Retro: Heavenly Kingdoms

2007 Mar 2

Hey, check it out, a game that’s actually finished!

The Chinese title is Jiuzui de Tianguo (Drunken Heavenly Kingdoms), a play on the Teresa Teng song — which everybody and his brother has covered — Jiuzui de Tangou (Drunken Tango). It’s the first two player game I wrote, for Game Chef 2004, but I broke one of the rules and also didn’t turn the game in on time, so it was never a contender. As a two player game, though, it’s definitely inspired by the work of Emily Care Boss (Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon) and Ben Lehman (Polaris), and went on to inspire Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, Waiting/Tea, and my current project, The Untimely Death of Christopher Marlowe (which may or may not be the same game as While You’re Far Away).

The premise of the game is that two brothers have smuggled forbidden wine into the capital of the pseudo-Christian Taiping rebels, who don’t drink and don’t want anyone else to either. Security is getting harsh and their only way out is to drink their entire stores to dispose of the evidence against them. While they are totally plastered, one brother drops dozens of strips of parchment on which are written stanzas of this very long poem explaining Taiping religious doctrine. The brothers then take turns placing the stanzas back in “the obviously correct order” and explain away any new discrepancies in the poem.

Basically, it’s a game of drunken story construction, similar to Once Upon a Time, but based on full stanzas of text instead of just individual locations, characters, or themes.

There was some tacked-on ideas at the end about giving each brother a slightly different personality and having them push for a different tone to the story (maybe unconsciously inspired by the Ever After cards in Once Upon a Time), but that never really matured into something really interesting. I came back to the idea of “different players, different rules” in Kazekami Kyoko though, and nailed it much better.

The full rules text is available online, linked below.

– 2005 Aug 10: The Game of Drunken Taiping Exegesis

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