Free Game Review: Lady Blackbird

Have you heard about Lady Blackbird?  I know I hadn’t until a fine fellow gamer by the name of +Stuart McDermid pointed it out to me as the best free game out there.  I went to the link he gave me (which you can do too by pressing here) and downloaded the game.  A nice short punchy game around 16 pages or so long.

The rules to the game for the players are included on pre-generated character sheets.  The game reads like a module and to many it may seem that way.  I read through it, a little confused as to what would make this the best free game ever.  But I was determined to play this game and give it a go.  Many of you would realise by now that I generally have a very busy gaming schedule so as much as I wanted to play it there was going to have to be something that broke to get to play it.

For I am a lady…

Last night provided that break.  I was due to run The Demolished Ones for my group but one could not make it at all and due to the implementation of daylight savings here in Australia another would not be able to make it until later in the evening.  The rest of us sat around chatting about the game until +Lloyd Gyan offered to run Lady Blackbird.  We took it on and picked our characters and got into the game.

Is this the best free game I have ever played?  Yes.  I had one of the best experiences as a player in a game last night.  The rules are simple but well layered.  The game itself would play differently every time it was played with the way it was set up and it is this that apparently keep people coming back to it.

The characters are well built and there are mechanics to give them personality right from the get go.  Each character has keys and secrets which aid the play in making the character their own.  I played Lady Blackbird the character and I found that the keys really helped me fall into her mindset quickly.  Keys are used to introduce role playing hooks and you actually get experience awarded by the GM when you play to these hooks in game.  The only issue I had was that three keys may have been too many for the character and I “sold out” one of my keys for a couple of points of experience halfway through the game.  Especially seeing that two of my three keys conflicted with each other (in my mind) anyway.

Secrets are more powers that boost your ability in specific circumstances.  They add some nice flavour to the characters actions and unlike some game systems it is neat to actually see nearly every one of these circumstances arise in the game.  I can see from these two mechanics that players of each role will treat each character differently nearly every time.  The game moves along the path of the story purely on character actions and the variability of these characters will ensure a different game every time.

Last night, for example, I played the Lady Blackbird as an elitist snob.  The players practically all were just wondering what would come out of my mouth next and spent a lot of their time putting out the fires I was creating all across the plot!  We made it about halfway to the end point of the game last night and are going to pick it up again if one of our other games falls short again which is going to be great fun!

It is very steampunk too!

I entirely suggest that you all try this game.  I am now keen to finish this one and then play it a second time to see what happens next time.  It is intriguing that a game can make you want to play the same scenario twice!  But it does have some longevity to it.  There is a little microcosm created here that has enough information to broaden out into different stories, and as if sensing I was going to drop a compliment on him in this post +Stuart McDermid has also found me a link to a fan made sourcebook for the game that will allow you to play on past the end point of the game which you can look at here.

There is a lot to this game that initially not apparent.  I strongly urge you to download it and put it on top of your to read pile.  If you are heading to a con and you see one of the games listed a s Lady Blackbird, give it a go.  If you have a night where not all your players are showing, break this out instead. You will not be disappointed.  Keep rolling!

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