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Preview: Flame War

Isn't he adorable?

Recently I was contacted by, Fun to 11, the company responsible for Miskatonic School for Girls regarding another Kickstarter project he had set up: Flame War. The basic premise is that you are in control of threads on a forum (or a comment section--it's pretty open-ended in that regard), and looking to have the most engagement without things getting ugly.

The measure of success, or how you win, is by accumulating the most interaction: the most single cards in a thread?

How does that happen? In a fairly simple and straightforward manner, you start a thread with any card, and then anyone can post to that thread with a card whose numeric value is equal or greater to the current top card; they likely will, since you can put down two cards every turn. The goal is to close three threads and have the most cards by the end of the game.

If it sounds fairly simple, it's because it is.

The history behind the game is that this was designed by Andy Chambers as a sort of back-pocket game. A simple card game you have on hand whenever you have 10-20 minutes to spare, and want something that'll move fast. Chambers's design credentials include Warhammer 40K: Second Edition and being the creative director of Starcraft 2. Therefore, he has some chops.

Back to the game, however.

In terms of play, it becomes slightly more complex the more players you have. The deck of cards is more likely to run out, for instance, and you are potentially facing attacks from two sides, as well as needing to put a stop to those fronts from winning.

Players may close any of their own threads before they place cards, which creates an interesting strategy, because they cannot close a thread that currently has a flame on top of its stack, and you can't place two cards on your own thread to then close it. The strategy becomes one of almost obfuscation and redirection: pointing out other threats so that you may be left alone either due to people focusing their powerful cards somewhere else.

Mechanically simple, and thematically amusing. With cards such as Brony, Sexbait, and Banhammer, the deck includes flavor text for each comment/post that occurs, and you are essentially dealing with points, counterpoints, and that ever infamous Thread Jack. Which means your job, as a forum moderator/community manager, is to encourage as lively a discussion as possible, making sure it has a valid point and counterpoint, and then closing it when it's run its course. The longer a thread goes on, the more likely it is to have a flame war attempt at some point, and the question is how you deal with that.

Dealing with flames involves either posting a higher-numbered card, or using a few special abilities cards have, such as moving a post or delivering the banhammer. The design is such that you cannot close a thread on someone being nasty: you must address it. It's a good general rule in life, even if it is just removing that person.

Its appeal is largely as a quick game to play with a handful of friends while going somewhere and wanting something to do. However, for those of us who frequent a number of forums and comment sections, and have ever moderated them, there is also the novel appeal of seeing played out the discussions we have all seen out and about. At the same time, unless your sensibilities are very, very sensitive, it's quite inoffensive. The goal is not to show actual, head-bangingly frustrating flames, as to get the general point across.

The Kickstarter has already met its goal, and still has ten days to go. If you'd like to help it reach stretch goals, and become a backer, here's the link. Otherwise, I'm sure it will be for sale later, much like Miskatonic

A copy of this game was provided by Fun to 11. It has been played with two, three, and one player emulating multiple players for testing things.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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