Aye Dark (imagined) Overlord

Today, I played both Smallworld and Aye, Dark Overlord for the first time. Both are games I’ve been quite eager to try, and both were quite positive experiences – even though I got trashed at Smallworld, getting 74 points when everybody else had between 90 and 110. I don’t feel like I know either game well enough to pass a verdict on them, and so I won’t review them here and now.

I will, however, tell you about an alternate way of playing Aye, Dark Overlord, we discovered.

We played one game, which suffered a bit from the fact that we were waiting for food to arrive, and so none of us were fully in the game. Then, later, when another group wanted to play the game, we were only four, while the game calls for four “minions” (players) and one “overlord” (moderator/umpire). Suddenly, someone said: “Do we even need an Overlord? No, it turned out, we didn’t.

Here is what we did (if you don’t know the game, what follows may not be entirely comprehensible):

Each of us took cards as usual. Then, one of us would draw the top card of the “hints” deck (a deck of cards with “typical” fantasy tropes, such as the psychic bomb or the wicked elf). He would then turn to the player next to him clockwise, take on the voice of the Overlord, and ask why this or that plan didn’t work – just like the Overlord usually works. Play then goes on as usual.

We wanted it to be so that the others had to agree when you recieved a Withering stare. We decided on an “X-factor” model (which is probably really an “”X’s got talens” show) where everyone would put a clenched fist on the table when they thought people deserved the stare.  When there were three fists on the table, the person got a stare.

The player who lost would discard his hand and draw a new one, as per the ordinary rules. But then, he would draw an extra hint card and make a new plan based on that, directing it to the person next to him.

It worked quite well. We did lack someone to keep track of the story for us, as our story sometimes turned out to be rather confusing, and not entirely coherent.

Later, I’ve come up with this way of deciding who to direct the opening of a round to: the Overlord should choose the person with the most actioncards in his hand. If there’s a tie, the person with the least number of Stares decides. If there’s still a tie, the person closest to the Overlord in a clockwise direction.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I tried Aye Dark Overlord at Fastaval and I wasn’t very impressed, the rules werein the way of good improvisation and the hints weren’t very easily translated so either you had to break to read cards or do it bi-lingual which is confusing. The concept was nice and fun though, I just think the gameplay should be overhauled, you have some good ideas for that here.


  2. Posted by eliashelfer on September 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Hmm… We actually wanted to try it with an overlord. Our problem was that it was hard to get a hold of the continuity of the story, when you have to defend yourself from accusations at every turn. An overlord would have been able to get us back on track more often.

    The bilingual thing wasn’t an issue to us – I hardly noticed that the cards were in English. We have so many English words in Geek Danish anyway.


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