Before we get into this, I have to say, the book is beautiful. I can’t think of the last book I’ve gotten that was this nice looking. This review is going to be in two pieces the first will cover the book by itself and the second will cover the game in practice.
As I said the book is beautiful. The game is a cleaner version of Apocalypse World (so no sex move for those that avoid that kind of thing), you work together to create your own world in ruins, you figure what the world was like before then discuss its fall. Next you move onto creating settlements that have character to them. Then you create the threats facing this world you’ve created. At each point everyone is expected to make a contribution so everyone should be invested in the world.
Each player plays two sides to the game, first as a character; this is their eyes and ears in the world and second is their family, a store of supplies, moves and replacements should the worst happen to your characters. There is a fine selection of each of these.
Now for the part I think most people will want to hear about, the game in action. Sadly I don’t have a lot of good things to say, the world creation was good, but the fashion in which it’s done is a turn off to bring anyone else on board as a new settlement and family will appear that could break the balance of power. If you’re bringing people from other PbtA games or most other games in general you will be adding moves to the basic moves to cover things that we all felt were clearing missing. For example there is no basic move to read a room or situation, also in a world full of ruins of the past that people are picking their way through, there is no basic move to strip an area down to its usable parts or tech (a version of hold that you can keep a stockpile of to use as you see fit).
The characters are pushed together by the world building, but many of the family moves seem to be put them at odds, if you want your family to take something it’s a Claim by Force. A move that starts with: When you direct your Family to claim
something as theirs, no matter who it pisses off. This puts the characters at odds if one family claims something the others need, then your character could be tossed out of the group and anyone else your family along with it.
Death is usually a pain in the ass, not so here, in fact it’s such a soft blow you might almost want to sacrifice your first character to benefit the next. What I mean is, your character as they die will often do something cool and they will often pass on equipment and/or a move to the next character giving them a leg up. So you can see the temptation to let them die to benefit the next.
In conclusion, this game looks pretty, but needs some work. Don’t get me wrong the players did tell a good story, (which included the accidental destruction of one of the settlements with an orbital weapon) but there was a lot of confusion and mechanical frustration along the way. There is a second edition in the pipeline that might plug some of the holes and smooth some edges, but for now this book is going back on the shelve and staying there.