Few days ago, I happened across this, and wanted to have a bit of a talk about it. It’s a card game based on the Slender Man Mythos, and since I am a dude who likes talking about games and like the Slenderman it seems like it would be perfect for me.
It’s not, though. I don’t want to be overly critical here: “SEES ME” is a Munchkin hack, and as a hack, it seems good (I confess, I have not played it). There are some new card types that seem promising, from emotional states (essentially curses/benefits that gets overridden by the next card of the same type; if you are Content, and draw Panic, you are now Panicked) to characters (class cards that don’t go away unless you die) to, well, a Slenderman who shows up and makes you die and who everyone knows is there in the deck. The presentation is nice too… a simple rulebook and clean illustrations, scrawled upon in red ink. Pretty classic. I’m not sure if there are enough cards for the game to function right, but like I said, I didn’t play it, so who knows.
The problem is this… it’s Munchkin. There’s a gameplay aesthetic here that is COMPLETELY at odds with the narrative focus. Munchkins want All the Levels. That’s why they go looking for trouble. They want to fight things. That’s why they kick down doors. They abuse the rules when it is advantageous to do so. That’s why they can buy their way to the next level. Above all else, they are RPG characters, which is why “levels” makes sense as a ludic conceit. This doesn’t apply here. Certainly, it’s possible to create a setting that is nominally about horror and survival but actually is about armor and swords and punching out elder things… that’s what Munchkin Cthulhu is, after all. But the problem is in presentation; SEES ME is supposed to taken seriously. Whether or not true horror is possible as a card game is besides the point*, the game isn’t clear whether it’s taking itself seriously. There are too many mixed elements going on; the reliance on the fleeing mechanic plays right into the mythos, but having Rabbit as a class or Beard as a form of armor play with particular settings but can’t be taken seriously. Going up a level through a Mysterious Sighting or a Box of Evidence makes logical sense, but going up a level by finding $20, a reference to a particularly silly bit of sub-meme, undermines all that.
I’m not saying that a game about Slendy or any other bit of horror has to be SUPER SERIOUS AND SCARY. I AM saying that it needs to take itself seriously. Arkham Horror can be ridiculous, but the game itself treats the material seriously, and the player is invited to give into that; weapons will always be weapons, and monsters will be monsters, and it all hangs together within the context of Lovecraftian horror to the greatest extent a randomization-heavy game allows it to. I have no doubt that a Slenderman-based card or board game is possible… potentially delightful, even. But it needs to know what it is; even a comparatively minor thing like renaming Treasures and Doors would help. “Items” is neutral, or “Ordinance” which has a fun martial flair. Doors can be “Events” which sells the idea that this is just shit that Happens and you aren’t allowing it to; that would work especially well if they were all re-written to be Challenges rather than Enemies. Lose the buying of levels, and honestly, lose levels entirely; call each level a “Clue,” operate on the assumption that when you find ten clues you can escape the horror, and allow players to spend them when need be for a huge bonus. SEES ME starts to do things like that, but doesn’t go nearly far enough with it.
Alternately? Make SlenderMunchkin. That’s fine too! Own what you’re doing, give everything a value in gold, and dial the silliness up. Add in-jokes, add puns, make the crazy scrawling less House of Leaves and more Portal. Munchkin is good at silly, and frankly, horror is good at silly too, so it can mesh well.
But it has to mesh. This doesn’t… it’s pulled in too many directions, which is a shame because I like the idea, and I’m a happier person knowing it exists. It makes me want to, well, take the same general idea and go in a different direction entirely. And inspiration is always good.
*My guess? Maybe. I think it could be, though I can’t come up with good examples right now.