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I do not believe in romantic fantasies. Things like fate, soul mates, and the American Dream are as real as the Jackalope and O.J.’s remorse. But occasionally I find sanctuary in the words of another. This time it is the wisdom of that wise, old sage, Jerry Maguire, as he speaks to his estranged wife. After explaining how hard his work can be, quickly buttressed by how mean other people are, he looks into her eyes with as much testosterone as he can muster (it is Tom Cruise, after all) and mutters those words we have yet to forget “….you complete me.” While I would never be one to mock the conciliatory delight of the Maguire family, it seems that I, too, have found my other half, my guiding light, my soul mate… if you will. And so it is today, in front of God and the registered users of Robot Panic, that I proclaim, “Aye, Dark Overlord!…. you complete me!”
Aye, Dark Overlord!
Published by Stratelibri
Ages 8 and up
Aye, Dark Overlord!: Rigor Mortis’ Card Game (ADO!) is brought to us by Fabrizo Bonifacio, Massimiliano Enrico, and Chiara Ferlito, with many thanks to publisher Stratelibri. Italians. Turns out I love their games as much as their cheese. It seems most card games as of late tend to follow a similar form of play with various mechanics: namely characters, weapons, and effects. In that type of game, cards tend to have a certain value assigned to them and are played in a fashion determined by the cards used by other players. Those games can also become rather complex in very short order. ADO! is nothing of the sort. Instead of relying on the content of the cards, this game relies entirely on the improvisational fortitude of its participants… with mere suggestions from the cards. Or… you could think of it as a night at the Improv, with cards as the variable props.
The authors’ description goes a long way to explaining the fundamental concept of the game. Here it is…
“In every epic tale, the Evil Ones plot in the shadows to destroy the forces of Good and right, so that the Dark side of Existence may win. They do this until the Heroes obstruct their path and defeat them with great sacrifices, bringing back Good and Justice to the land. Thank you Heroes, for your contribution in helping the Light shine! But…
What happens when the messengers of darkness, humiliated, retire scuttling back to the same dens of inequity that gave birth to them? And what happens when the world in which such events take place is called Kragmorta? How will the sneaky Servants of the Dark Side behave when they find themselves facing their Dark Master, Rigor Mortis, the Evil Genius and Lord of the Lost Lands? That is what we are about to find out…”
Incidentally, everything about ADO! reminds me of the late 1980s afternoon cartoon, Disney’s The Gummi Bears, about the ongoing plight of the poor, poor ogre runt Toadie, as he continually reports the repeated failure of the large and stupid ogre army to Duke Igthorn in his relentless quest for gummiberry juice. But I digress…
The point of the game is simple: lie, cheat, and weasel your way out of any responsibility for your complete and total failure of a life, all the while doing everything within your power (which is nearly non-existent) to avoid receiving a Withering Look from your Dark Overlord, Rigor Mortis. The first player to receive three Withering looks is loaded into the catapult (my addition) and the game starts over. Essentially, you will receive a Withering Look for being a bad liar, poor craftsman of tale, rude for any reason, or generally of a disposition that does not please His Majesty. Behave yourself.
The players are divided as such: one will be the Dark Overlord and the others his minions. How do you decide who gets to be the Evil One? If you are so naive as to ask, you will immediately and without protest accept your hand of servant cards. Fortunately, this game is simple, thus there are only three kinds of cards: Action cards (a picture of a hand), Hint cards (a picture and it’s title), and the “Dark Overlord’s Withering Look” cards, of which there are only three; each displaying a closer and more agitated portrait of His Master’s disapproving glare. The Dark Overlord gets his three cards, and everyone else gets three of each, Hint and Action. Now the game begins.
The Dark Overlord puts forth a question to his destitute band of sheep with regard to the status of a task they had been dispatched to complete. The task should be entirely ridiculous and certain to result in failure. At this point, His Most Blessed Reaper of Souls will select one of his incompetent fools and begin the interrogation. If you are so unfortunate as to be a servant of the Dark Overlord, it is in your best interest not to say, do, smell, or wear anything that might attract his wrath or attention. At this point, the unfortunate minion who was chosen must begin the long and rambling explanation of what happened.
The chosen servant may play any or all of his Hint cards to aid in his fabrication of events, or when things are beginning to look bad, may play a “Pass the Buck” Action card with a Hint card to shift the blame to another player who must then continue the story using the new plot information included on the Hint card. A servant who is not being grilled, may at any time, play a “Freeze” Action card with a Hint card. This, in effect, disturbs the game, interrupting the poorly constructed tale of another servant and forces a new plot element into the story. Some cards only allow a player to “Pass the Buck,” some only allow a player to “Freeze,” and some allow a player to choose either.
