Last People On Earth
onside report by Jim Wallman
It has been more than 20 years since I ran a full version of Crisis in Britannia. Much has changed since then, both in terms of the archeology and literature on the period, and my experience of game design.
As part of a programme of megagames we ran for UCL during Covid lockdown, I redesigned and re-wrote the game and renamed it ‘Last People on Earth’ a contemporary reference to the view that the ancient Britons were regarded as being at the edge of the known world, they may even has seen themselves in that way.
Whilst I had started the game redesign before lockdown, it was clear that many of the original mechanisms had to be been completely re-cast and there were a number of important adjustments to make the game run using Google, Discord and Conceptboard (the GDC methodology!). After running the on-line version, interest (I didn’t say demand or pressure!) from Rob Grayston, led me to decide to create a downloadable pack of the game materials.
The only problem is, I have never run this version of the game in a face to face format! Before I can reasonably say “here, downlod this and run the game” I really need to be sure it actually works!
The first task has been to generate physical versions of all the digital components. Some things would inevitably be different, for example in the digital version the Follower Cards were just tokens, with all the same value – but in the face to face version I wanted them to be more like playing cards with values on each card.
The combat system I envisaged for the face to face version was a sort of ‘combat whist’ – which would have been far harder to implement on line – so the online battle system was a jazzed up version of rock-paper-scissors.
The second task was to use the components in an actual physical game, and this was where the CLWG session on Sunday 7 May proved to be vital. This would properly stress-test the components and the game processes with a demanding and well-informed audience. I was not disappointed. John Mizon facilitated the shenanigans of the
Cantiaci tuath (played by Jon Casey, Andrew Hadley, Nick Luft, Mukul Patel & Deborah Southwell), while I handled the non-played elements and the Roman traders. John is helping me with the development of the final pack, so his involvement was vital.
As this was a CLWG session, I also wanted to include a hybrid element to allow our non-attending members to participae on some level. I considered running an on-line Tuath team (after all I already had all the materials for that), but didn’t go down that route because I really wanted the session to concentrate on the physical face to face elements of the game. So, how to amuse the three or four on-line attendees? My solution was to brief them thus:
LAST PEOPLE ON EARTH NOTE FOR ON LINE ATTENDEES This was last played as an on-line megagame for students, this session is testing the reversion of the system back to a fully face-to face version.
Depending on numbers attending in the hall we will play one or two tribes in face to face form.
On-line participants will be performing a special role as ‘Spear-Carriers’.
So read on: In the normal game system, the Tuath Team Control determines how convinced the non-played tribal chiefs are in response to the speeches of the Tribe players. In this version on-line players are going to be an active audience to the game. Each of you should watch the discussions as they unfold and decide, either separately or
individually. what you think of them.
You then get to upvote or downvote individual players and this will be reflected in whether those players gain or lose followers each turn. As junior members of the Chieftain’s Council you don’t get to speak but you can gesticulate to your cameras as you choose.
Your votes will be collated by Spearcarrier Control @Nick Drage who is going to be on line with you. You can use any of the CLWG break out rooms to have private side-chats as you need.
Ultimately you are the judges of the player’s role playing. This is not normally part of the core game, but I though it might be a fun way of involving players in a hybrid format.
Its an experiment, so bear with us! It is also a good way of getting feedback on how the game runs in face to face mode. And you will be fully joining in the post-session debriefing.
I was a little worried that the online ‘Spearcarrier’ role would be a bit dull, but the participants said, in post game feedback, that they had a laugh and enjoyed spending time judging others. I’m not sure if this is an approach that would work for other games, but it seem to work ok here. We also improvised and allowed a couple of moments where the Spearcarriers could heckle the chiefs’ council – and it seemed that the rank and file spearcarriers were a good deal more warlike than their leadership!
During the playtest we managed some chariot racing, raiding and an epic tribal battle with the hated Catuvellauni tribe, which the Cantiaci narrowly lost, but returned home with enemy heads, battle scars and notched shields aplenty! I’ll leave it to individual Chiefs to boast about their own derring do!
John Mizon and I will be working up comments and suggestions from the session. I think there is still a fair bit of work to do to polish it into publishable form, and will hope to do more playtests, time permitting. It is a subject I’m very fond of and who knows, might one day actually appear as an actual megagame somewhere sometime. Back in 2021 when we were developing it for UCL I wrote team breifings for 15 tuaths (not all of whom were playeed) so one day it might be fun to see if one could get enough players for the full 120 player, whole of Britain version. “What about the Romans?” you say – yes, well I have roles and rules for Roman traders and the Roman Army, so I could do an invasion as well – but the tribal interactions are potentially so rich that the Romans just seem like a distraction from the real business!
All in all it was extremely helpful session, and I think it was also fun – I certainly enjoyed the player interactions! Thanks to all those who took part, especially Druid Mukul who kept the tuath on the spiritual straight and narrow.