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Butter Princess
by Aaron S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2022 16:59:37

When I invited friends to play an RPG about "the horrors of the state fair," it speaks to the brilliance of this game that, to a person, they all immediately grasped what this meant. Butter Princess embraces the darker side of indulgence, "armpit-to-armpit" humanity, and the saccharine nature of corny, fun-for-the-whole-family-style gatherings.

The gameplay experience reminded me of Fiasco, with players relishing in their characters' eccentric ambitions and frequent failures just as much as in their successes. I suspect one's appreciation or distaste for Fiasco will map fairly closely onto their feelings about Butter Princess.

Butter Princess also represents a great on-ramp into a more collaborative style of game for roleplayers more used to a traditional mold. Its real-world setting with which most players will be familiar means it offers a concrete jumping off point for players to contribute. It's also a clever thematic decision to have the players arrive at the state fair several hours before the butter princess is crowned, creating a psychological match for the state fair feeling of aimlessness. There are multiple stages where the characters have little they need to accomplish other than scheme and wait things out, which gives players plenty of room to make proactive, collaborative contributions to the game.

Two tips I didn't see in the rulebook but gleaned from online actual plays: 1) From the rulebook alone, I wasn't sure how the group dynamic worked. Do these characters know each other? I saw from actual plays that generally they don't, apart from sharing a shuttle bus ride and noticing each other on the way in. For that reason, one drawback of the game is that it can devolve into multiplayer solitaire, with each player taking their turn and then waiting on others, until all the characters finally come together in Ring Five. There are some ways to mitigate this, both in-game and through meta-gaming, but I would also suggest capping the number of players at 4, and might target 2-3 as the ideal in order to avoid between-action downtime.

2) Remember that at the state fair, there are people everywhere. This should have been obvious to me, but it took the actual plays for me to realize even in Ring Five, when players reach the dairy building and the butter sculptures, of course there are still plenty of fairgoers milling about.

My only reasons for 4 stars rather than 5 star are (1) the lack of mitigation and advice for avoiding that "parallel RPGs" feel ahead of the finale, and (2) the somewhat limited replay value given the specificity of the scenario. But what Butter Princess lacks in breadth in makes up in depth, relatability, and its brilliance (of the "How come no one thought of this before?!" variety). Recommended!

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Butter Princess
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