads?
Each team was made up of four players, with one person to man each station where they would resolve actions each turn. The teams could choose whether to be on team ‘Human’ or team ‘Vampire’ which we didn’t feel was a particularly difficult decision considering one was a town peasant and the other ate town peasants.
Colour me pretty bloody miffed when I saw the Human team spread across the map immediately. Gaining a dominating board presence advantage before the Vampires had gotten out of their coffins. The number of hexes you occupy was not just the amount of currency you received, but also the number of actions you could take per turn! This meant that the rules of the game were essentially written to ensure that once you had board advantage you would just snowball to victory.
Immediately the Vampire team’s mindsets went from ‘How can we win?’ all the way to ‘There’s literally no point trying to win.’. There was a palpable feeling of pointlessness felt by all but the two leading teams, both of which were team Human. I was attending the council which proposed, voted on then enacted events that would happen at the end of the turn. With four arduous turns remaining, someone proposed a custom event, scrawled on a piece of paper saying “We end now and all eat cake instead”. It passed unanimously.
The game was ended early by majority agreement and no one but the two leading teams even bothered to count up victory points. I don’t say that to demean them, they looked like they were having a great time throughout the entire game and if I was on one of those teams this review may have had an entirely different tone. This mechanic of ‘The winners get to enjoy themselves at everyone else’s expense’ was also present in the other Megagame I played. The opposite of a crowd pleaser.
The worst aspect of it was that it didn’t even need to be a megagame. It could have been designed as a heavy six-player game with four different phases to each turn. When the designer was sure it worked flawlessly at that level, the player count could expand until it stopped working. Testing these games in their intended format must be near impossible and it became apparent during the game that this had barely been playtested.
The first megagame I played put me off them for about two or three years and I estimate five to seven for this one.
Ultimately, I just don’t think a tabletop game can exist that will give 32 people a good experience but there is something alluring about the idea. I live role-playing games and when people describe megagames to me they always just sound like a massive, complex, multi-level RPGs! How can that be bad?!
I’m sure in a few years I’ll be signing up for yet another disappointing experience!