I’m a big fan of a website called The Mary Sue. Now, contrary to the images the name may conjure, it is awesome, sub headed “A guide to geek girl culture”, blogs about new releases, feminism, geekery and wonder. It’s basically my perfect site.
(Also on a similar page but not something I’m going to talk about now is http://www.epbot.com/).
Now a good while ago in April, I found a review there for a new independent game that had just been released, The Yawhg. This game looked amazing, Becky Chambers’ tales of playing this game drew me right in and I knew with no other information that this was my kind of game, that I would love this game completely. I kept the review open for about two months as a reminder to go to the site, buy the game, but as things so often do with me I forgot and kept putting it off. But eventually I bought it…
The Yawhg is an interesting mishmash of genres and game types, part board game, part tabletop game akin to D&D, you have a character, a tiny picture of a person, and that’s your starting point, all four have the same starting stats, you just have a picture and a portrait that paints itself more with each round. Blue woman, Green man, Red lady, Orange guy, all moving between eight different locations one move a round, with six rounds.
There is a great evil coming, very soon and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to deter it, no one knows what The Yawhg is, and no one mentions it, so you and your companions do the only thing you can do, live your lives.
When I bought it, I was slightly prepared by Becky’s review, I knew that aiming high in one or two stats would benefit me, but I didn’t understand how really, and on my first playthrough I lost the fight, we were defeated, the town was doomed. I sat at the kitchen table, arms wrapped tightly around my legs, staring bereft at the screen, my girlfriend doing something else on the other side of the kitchen came round to see what was going on and I roped her into playing the next game with me…
We failed again and sat on the verge of tears as the town was doomed a second time and our characters’ epilogues rolled across the screen. It took us a few minutes to gather ourselves together enough to try again, but we did. Both of us armed with the knowledge of how we had failed last time, we tried harder, rather than playing one character each, we took two. We payed attention to who visited which location, we allocated jobs best suiting our stats and it paid off! This time, instead of the burnt and crumbling husk of our town, we saw the flag fly high over towers and blue skies. I changed my desktop background to that ending picture so that even when we lost I would have the reminder that we had won and would again.
Since that first day I’ve played it loads; quick games by myself trying to get new endings; with various friends trying to get them hooked, with my siblings, who didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I hoped; different games, again and again. The replayablity of it is somewhat debatable, the game changes, and you won’t ever be able to play the exact same game twice, and there are lots of different endings (I doubt I’ve uncovered even half) but I can imagine some people getting impatient with it, however I love it and will probably continue playing long after everything has been revealed.
I curled up today for a couple more games with my partner, and it really is the perfect game for a lazy Sunday afternoon, great played cuddled up with tea and a duvet, made perfect by that cozy content feeling when you flourish (as we did). I’d recommend it to anyone who likes stories and playing games with friends around. I think in this age of internet co-ops and online gaming, it’s good to have a game that you have to band together over a single computer to play.
The Yawhg is a lot like life, you do what you can, you have to take chances and try as hard as you can, and as in life sometimes you fail, but it’s worth the failure because you could succeed and at the very least you’ve tried. Sometimes buildings are devoured, sometimes you don’t understand the jokes, but sometimes you get to dance, to help an orphan, to have meaningful conversations late into the night.
My only real other advice is this- If you see a wall-like hedge, run, destroy it, whatever. Just get away.