Microscope - fractal history gaming

edited February 2011 in Pitch
I just bought this game Microscope and I'm dying to play it. With someone, anyone. Anyone here up for it?

Microscope is about exploring a piece of world history. You start off just saying "This is about the rise and fall of a great empire" and then dig into the middle, between the rise and fall. You know the end from the beginning, but you'll keep exploring what's in the middle, and be surprised as another player suddenly adds a new period in between the two you saw as right after another. The blurb from the game's site is so good, you should just follow that link to the story games thread. Right under the picture of the book.

As I said, I have the rules (pdf only) and I'll gladly teach enough to play, but I guess if some of you have it too, or even have played it, that's great. It's for 2-5 players techically, but not recommended on 2 or 5, so I guess 3-4? Anyone?


  • Yes. Count me in.
    I had one of the early play test documents and found it quite interesting.
  • I'd like to play. I played in two playtest games on Wave. I don't yet have the release version -- I'd like to get the book rather than the PDF, so I'm waiting to see what my no-shipping options are. So, I'm trying to say that I know the basic idea but not the details.
  • Great! I'll wait a little for a fourth player before starting anything, but we could start discussing how to keep track of it.

    The original game uses index cards laid out on the table, with an important feature being the fact that you can always slide half the cards to the right and add a new one in between any two cards. I'm thinking a gdocs spreadsheets for this - just make the cells large enough for the few lines of text, and insert new rows and columns as needed. The rest of the game could be played in a thread somewhere here.

    Sounds good?
  • Sure, that sounds like a good way to try it. So like the broadest time-unit (era?) cells/cards would go across the top and then the periods(?) would stretch down from there. What do scenes look like? Maybe since scenes will take a lot of relative space, they live on separate gdocs and links to them live on the period cards. Is that along the lines of what you're thinking?
  • RusRus
    edited February 2011
    Maybe we should investigate: http://prezi.com/ or mockflow

    Need to see the collaborative features of prezi. Might just be a good place to document stuff.
  • RusRus
    edited February 2011
    Prezi Sample

    Play with this.
  • I'm really interested in this game but a little worried it may take a great deal of time commitment to play and I can't really be doing google docs and apps like that from work.

    Not familiar with the rules though, how much daily noodling would this likely take?
  • I can't get Prezi to do anything interesting. I looked at the document that it looked like you (and Monica) were working on but it took an absurd amount of time to load, I couldn't alter or affect anything and I couldn't get it to reload once I went and found some info about how it's supposed to work. What's wrong with using Google docs?
  • hrm..
    I wonder if I need to give you rights?
    I saw you in there, but you left just as I was going to click on you-- to make sure you had rights.

    I can zoom in, zoom out, resize and all sorts of stuff. It is quite fun.
    The interface was a bit strange at first, just gotta be on the right menu (hover in the upper left corner) and then you can do stuff. Hold shift to select multiple items.

    I can do google docs too, this just seems really neat, as you can zoom in and out and make it extra big, or laser in on small details. Sort of the whole aesthetic of Microscope.
  • edited February 2011
    Octoscott: I don't know how much time it would take. I've never played anything at snail's pace, and I've never played Microscope. The turns are pretty strict most of the time: it's your turn, you make something up, maybe a paragraph or a little more, and then it's the next player. The exception is scenes, when both the setup and the playing involves some free discussion.

    EDIT: how much time you'll spend posting aside, you wouldn't need to post on Prezi yourselves whenever you made a move - someone else can update it with the short description of an event, since the longer description should be in the thread here. It would be required to look at the Prezi now and then though, to keep track.

    Rustin: Prezi seems great! I found the example and could move about and do stuff. I made some cards. In the original rules, Scene cards are to be tucked under the Event cards, but that seems impractical here. However, with the unlimited zooming possibilities, the way I put the scene by the Forty witches burned event would work methinks.

