Game Chef Review: Snowy Mountain Syndrome

Snowy Mountain Syndrome by Jason A. Petrasko
Trapped in a storm, facing death, in the old west: Who will survive? and more importantly, can you stop the Coyote from doing so?

By a large margin, not only the prettiest game that I’m reviewing, but the prettiest that I’ve seen browsing the other entries as well. I know, I know, graphic design isn’t meant to be a factor in the judging, but still… snowscapes, yeah. And the design is indicative of the work that went into the game as well; the first thing I noticed is that, to misquote Gertrude Stein, there’s a heck of a lot of there there. I mean, it’s brimming with character pages and scene lists and all kinds of goodies. From the character list alone, it’s obvious that a lot of love has been thrown into the game, and I’m especially delighted by the character sheets… quotes and assets and breakdowns and questions, all atmospheric and compelling, more than worth the price of admission.

Oh, and while we’re talking about atmospheric, I might as well mention that the incorporation of the theme and ingredients is absolutely spot-on. Thumbs up.

That said, I’m finding some aspects of the rules themselves terribly unclear, which I imagine has much to do with the tight word limit and, perhaps, my own unfamiliarity with this sort of highly-narrative genre. I’d like terms to be defined a bit more clearly… it took me several reads of the rules to realize that things don’t necessarily Go Horribly Wrong every time someone rolls above a four (although even with the fallout role, it still seems like thing will Go Horribly Wrong very often, though I suppose that is rather the point). I’m also not confident about provisos… I must follow their directives or I may suffer harm to wits, but I’m not sure what you mean by “may” here. Is it as simple as losing a point if I break a proviso, or do I get to roll to avoid the harm? You suggest I can roll to avoid being harmed in any way, but is that only physical harm in-game, or any loss of vitality, or does spirit loss count too, and if so can I roll to not take the spirit loss from a crisis, and if so can I roll to not take the gain in illumination which would cause me to have a crisis in the first place?

So, I’m left with a lot of questions, to the point where, as much as I enjoy the setting and the characters you’ve thrown into it, I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to play. I don’t intend this as an insult, I simply mean that this is a big project you’ve created, but the richness of the details are outshining the fundamentals of play.

Related to clarity, I should mention that there are some issues of flow and grammar in the text itself; nothing egregious, but enough small errors that it gives me as a reader pause. For instance, the first word of the game proper, “its” should have an apostrophe, and later in that same paragraph, that phrase “in a vain and futile way” is redundant and could be trimmed down to just “futilely” or “in vain.” There’s enough of this that it became distracting to me as I read, so I’d recommend a hefty round of copy-editing.

Oh, but that makes me sound petty, which I don’t want to do! As I said, there’s a lot of love here, and a lot of good ideas, probably too much to be crammed into one Game-Chef-sized document. With some clearing up (perhaps with examples) and sprucing up, you’ve got yourself a very impressive game indeed.

 

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