Mouse Guard: Initial thoughts!

March 13, 2011

We finally got around to playing Mouse Guard! None of us had played MG before, I’m the only one familiar with BW games, 3 of us had read the comics, and 1 person had neither read the comics nor ever roleplayed before- but we had an awesome game over the course of 2 hours.

Here’s some initial thoughts:

Pregens make a world of difference

I’m coming more and more to the idea that roleplaying makes a huge hurdle by making character generation a standard requirement, instead of simply giving pre-gens. We were up and playing in 10 minutes.

The nice thing about good pregens is they allow people to focus on the rules and get into the fun of play rather than have to try to figure out system mastery before actually playing.

We made minor adjustments- such as changing Goals since Jono had his own adventure prepared, and I was playing Kenzie and changed my Instinct since no one played Saxon. Just the same, everyone took the characters and made them their own, which was cool.

Mouse Guard vs. Burning Wheel

Having just one Belief, one Instinct, and one Goal is great. One of the big hurdles to BW is that 3 Beliefs and 3 Instincts is a lot to juggle, and I think for a lot of new players, getting used to actually pursuing and playing with 1 of each is hard enough.

The other interesting thing is that since you only get rewarded once for pursuing each of these, as a player, you don’t end up hammering all day on one or the other- you do something, then you move on to the next one.

It encourages you to show off more aspects of your character AND also if you have conflicting BIGs with other players, it means you back off and give them a chance to pursue theirs after you’ve made your point. It’s a subtle trick that encourages teamwork (on a player level) even when you have conflict amongst the characters.

And, extended conflicts! MG’s 4 options (Attack, Defend, Feint, Maneuver) is a great set of rock-paper-scissors choices that works well. The two non-crunch players were able to script and have a great time with it. I like how it splits up the actual actions amongst the team, so everyone is doing something, and it flows quickly and easily.

Although it’s easy to see how MG links to BW as the same philosophy of design, BW is the deep end of tactical player choice in extended conflicts while MG is the shallower end of the pool, which I think is enough for many gamers.;

Because it’s mice…

There’s certain things that work only because it’s a game about mice. Like the fact that it’s really easy to walk down the street and imagine threats, or how small things could become tools or hidey-holes for mice.

In our game, some mice were trying to build a bridge across a stream- humans would need days or weeks to get a bridge across a river, but since everything is small and light, mice could do it in a day or two. Building a makeshift mouse-boat takes a few hours at most.

Likewise, you don’t spent a lot of time thinking about gear or equipment- how much can the mice carry? Not much!

Overall, we’re having a great time, and we’re pushing it from a one-shot for another session or maybe more.

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