Justice Playthrough #69: Dirty Aces

Aw yeah, the sex number playthrough gives me DIRTY Aces. Is it a DIRTY game?

… eh, not really. But that’s hardly the game’s fault, is it.

Page 41, Game 22: Dirty Aces by Ben “Bee” Scerri, Red World Press

Dirty Aces is a tabletop RPG meant to simulate a neo-western style setting. Something like Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or Firefly, or Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or The Expanse, or Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

I get the impression the author is a bit of a Dark Tower fan.

The connection to a specific setting is honestly pretty loose; most of the game is devoted to the rules for using two decks of cards for both character creation and conflict resolution. Those mechanics are … interesting. I’m not sold on them. But I could see them working.

Character creation involves using cards to define four main attributes, each one of which has a corresponding suit — mental strength (hearts), mental agility (diamonds), physical strength (clubs), and physical agility (spades). Oddly, the character creation rules as defined mean that there can be no more than four players aside from the GM — and the game recommends having EXACTLY four players.

You’ll use cards to represent your strength in those areas. However, your character concept is unusually fluid for a TRPG, because you can take the cards you used to define your character and use them as part of the game’s bridge-based conflict resolution. What’s more, the character creation rules specify that your starting card in each will be somewhere between a jack and an ace, so even the attribute where you’re “weakest” is honestly, according to the game’s mechanics, still pretty strong.

So once you make use of your character’s tremendous strength, your character will stop being tremendously strong, because whatever card replaces that attribute is unlikely to be as good as the one you spent.

There are also some FATE-style attributes you can create and access during the game. These, at least, are actually very stable.

Conflict resolution is handled by bridge, where the GM sets the trump suit based on the general parameters of the situation. All players get five cards, in addition to the big cards helping making up their character sheets. If the GM takes three tricks, they win; the players need to take X tricks, where X is determined by the difficulty of the task at hand.

The game encourages you to describe each trick as part of the ongoing conflict, with the strength of the card representing what you’re doing. This feels weirdly prescriptive to me; in D&D, for instance, I’ll describe what I’m doing first, THEN roll the dice to see how it goes. Here, I’m being asked to tailor what I’m doing to match the game mechanics.

What’s more, the game encourages the GM to make bad stuff happen to the players when they go off the trump suit, even if they take the trick.

The difficulty for an average task is 6. That means the players must collectively take six tricks between them to succeed on something AVERAGE. That seems really slow. I’d rather just throw a die, be done with it, and let the story move along, you know?

As always, I’m not playing the game, so this is hardly a fair review. Maybe it works, very well. I’m a bit skeptical. But I could be wrong.

Do I want to play this game? Not really, to be honest. But if a friend were pumped, I’d gladly give it a try.

Much like I’m about to try:

Page 5, Game 20: a new life. by Angela He

“When your loved one hurts you, what do you do? A classic love story about letting go.”

Another visual novel? I’m thinking visual novel. They really haven’t impressed me yet, but fiction is hard, folks. If that’s what I’m in for, I’ll gladly give it a try.