    Oh, and by the book the Periods are oriented tall, the events wide and the scenes tall, and your example is the other way around. Doesn't bother me though.
  • Much as I want to play I'd better sit this one out.
  • I'll order a copy tonight.
    Prezi would be a good way to document, but I doubt we'd be in there that much. I'd be happy to do any editing.
    This Link if you click on the Wheel looking button, not the play button, you can roam around the Prezi.

    It loads in under 5 seconds for me. (Chrome, zippy fast connection, updated Acrobat).
    With Roller Wheel on mouse I can zoom in and out. Click and holding, I can grab and pull and navigate around.

    We can also use a Google Doc, as I like the spell check and all that, if the forums don't track enough.

    Tiger, looking at the rules, how difficult would it be to add players as we go along?
  • edited February 2011
    That's an interesting game. I bought the pdf. It gives me something to think about with relationship to Revisionist History. Which is something I've been wanting to recruit a game of.

    You can use something like prezi, but essenitally this is just a list in horizontal format. Easy to do on a Wiki. (If you want to play with the markup, the pw is sandbox for that page)

    I don't think I have the time to play right now, but if you guys want a space on the wiki to use, I can put one there for you.
  • Shall we start with Step 1 (Big Picture) while we're looking for more players?

    Basically, brainstorm a simple overview of the history to play; one line that summarizes what happens.
    What about a Stargate/Contact type setting?
  • We could start doing big picture, yes! Doing that without all the players would be okay, but the book specifically says "you can't add more players later" as in it won't be possible, not as in you're not allowed. However, on the internet it's another thing since exactly everything ever said about it is available for a new player to read through - however, if it's much it might not be worth the effort.

    But yeah, we could start with the big picture.
    I have no experience of Stargate, but is "Humanity reaches for the stars and finds they are not alone" along the right lines? Did you imagine focus on humanity spreading into space themselves, or on what they find and who they meet?

    If Christopher hasn't read the rules, here's a summary of the next few steps:
    1. The big picture. We pretty much have to decide on one line that summarises the thing, maybe one or two lines of clarification.
    2. Bookend history. We decide on a starting and ending Period (apparently Era in earlier versions) with a one-line description of each, along with some elaboration and a judgment of Tone - Light or Dark, doesn't have to match. Our history can't grow outside of these, but of course it actually goes on. We just don't care about those parts.
    3. The Palette. We add things on the Yes and No lists. Things on the Yes list are always okay to bring into the history, even if it's not the perfect match - we all agree they have a place in our game. Things on the No list are under no circumstances entering.
    4. First Pass. We create, describe and summarise a Period or Event each, in any order. When this is done the first real turn starts, with a Focus and the ability to do Scenes too.

    When describing a period or event, just take command of creative authority. You create anything at all, under the two rules: Don't contradict what's already been said, and don't use stuff from the No list.
  • RusRus
    edited March 2011
    Stargate, basically are gates to different planets. Aliens used the gates far into the past and dumped humans in various places. Distinct civilizations developed.
    I, also, don't have much background in the Stargate fictional setting. Seen the movie, handful of episodes and watched the first season of Stargate Universe....

    Maybe... "Humanity reaches the stars to find other seeded human civilizations."
  • That's a good one. I tried to play on two players once, and we quit at the first scene because it felt weird role-playing on just two, but our theme was "Two branches of humanity rediscover each other" which was weird because we never thought of why they were separated. "Finding other seeded human civilizations" is a great answer to that. I like it.
  • edited March 2011
    Those steps sound just like the playtest version that I have and played.

    More big picture brainstorms:
    A town on a desert crossroads persists across time.
    The life and times of Walterus de Grafton, Worcestershire cheese merchant and vampire.
    Pharmaceutical technology is developed that mostly kills folks but occasionally creates super-enhanced humans. What happens?
    A one-way colony ship arrives on a new and empty world, 100 years after the swarm of climate-impact machinery was deployed.
  • Do the cheese merchant! The cheese merchant!
  • Since he's a vampire he can live through the entire history regardless of how long it ends up?

