Thursday, 31 January 2013
Working Title: Glove Of Twats
I've played Gauntlet of Fools twice now, and each time I've had a blast. It's a combination of wonderfully simple games mechanics and a setting that, assuming you have a half-decent imagination, can lead to all sorts of amusing silliness.
I haven't read the rulebook, so I don't know whether there's an "official" explanation as to what the hell is going on, but as best I can tell, each player represents a contestant on some kind of medieval fantasy game show. Each round every player has to fight the same monster, and earns points if they can kill it, whilst trying to avoid getting wounded in the process. It's a bit like the Krypton Factor, if Gordon Kaye had ever had the contestants attempt to survive a stampede of woolly mammoths.
Your chances of surviving the whole array of gribblies are close to zero; death is all but certain. Presumably your grieving families are awarded your prize money whilst the Gauntlet's back-stage staff are scraping your remains off a giant's knuckles. Smart strategies and use of unique abilities can keep you alive for longer, but really the best way to make sure you survive long enough to pay off the mortgage on your wattle and daub cottage is to make sure you're a rock-hard killing machine in the first place, and that you're toting the juiciest weapon possible.
Thus, the game is broken up into two phases, which canbest be termed "boasting" and "stabbing". Boasting is the method by which characters are chosen. One random character (sporting one random weapon) is laid out for each player. The first player chooses from those available to them. The second player can then choose a different character, or they can steal the first payer's character, boasting that their martial skills are so great they can make better use of the character, even were they to suffer under a disadvantage such as a raging hangover or an irresistible urge to juggle during combat. Each of these disadvantages results in an in-game penalty, and they're cumulative. So if the second player steals the first player's character, then the third player steals from the second, the poor character will now have two in-game penalties. Sooner or later your rock-hard gladiator with his all-conquering morning star will start to look so shabby even the slingshot-armed jester might start to look appealing. And if this neat (though far from fool-proof) method of handicapping inevitably leads to a race to the bottom, character-wise, the image of a one-armed barbarian trying to beat up a magically-animated scimitar without access to either vision or a decent breakfast more than makes up for it.
Once all characters have been assigned, the monsters are unleashed, (generally) one by one, and each player must try and defeat one copy of the same critter. Each character has a defence value, determining if they're wounded (four wounds and you're hellhound-meat), and their weapon has a number of dice, which are rolled and totalled to see if the monster's defence value is overcome (monsters themselves have a fixed score for attack). Each player also gets (usually) two character tokens and two weapons tokens, which allows them to do interesting things. An armourer, for example, can use character tokens to build himself a better defence value. The whip allows you to dodge a creature you've been unable to kill, keeping yourself from harm for that turn.
And that's pretty much it, which is diverting in and of itself. True hilarity is only unlocked when one chooses to slap together the most implausible back-stories possible for one's character. Last night, having acquired a hungover barbarian armed with a sceptre, I chose to play the role of King Throgg I, of the Hanover barbarians, who had entered the Gauntlet as part of a drunken bet the night before: if he survived the carnage, his barbarian barons had to shut up about trying to slap together the First Barbarian Republic.
(Tragically, after some early success grinding a swarm of killer bees beneath his boots (which cleared up his hangover, interestingly), Throgg had his sceptre melted by a sentient puddle of powerful acid, and it all went downhill from there. His dying wish was that his prize money be used to pay an assassin to take out whomever the first President of Barbaria proves to be.)
It's fast, it's fun, and it allow the spinning of ludicrous stories in-between explosions of gore. Highly recommended.