Published on May 4th, 2016 | by Nicole Jekich0
You All Meet in a Tea House…
Our Review of Blade & Brush
In Blade & Brush players collaborate and build a story about their character through a series of haikus in this creative party game. The journey of the players starts at the Wayside Inn as strangers but will develop over the course of the game. Blade & Brush has a similar game structure like Apples to Apples and similar party games: a random dilemma card is drawn and read aloud by the active player. The active player takes a break and waits as everyone writes a haiku to submit which will detail how their character reacts to or resolves the situation. The active player then selects their favorite of the haikus and the “winner” receives the dilemma card as a reward.
A Collaborative, Character-Driven Story
Blade & Brush isn’t really a game that needs a winner. Players will have a set number of dilemmas they encounter over the period of the game; however, players are welcome to use the dilemmas of Blade & Brush to make the game longer or shorter. I am so used to building worlds and creating stories with more meatier, roleplaying games. Systems like D&D 4E, Microscope and Fate are my favorite roleplaying game systems, but these systems also focus on a very large picture and a campaign structure. There are combat rules, character statistics and more to worry about. What Blade & Brush does well is it brings a player’s focus onto one specific character and players can start the game with little time spent on set up. All the personality and motivation for your character in Blade & Brush comes from a player’s impromptu haiku response. Thankfully players have a little help building their character’s story from scratch with a beautifully illustrated character portrait card.
Familiar Characters and Archetypes
Players will choose a character from 22 choices inspired by Asian lore, anime and iconic Asian people. All the characters have just a touch of similarity to these characters from the girl that looks like Princess Mononoke or the martial artist that has that iconic Bruce Lee hair and fighting pose. Having these visual cues help players to pull from their experiences and knowledge of what those characters were like and present responses that are “in character”. There are also plenty of opportunities to build and present your own character based on your own experiences and creative interpretations of the character portrait. The illustrated character cards are there to guide people who may not be used to coming up with character-driven responses in a storytelling setting.
What I enjoyed most about Blade & Brush character choices was the variety of characters. In the 22 options players can choose from many people of color with an even distribution of women and men characters. Players can choose a character who is young or old, rich or poor, strong or lithe, sinister or merry. The variety of characters gives players a lot of opportunity to role-play and story-build with characters who have completely different looks and backgrounds and also includes character archetypes that are rarely presented in tabletop games. We’ve written about #WeNeedDiverseGames before and are very glad to share Blade & Brush as a game that promotes the diversity that we want to see in more tabletops games.
Poetry for Games
I rarely do any creative writing beyond these articles on ATBG. Blade & Brush is a quick way to help boost my creativity and storytelling in a short amount of time. Blade & Brush only takes 30-45 minutes but can last as long or as little as the group wants. Creating haiku responses to the haiku dilemmas presents a straightforward and creative writing challenge perfect for novice writers to professional poets. Maybe true poets will cringe at my rudimentary use of the 5-7-5 syllable format but I had a lot of fun playing Blade & Brush with a random group of players. I highly recommend this game to any creative writers and people looking for a more creative, character-driven party style card game. Just make sure to bring enough pencils and notecards or at least be prepared to tear up a lot of paper strips like we did at Raygun Lounge:
More Storytelling with Arcana Games
Arcana Games is known for their focus on storytelling and creating immersive worlds and roleplaying games. Eugene of Arcana Games puts up all his content and products on RPGNow where interested gamers can pay-what-you-want for the different games, settings and expansion content. Among the list of games is Grin: a spooky, horror simulation like Dread but using a playing card deck instead of a Jenga tower. Grin is a great suspense-driven game that would be great for your horror campaign especially if you dislike the dexterity challenge in Dread. As a player dies from revealing the joker card. If a poker deck breaks your immersion, Eugene also has a themed deck made for Grin available on RPGNow too. I had the pleasure of playing this game with strangers at Norwescon this year and my character (the impatient and jumpy younger sister) was the first to meet her untimely death. The rest of the game I could haunt or help characters by discarding the cards I received at death. The more characters that die in game, the more suspenseful the game becomes as cards are removed from he deck meaning players’ survivability becomes more dire.
Aeon is another rpg from Arcana Games where players act as powerful gods who build a world together and must compete to be have the most influence on the world they created. The story is broken down into three phases of play: Creations, Heroes and Myths. It is an especially great introductory game for those new to rpgs as an entire story can play out in one sitting in 1-2 hours. No dice needed.
To learn more about Blade & Brush and more Arcana Games products, visit their website.