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Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2011 11:24:18

I love Fiasco. It delivers exactly what it promises: a self-contained, no-prep session in which a comedy of errors and bad decisions results in a complete fiasco. Having played in nearly a dozen sessions to date, every single one has been enjoyable and all but one have been great. I also have introduced the game to over a dozen people to date and every single one of them has loved the game. That in and of itself should speak to the quality of the experiences Fiasco yields.

Fiasco is not going to be for everyone though. First off, it requires active, creative participation from everyone at the table. It's not meant to be a game written and run by a single person, but rather a collaborative storytelling experience. Thus, if you despise collaborative gaming experiences and want very traditional RPG mechanics, Fiasco is going to be a poor fit.

It also means that everyone at the table has to be on the same page about exactly where the story is going – table chatter (some would say meta-gaming) is allowed and needed to avoid someone completely derailing the developing story by negating past events or introducing completely random elements. I've had this happen in one session (the one that wasn't great) in which one of the players in the very first scene of the game destroyed the object that linked our characters and then introduce Cthulhu-inspired horror elements which left the whole table scrambling to follow his lead – while it didn't ruin the game, it did negate everything we had discussed at the table during the set-up and ultimately left us with a story that didn't have a lot of coherence in the end.

Lastly, Fiasco can easily venture in to areas that may make certain players uncomfortable and so it's important for people, especially those unfamiliar with each other, to discuss lines and veils before the start of any game. This also needs to be considered when looking at the location where you're playing since spectators may get the wrong impression if they only overhear snippets of in-character dialogue. While the game doesn't have to involve sexuality, addiction, criminal activity, or profanity, most of the playsets as well as the tone of the actual rulebook (which fits the genre perfectly) definitely lean towards mature themes.

Some examples from games I've played in might make this clear, although these are at the extreme and in most cases things don't go quite this crazy: I've played a Russian video store owner who made amateur porn movies in the back room of his shop and who was raped by a bear while trying to make a bestiality movie. In another game, two of the characters were twin sisters in a rock band – one of them proceeded to get her twin hooked on heroin and then appeared in a porn movie posing as her twin in an attempt to ruin her sister's reputation and career. In the game described in my earlier examples, I played an incredibly foul-mouthed, very dumb, racist morgue technician – anyone who had been eavesdropping on our game could easily have been offended considering how many times I dropped the F-bomb alone.

That last point also requires a bit of caution for anyone wanting to use Fiasco with younger audiences. If you've read my blog, you'll know that I've had great success and fun using the game with the after-school RPG program I run. However, nearly all of the playsets to date, including those in the rulebook itself, are not suitable to younger audiences given how often they make explicit references to sex, drugs, and violence. That said, nearly any of them can be easily adapted for younger audiences with a little effort - I'm working on several at the moment – and some of the soon to be released playsets in the Fiasco Companion are also designed to be a little “softer” (I have playtested the High School playset with a bunch of teens and it was a terrific story).

In the end, I can't say enough good things about Fiasco. It's such an amazing value for what you get and it is my go to game at any con or I find myself in need of a game on short notice (e.g., we're missing a couple players). Everyone I've introduced the game to also loves it and the kids I've played it with have all returned in the following week wanting to play again. I can't recommend Fiasco enough and would encourage anyone who likes collaborative storytelling games to give it a try.

Read the full review here:

[5 of 5 Stars!]