    I like the desert city and the colonist ship more. For the cheese merchant I'd need something more about the world in general before I know if I like it or not - is it fantasy, world of darkness, ordinary earth plus one vampire, sci-fi?
  • I like the colony ship + climate (Tera forming) machinery (says AI to me)-- I'm getting this cool Herbert vibe from it.

    I could see cool book ends being, Dying Civilization Unites, develops and sends AI to teraform new planet (Start) (light)...
    Not sure about the end bookend.
  • Hey, (I'm new). I'd like to participate as well (but I don't have a copy of the book).
  • For those of you who suspect Naurgul of being a bot or something, I pitched the game over at another forum and he followed the link here. So I guess that means we're set!
    Naurgul, start by reading this thread, I suppose you probably already have.

    The colony history ends:
    - as the colony has to be abandoned because of the climate failing, maybe after nuclear war (dark)
    - as the colony finally comes to a stable reign and experiences the greatest time of prosperity since the start (light)
    - as the last remnants of earth society arrives after earth is irrevocably uninhabitable, this colony is now the only place hosting humans (dark?)

    I'm really starting to like the "AI fixes up the planet beforehand" thing. Chris and Naurgul, chime in.
  • I find myself wanting to keep the bookends pretty terse. Is that a good or bad idea?

    I'm OK with "Dying civilization sends AI teraformer" as a start, though I'm not sure if we're wanting to play through a period of time after that and before a colony is dispatched or the colony-ship's passage.

    "The colony is abandoned" or "the colony becomes stable" are OK endpoints. I'm also interested in something like "the colony sends out the next teraforming project" or "the AI's dominance of the colony is complete."
  • Perhaps introduce another element for the bookend...
    "The alien culture consumes humanity."
    "Humanity is lost to the 5th dimension."
    "The 'New Language' transforms humanity."
  • The description of the bookends, the one we write on the "cards", should be terse, at least more so than my suggestions up there. However every period, including, I assume, the bookends, should have some more description. Sometimes maybe there's not much to say, but with "the alien culture consumes humanity" I would like to know what kind of a consumption that is. The rule given is that if it could be seen from a bird's view at the right time scale, we should know it. So if it's an alien world-ship devouring the planer, an alien culture transforming human thought into their own kind without morphing the biology, or if it's killer insects eating every last human, we should know. Those are pretty different. So "The colony is abandoned" or "the colony becomes stable" is maybe one or two details two thin - I think we should know something more about the stable colony, like maybe how it's ruled, roughly how many people are still alive or if they all live in bio-domes or under the sea. Not all of these, but some tiny detail to build upon.
  • It's almost like we need to do the Palette phase first.

    Or we keep BOOKENDS super vague, then do the palette, and then expand and answer those questions through EVENTS.
    "Humanity sends forth AI transformers" (Start- Light)
    "Humanity is transformed." (End- Dark)

    Chris, when you played before, what worked best?
  • Chris, you're right about the period in-between dispatching the AI and dispatching the clony ship, and before the colony ship arrives. Those are uninteresting to me, and we could just as well start right with "The colony ship arrives and settling starts (Start - Light)
    I think we should just decide on an ending. The cool stuff about this game isn't how it builds up to a cool ending - then this would be the most important part. The ending can be expected or uncreative and as soon as a period or two is on the table, it'll still be really interesting to see how it will all manage to come together in the end. So I vote for something easy-to-grasp such as "The colony is abandoned due to " or "The colony prospers united under a single leader".
  • Posted By: RustinChris, when you played before, what worked best?
    I think we just threw out some ideas and something stuck.

    I'm OK with any of these.
  • RusRus
    edited March 2011
    Sounds good.
    To summarize--

    Big Picture: Colonization ship lands on planet tera-formed by machines sent hundreds of years before.
    Start: Colonization ship arrives.
    End: Catastrophe and planet abandonment.

    We ready to move on to the Palette?
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