We played Jonathan Walton's Geiger Counter
for the first time yesterday and it was super fun. (EDIT: fixed link to PDF per Jon's post below...)
The idea of Geiger Counter is to create an action-adventure-survival-horror-monster movie, and the system totally delivers on that promise. It gives you enough traction to organize the creativity of the group, without boxing you in or forcing things too much with restrictive mechanics. The game felt like playing with Jonathan, actually, if that makes sense.
The game requires a little prep (about 20 mins.) to create a "style sheet' for the game -- which acts as a jumping off point for the players (kind of like a Sorcerer one-sheet). Jon originally designed the game with the movie Aliens
in mind, but I know he's never actually run an Aliens-style scenario with it. So, that was our goal. Here's the style sheet I prepped:Space Marines Style Sheet
After the brainstorming session, we settled on "Hot war on alien world" as our setting. The war was a war between two human factions on a unique alien world connected by wormhole to Earth. We decided that the setup would be a crashed shuttle that had been transporting some prisoners of war. So the characters would be a mix of soldiers from the two factions. This turned out to be a very good decision, and drove great conflict for the whole movie.
Here's a shot of the table towards the end of the game, showing the map with the shuttle crash and alien crystal pyramids.
(As you can see, the Menace is down to 4 dice!)
I won't go into the whole story, but it was about the shifting trust between the POWs and Marines, betrayal among the POWs, secret military operations, and creepy crystal-form aliens with x-ray vision. In about 2 hours of play (after setup) we managed to create a really cool action movie with rising action, battle scenes, drama, tension, a climax, and a "THE END?" style ending that left room for a sequel. It was rather amazing.
The Secret Goals really worked for us. They drove the drama of the story and a couple of them (picked randomly from the pile) turned out to be perfect
for the plot of the movie and showed up at just the right time. The timing was facilitated by having to wait for the Menace to gain all 8 dice before acting to resolve the secret goals. One my characters pushed it right to the edge, trying to resolve his goal on the same turn as the Menace getting its 8th die, but he got killed before he could complete it! It was tragic and great.
Conditions were also a huge hit. They always seemed to drive us towards choosing just the right thing for the next beat of the movie plot, like Pursued, Hysterical, and everyone's favorite: Infected. The rolls to see if the infection spread were real nail biters!
The fact that the game is "let's make an awesome movie together" (instead of "fight the monsters and try to survive") put everyone on the same page and made all of the death and tragedy really fun. I was a little worried that someone might shift into "win the game" mode, but it didn't happen.
So... yeah! The game was a hit and we had a blast. We'll definitely play again. I know the other players want to jump in with their reactions, stories, and playtest feedback, so I'll leave it to them.