Our group spent a couple of Sundays playtesting a new game from Ben Robbins. The game, Kingdom, is similar in many ways to Ben’s Microscope but focuses on the fortunes of a community and its inhabitants. The players decide the nature of the kingdom and the threats it faces and then take roles of key movers and shakers within it as they meet those challenges. The game’s still in development, and will likely see some changes before publication, so I won’t go into any details about the rules here. Instead I will focus on the little bit of story that we created using the game. First, the kingdom we created:
- Redemption-7 is a corporate-owned penal colony on a death world. Inhabitants include the corporate managers and other functionaries, a group of mercenary “security officers”, and the prisoners. The prisoners serve out their time until parole (yeah, right) improving the facility and engaging in the primary function of the facility: mining an unknown (to them anyway) mineral for the corporation.
- R-7 faces a number of threats:
- The environment is a constant threat, facing inclement weather, raging megafauna and dangerous flora. R-7 is not self-sustaining must rely on supplies or whatever it can gather from the planet.
- There is unrest among the prisoners (and their sympathizers among the mercs and corporate personnel) that might erupt into open rebellion at any point.
- Pirates, raiders, and a group of increasingly organized escapees known as the “Others” are a constant drain on supplies and personnel.
- Important R-7 locations include:
- The Cantina – A contract-run bar, open to all of R-7’s inhabitants.
- Ops Center – Where the magic happens. Mostly corp types hang out here, managing R-7’s operations.
- The Hole – Where recalcitrant prisoners spend quite a bit of time.
- Dropzone – Sort of like a spaceport…but without the facilities. The mercs hate going out here on convoy security detail.
- Mess Hall – Three hot meals a day, open to all inhabitants.
- The Yard – Where prisoners, and people who don’t mind being around prisoners, spend some of their free time. It’s also where convoys and work teams form up go OG (outside of the gates). Tip: If you want to hang out here for long you might want to keep a lookout for Terrordactyls.
- Council Chamber – Where the leaders of R-7 debate important issues.
- Security Section – Where the mercs live and work when they’re not abusing prisoners, going OG to escort a convoy, or similar.
- R-7 faces a number of threats:
- Colonel Roy Jenkins, Head of Security (played by HG, pictured in camo at right).
- Jenkins is the leader of the mercs.
- He can most often be found in the Security Section or the Cantina.
- He hopes the R-7 project will be finished soon and he can rotate back to somewhere civilized.
- He needs Guy Kepplar (see below) to keep his people in line so he can focus on external threats.
- He’s most concerned about weapons, ammo, and the other components that help his team function.
- Clinton Gardner, Corporate Compliance Officer (played by MA, pictured middle foreground).
- Gardner works for the Company. Nobody really knows what he actually does.
- He can usually be found in the Ops Center or the Council Chamber.
- He fears that things are going to get out of hand and that the Company will lose control of R-7.
- He needs Col. Jenkins to keep a lid on what’s really going on at R-7.
- He is most concerned about his position with the Company.
- Matilda “Mattie” Rascomb, Teacher/Quartermaster (played by LL, pictured left foreground).
- Mattie teaches the children of R-7’s staff and the handful of children that have been born to prisoners at R-7.
- She can usually be found in the Mess Hall or in the Yard.
- She hopes that R-7 will one day be a free and integrated community.
- She needs Clinton Gardner to allocate additional resources for her education program.
- She is most concerned about R-7’s children.
- Guy Keppler, Labor Representative (played by PL, pictured right foreground).
- Keppler is a former merc who broke the rules and became a “resident” of R-7. He has organized the prisoners and serves as a spokesman for them, looking out for their needs.
- He can be found in the Council Chamber or the Yard.
- He hopes that all of R-7’s inhabitants can one day become equals in the eyes of the Company.
- He needs Mattie to educate the prisoners, many of whom are illiterate.
- He is most concerned about the possibility of rebellion.
In Kingdom game terms, Col. Jenkins is a Power role, Clinton and Mattie are Perspective roles, and Guy is a Touchstone role. Power role characters make decisions about what the kingdom does. Perspective characters intuitively understand how decisions will play out and affect the kingdom. Touchstone characters know the will of the people and how they are going to react to events that affect the kingdom. Play proceeds by introducing a Crossroad, an important (yes/no) decision facing the kingdom, and then playing scenes related to that decision. After each scene the kingdom moves closer toward resolving the decision, one way or the other, or toward crisis, which could destroy the kingdom, or toward putting the decision off for a time.