Let’s say he played a variable Action card and chooses to use it as a “Freeze” card accompanied by “The Ancient Tree” Hint card.
The cards cannot simply be dropped on the table while the offending minion sits back and watches his comrade sizzle. No, they must be accompanied by an explanation along the lines of, “If I may interject, Your Darkest of Majesties, what my colleague is telling you is not entirely true. You see, at the point where he said he ran bravely alone into the Cave of Despair, he did in fact run alone. But he failed to mention that he ran straight to, climbed, and hid within the mighty branches of the Ancient Tree, all the while cursing your name.” Remember the point of the game is to shift blame and repel any and all accusations made by your most disloyal of companions. An explanation in such vivid detail would surely smack that lying, tree-climbing worm with a nasty, and potentially game-ending Withering Look from His Most Gracious and Utterly Ferocious Lord of Lost Souls.
From this point on, the quality and length of the entire game rests solely on the creativity and spite of the groveling minions as they bounce back and forth, crafting elaborate stories as to why they were unable to finish the task set forth to them by their wise and noble Dark Overlord. Each will be questioned by His Evilness, but they will all do their best to lie and shift the blame to the other useless Servants of Darkness sitting in audience with His Majesty.
The following is a simulation of how a game might play out:
1) Seated in the room are John, Hilden, Moe, Phenri, Paul, and Lag.
2) Moe declares himself the Dark Overlord, all others agree and soil themselves. Moe is unconcerned with their approval, but demands they change their pants.
3) Cards are dealt accordingly.
4) His Majesty, the Dark and Nefarious Lord Moe, upon noticing the presence of Lag, immediately administers, with great prejudice, three Withering Looks.
Lag is loaded into the catapult and dispatched. The game is over.
5) Pleased to be alive, though disappointed they never had a chance to plead for mercy at the feet of the Great Soul-Reaver Lord Moe, the other players beg for another round. The Generous and Terrible Overlord Moe, never one to disappoint, agrees to humor their request. They look so ridiculous on their knees, eyes red with tears of joy and debilitating shame. The game resets.
1) The company and assignments are all the same. There is only one Dark Lord.
2) Cards are dealt accordingly. In each turn a player must play AT LEAST one Hint card and no more than three, then end their turn with a “Pass the Buck” Action card. Of course, at any time the Dark Overlord may intervene and alter the flow. For He is oh so wise.
3) Overlord Moe asks, “Tell me, useless sacks of smelly and unkept flesh, one month’s time has passed, have you fetched for me the ruby encrusted, glowing, golden orb of John’s hot…”
4) John interrupts with a snide remark and is administered a Withering Look.
He continues his loud, unprovoked protest and receives a second.
Lord Moe, in his infinite wisdom, already knows the belligerent John’s intent. When the complaining reaches a surprisingly quick climax, Lord Moe strips John of his Withering Looks to ensure he is unable to leave and pout in the corner as he so desperately desires.
5) Dark Lord Moe looks to Phenri with scorn, but heightened anticipation. That Phenri weaves a fine yarn. Lord Moe asks, “Well….?” Phenri plays the Hint card “The Tavern”…
…and begins, “Oh great and mighty Lord Moe, you are so kind as to begin with humble Phenri. But I did not stay with my foolish compatriots. Not twenty minutes after leaving the castle, our band passed the Inn of the Iron Staff. Have you seen it? They have an All-Knight MusicaI Review featuring Lancelot playing a Greek Lyre in period costume. That, and buckets of the finest ale imaginable. Of course, I ducked inside where I remained until just moments ago.” Realizing Phenri was a poor choice for this quest, given the necessity to pass within such close proximity of the Inn of the Iron Staff, Lord Moe does not wait for Phenri to play an Action card, and moves on.
6) “SPEAK HILDEN! WHERE IS MY ORB?!” Hilden pees a little, plays the Hint card “The Snow Was Falling” to aid him out of his temporary stun due to the shock of sudden bladder evacuation…
…and replies, “Ohhhhh Blessed Lord Moe, you are so kind and worthy of my praise! We set out as you requested, with brave Hilden in the lead. For many days we traveled and toiled under the weight of such a beautiful, yet heavy burden. We fought many battles with nearly dead and already dead armies. Our new boots were completely ruined and our toes did suffer from dampness and rot. You know, it’s hard to keep your feet dry when you’re kicking in a skull. After our glorious victory, it began to snow. Snow and snow and snow. Our feets were so cold and we shivered with despair, so full of fear that we might not fulfill His Majesty’s noble and simple request.”
