Friday Review: Thursday, by Eli Seitz
This week's review is a product a bit out of my wheelhouse in terms of the style of game I normally play, but I feel that being exposed to new things is a good thing! Thursday is a game of "time loops, drama, and learning from your mistakes." It's standard 'zine size, staple-bound, and has a gorgeous cover that reminds me of the copy of Great Gatsby I read in high school. The art, cover and interior, is by Tzor Edery.
The inside cover has a note that the book was written on ancestral native land, and the back cover a quote from Nadia Vulvokov:
"We're trying to come of age in a world where it seems like everything is changing so quickly that nothing holds any meaning. The whole world is on fire, and it's Thursday. What a concept!"
Overall, it is a 32-page 'zine, with printing on the inside two covers, and it also comes with a sticker done in the same style as the cover.
The game itself is designed as a no-prep, no GM, an exercise in collaborative story-telling. On the first page we're told the game is meant to be used to tell the story of unhappy people struggling with their past choices and hang-ups, and as someone who has been kept up at night replaying ten-year old conversations that I wished had gone differently I can totally empathize.
The first paragraph in the structure of play section emphasizes the use of safety tools to find out if there are any topics off-limits to players. I know a lot of old-school gamers scoff at such a notion, but ever since I became a parent I have found that scenes portraying violence against kids is profoundly upsetting to me, so I understand the need to establish ground rules such as "no kids will be hurt in my games", and a page of the 'zine is dedicated to this.
The book presents four playbooks, which are essentially character classes: artiste, misanthrope, sellout, and trendsetter. The ideal group size is four players, although guidelines are presented for playing with 2 or 3. In addition to a playbook, each player chooses to represent The Loop (time travel weirdness, pacing), The City (locations, sense of place), The Home Team (friendly side characters), and the Away Team (antagonistic side characters).
There are no dice used in Thursday; instead the characters gain tokens by performing weak moves (succumbing to their worst impulses) that they can spend to perform strong moves (gaining insight into their history). Each player also has a coin placed face down in front of them, representing the thing holding them back, which they can then flip when they feel they have overcome the obstacle. When everyone has flipped their coin they have escaped the loop and the game ends.
It's an absolutely gorgeous book, with striking illustrations that really invoke an inchoate, dream-like mood. The writing is terse yet informative, with a touch of wry humor, but the illustrations are my favorite aspect of this book.