Our first Crossroad, introduced by HG, was whether or not R-7 would build a secure Dropzone. Col. Jenkins’ mercs put their lives on the line with every convoy escort job and the colony loses equipment and supplies to the environment and to raids by The Others.
The first scene put all of our characters in the Council Chambers discussing the matter. Col. Jenkins and Clinton were all for it, though Clinton felt that directing the prisoners to help build it would definitely cause some problems. Mattie was for it too, and felt that building it would save lives and protect the colony’s goods and equipment. Guy also thought it would be a pretty good idea…but he was pretty sure that the prisoners would not be happy about risking their lives to build the thing; they’d rather let the mercs continue to take most of the risk.
The next scene, however, set that back a bit. Guy had a little informal meeting in the Mess Hall with Maddie, Joe Boehner (a secondary character created by PL), and Marcus Matthews (another). Guy talked a little about his growing concern that this project would upset the prison population and Joe, played by HG, seemed to agree. Marcus, played by me, wondered how the heck we were going to get the resources to build the bloody thing in the first place. Mattie offered that she thought that the company would definitely have to directly supply the colony with the needed materials.
The scene after that had the unnamed corporate head of R-7 trying to have security put Guy in The Hole. Maddie intervened and convinced him to back down, in the interest of keeping the people happy.
Then we saw Clinton conspiring with Col. Jenkins to manufacture a little incident that would reinforce the need to build the secure dropzone (Clinton’s Carter Burke is beginning to show). People were killed and equipment and supplies lost. Clinton was worried, of course, that he might get found out, damaging his position with the company. He filed some false reports on the matter to cover it up…but if he ever gets found out there’ll be a steep price to pay.
We learned that, if the secure dropzone did get built, the Company was willing to offer some additional benefits to the prisoners, including improved education for those that needed it. This is, of course, a key concern for Guy.
Because things had been stagnating a bit, Col. Jenkins decided to take action on his own. If the colony wasn’t going to build a secure dropzone then he’d just have to move a large portion of the mercs out there to sit on it and create a secured perimeter. Of course that would leave the colony itself more vulnerable. As the mercs were saddling up in the Yard, Clinton approached Col. Jenkins and demanded an explanation. He got one…and quietly agreed with the colonel but loudly protested that the colony would be undefended and vulnerable to attack. This caused a little murmuring from the crowd gathered.
By this time, Guy had begun to waver in his opposition to the project. Folks were getting scared about the loss of merc protection at the colony and had heard about the benefits they might receive if they didn’t cause trouble for the project. Guy talked over the educational opportunity a bit with Maddie and they both agreed that it would be a good thing.
Then came an important revelation, from the leader of the Others – the improbably named Augustus Octavius. He stealthily entered the colony and had a meeting with Guy and Maddie. They had come to depend on lightly defended supply convoys to keep themselves stocked and would suffer if a secured dropzone was built. His people simply couldn’t take the chance and, if the decision to build was made, they would be forced to make a pre-emptive attack.
In the end, Col. Jenkins got his wish. We began construction. The prisoners were relatively okay with the situation, thanks to the improved benefits they received. The Others did in fact attack the colony, though we survived it okay. We may have to deal with them in the future, of course. I’m pretty sure Col. Jenkins and Clinton would like to put together a mission to go out into the Badlands and take them out for good.
And that’s it. I’m not even sure we played it right but we managed to muddle through the resolution of one Crossroad so I guess we did okay. We sent off some suggestions to Ben based on our experience playing. Hopefully we’ll come back to Redemption-7 at some point. I think we did some good work here and I’d like to see what the future holds for the colony.
(NB: The images above are screencaps from Terra Nova, a TV show that aired for one season on Fox. I couldn’t help thinking of the show’s visuals as we were playing this game. When I was casting about for pictures for this post I saw the publicity shot of the cast and thought the main characters made pretty good stand-ins for our characters. The show’s not bad…you can see it on Netflix Watch Instantly if you have it. And, yeah, the military guy on the far right is the crazy Marine commander dude from Avatar. I guess they liked him.)