Lord Moe interjects, “STOP! You idiot! Snow? It’s the middle of July! What do you take me for, your chamber pot?” Hilden replies, “But Your Evilest of Worships, we had to travel to the far side of the earth to claim your sacred prize! Did Your Worship know that on the other side of the equator the seasons are reversed? That was why it was snowing!” Lord Moe responds, “SILENCE! Other side of the equator, you moron, I CAN SEE HER HOUSE FROM HERE!!!” A vile and spiteful Lord Moe administers a Withering Look upon Hilden.
Here we should break for a brief moment to explain the Withering Look. All players need to know the status of all others in the party at all times. For this reason, you need to keep track of the number of Withering Looks assigned to all players in some manner visible to everyone in the room. You could use dice, counters, paper, whatever. Since I run a very tight ship at my Fortress of Miserable Existence, all of my minions are never to look me in the eye and always speak with head bowed. Upon their first Withering Look, they drop to their knees. For their second Withering Look, along with a lengthy lecture on respect and personal accountability, they drop to their hands and knees. For their final Withering Look, the proven failure is to lie prone on the floor, at which point they are dragged by their feet to the catapult where they submit themselves for purification.
And now we continue…
Lord Moe demands, “Where have you been for the past month?” Now on his bony knees and wishing he had never traded his comfy knee pads for a wagonload of carrot stew, Hilden ends his turn by quickly and shamelessly playing a “Pass the Buck” Action card with “The Flying Ship” Hint card and sends the responsibility to Paul.
7) Because Paul has had the buck passed to him, he draws an Action card into his hand. Paul begins, “Lord Moe, it is such an honour to be here in your gracious company. First I wish to complement you on the beautiful colour of your deep blue eyes…” Lord Moe is not pleased and administers a Withering Look to Paul.
“Enough about my eyes! I don’t want a date, I want an explanation!” Paul continues, “As Your Grace knows, in order to reach the orb, we must first ford the mighty Supercoldwideandfast River. Fortunately, we happened upon a large and worthy vessel. Unfortunately, it was not a sailing ship but rather a flying ship from the fleet of the dreaded space pirates. They took us to the Moon, the Sun, and Uzbekistan, wot wot. Then to Chile. That’s on the other side of the equator, right?” While Lord Moe is not buying a word of this floundering trite, he is amused and pleased that his little band of ogres is developing a new, if paltry understanding of the solar system, spatial relationships, and geography.
8. Suddenly, Lag plays a “Freeze” Action card with “The Bridge Over The River”…
…and chimes in, “Gosh, guys, it sure is nice to be back from that catapult ride. Got kinda cold flying up there through…” Lord Moe interrupts, “STOP! I don’t care how you feel, do you wish to correct Paul’s story?” Lag stutters, Lord Moe burps casually and issues a Withering Look to Lag.
Then a second, just for fun.
Lag is now on his hands and knees, head bowed, and sobbing. “Gentle Lord Moe, what I meant to say is that there never was a flying ship. There was, however, a long and scary step bridge dangling precipitously over the river. While everyone else… ” Lord Moe angrily interrupts again, “Damn it, Lag, I know those aren’t your words! Plagiarism is a crime punishable by… it doesn’t matter. Consider yourself on notice. You were saying?” Lag is now shaking, but appears to be giggling… and tickling himself. “All thoze guys went too the rivor, saw that brij and sed no way. So the falowed Phenri to the Inn of the Iron Staff.”
Lord Moe looks to Paul, “Is this true?” Paul confesses, “Yes… it’s all true! I am a hourrible teller of lies! I went with Hilden and John to the Inn of the Iron Staff, where we hid from Phenri under the bar. Though, I eventually found myself on stage during the closing number of the All-Knight Musical Review… and it was magnificent! I’ve never felt so alive! And there was a point at which John disappeared during Lancelot’s period performance on the Greek lyre. He eventually came back, but he was wearing someone else’s pants. Weird.”
Gradually, Paul begins to cry and beg for mercy. Mercy is granted, then rescinded and three successive Withering Looks are administered to Paul.
Though Paul is now lying prone on the floor and should be dragged by his ankles to the catapult for purification, instead Lag runs past all others, leaps into the payload chamber and pulls the crank himself. It appears as though everyone is happy.
9) The game is over.
For me, the best thing about Aye, Dark Overlord! is that it is limited only by the imagination of the players, not to mention it can be as filthy or as squeaky clean as you like. While the title may give some parents pause, it is generally age-appropriate for your kids, as the cards are relatively benign. In many ways, the game flows in a manner similar to Fluxx, where players are constantly adjusting and rearranging strategy to remain competitive. Kids aside, you could also pull this out with your own friends, who would clearly arrive with lots of liquor, and have just as much fun. Ah, who are we kidding? You’d have far more fun. Find yourself some quick, creative and totally untrustworthy companions. This one is very, very cool.