XP: Bacchanal

10 Mar


I was very pleased to realize that in addition to being close to Valentine’s Day, this RSG also landed on Mardi Gras. So, if there was ever a perfect time for Bacchanal, this was it.

What is there to say about Bacchanal that isn’t already known? The particular style of play required to make satisfying fiction is well known. The extremely erotic subject matter is the hallmark of this game. The social navigation of deliberate discomfort is a feature of it’s charm. Bacchanal is a very well known entity.

Beyond those obvious features, there are some interesting qualities that might be worth examining more thoroughly for other games. The wine glasses and passing the dice provide a fantastic tactile dimension to play. I would say this is a superexpression of lust. Attention is drawn to color and feel, the sound of dice clattering in the glass and spilling on the table, the feel of the rim of the glass. The game itself is such a spectacle that onlookers are drawn in and curious – it is irresistible. The fiction of the game is about lust, debauchery and decadence, but the act of play is about that too, even when divorced of the fiction. I earn for more games to follow this model.

And yet, there is a subexpression too. You look into the glass and find a story of men and gods, or monsters and threats. This is much like peering into our own soul, a sea of symbols. Just as Bacchus came from the hills to this lavish village we visited our own soul with the secret myths of our own minds. And then we play a game about sex, desire and lust, with all inhibitions discarded. This too is a journey to a new depth, and has the potential to encode secrets about the player’s own soul. But who is listening, and who can make sense of this foreign tongue?

And then too, you narrate your findings without commentary from the other players. The game forces you to escalate, plunging deeper and deeper into your findings. And the other players only listen. This onlooking, and this exposition, is again the lust expressed through play.

Bacchanal speaks to me in a way that many games do not. It is a beautiful and smart creation. I learned a lot from this play. Many thanks to the brave souls who consented to play this game with me, in a public space no less.


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