So I finally got around to play something from the Warbirds Anthology on Gauntlet Hangouts. The game of choice (or not that much choice as it seems like the only game from the book that would easily translate to online play) was We Were W.A.S.P., a game about four pilots from the Women Airforce Service Pilots that served in the Air Force during WW2. It's a game that originally was made for the danish con Fastaval and is written by Ann Eriksen. Fastaval is known for its mix of design cultures between Nordic larp and tabletop. As a result a lot of the games that get made for the con (yes, all of the games run at the con are designed just to get played there!) have a very unique style. Specifically, they often involve experimental design that borrows from Nordic larps; very feel-heavy content and very elaborate characters from the Danish scenario tradition. In the last years, a lot of people have discovered that there are a lot of great games that get made here, including others by Mo Turkington, who put together the Warbirds Anthology that We Were W.A.S.P. is a part of.
I have been thinking about running this and similar high impact scenarios from Fastaval for a while, but I've been a little nervous about putting it on the calendar. The main reasons being it's a very feel-heavy game and I had a preconception that these kind of games play better in a physical space than online. In addition to that, I must admit that my own inexperience with facilitating games where I as a narrator act as the vehicle for delivering the experience of discrimination and bigotry also factored in a little. But I finally got around to do it and after some aggressive marketing I got all the players I needed to run it.
So first of all, it totally works online! I had two new players that I haven't played with before and I suspect that the design was quite different from what they were used to, but I got the sense that they all had a very positive experience. I think doing workshops to get the players rolling is a really nice steal from larps, that I'd like to see used more in tabletop games. What I would add for online play is that this game requires an extended talk about safety. Especially outside of the "culture" where these kind of games come from where playing feel-heavy games are the norm. I also added a debrief at the end to give the players the opportunity to decompress a little after the game and tried to check in regularly during the game as well. I am sure that all of those things are important playing it in person, too, but I definitely feel like it is of extra importance online as it can be more challenging to read how people are doing.
So about the game! It is a very good and tightly designed experience. The story and the characters are the big draw of the game. The characters are beautifully written and really draw you into the mindset you need to play the game. I sat with watery eyes while reading the stories of the four W.A.S.P.s, and from that moment on it was clear to me that this game lives and breathes by these brave women who sacrificed so much to be able to fly. That also showed in the play of my players, who really managed to do these wonderful characters justice. It was moving to see them show their character's vulnerability, toughness and willingness to endure sexism and bigotry from pretty much every encounter from the male soldiers they risked their lives to support. My favorite scene was the one where the women say goodbye to the plane after their last flight. It had so much unresolved tension in the air as I could feel the awkwardness as the W.A.S.P.’s tried to avoid saying goodbye at all. When the game ended, I think we all felt a little empty after having been the W.A.S.P. for the last four hours. After a small break we had a little debrief to decompress and the feeling around the table was of thankfulness to have participated in the story of Helen, Betty-Jane, Patricia and Violet. There are some small things that we struggled with (mainly related to the flying part of the game), but I think we all got an experience to remember. If you are interested you can see the recording of the session here: