Posted on June 7, 2011 by Nix
Available at RPGNow.com
Ace of Hearts is another of the lighthearted, ‘beer and crisps’ games by James Desborough. I’ll admit, you do have a certain type of humor to enjoy his products. But, if you do have a slightly skewed sense of reality then this will be a worthy role-playing game to take a look at. This particular product is definitely for adults. It has and deals with mature themes.. besides.. what is a kid doing drinking beer and eating pretzels.. err.. crisps anyway while role-playing? They should have school in the morning and be in bed sleeping. If they don’t have something to do, then I am sure the parent can assign some chores to keep them occupied. Chores are good like that, they can keep the child busy and it builds character.. well.. character and resentment. Anyway, back to the review.
The game is set in the wild and free ‘old west’ of the United States with the first several pages used to detail out the basic premise. You, the player, want to take over the local bordello, the previous owner is leaving and needs an heir to her domain. It is quite famous and earns a decent profit. You can play as one of the ‘ladies-of-the-evening’, however, if you have moral reservations about playing a prostitute then you can also play a saloon girl, spittoon cleaner, assistant, or piano player. Anyone you would expect to see in a house of ill-repute, is open for play. It is suggested though, that you take on the persona of one of the working girls as they will be more attuned to the trials and tribulations of becoming the madam. After all, the game is based around chick fights and other sordid drama, so who else would be best to win than a ruthless, enterprising, and seasoned strumpet.
With the premise firmly in place, the town is described. It lists the major non-player characters, major locations, and other random background material. The sheriff, mayor, and others are listed here. Along with major social groups such as the miners. An inventive group could easily add more, but the game starts off on a very solid foot with what is offered.
Character generation is detailed next. Here a player details out three ‘Devils’ and three ‘Angels’. Devils are hindrances while Angels are beneficial. If you are unable to think of anything you may also randomly draw from a deck of cards. Me, I went with drawing the cards to keep it random. Five poker chips or tokens are collected for use in the game and then the player can think of further background if he or she wishes. Devils range from being intolerant to shameless with the Angels ranging equally far. One can have great stamina and be raunchy, both sought after qualities in a harlot.
With the character in hand, the game can begin. Victory points are doled out to certain locations, the victory goal is set, and cards are drawn to see who goes first. Whoever drew the high card wins, and is handed the rule book and deck. The player holding the rule book draws a card to determine the scene and how the others are involved. They can then choose to pick on someone’s Devil and describe their issue. Play swaps to that person who’s Devil was activated with the book passing back and forth till no one can activate an Angel or Devil. Points are gained as you go move along with chips being tossed back and forth. There is a very good example of play following the list of dilemmas.
It seems to be a quick and fun game. For the most part, the writing is quite clear and the rules, what few there are, are usually well defined. If your game master is burned out and everyone has had a pretty rotten week so that they need to let off some steam. This would certainly be a good game to use.
The artwork, however, is.. stellar. From a male perspective it was joyfully distracting, and from a purely impartial perspective the art was really quite good and tasteful. You may be wondering what this art is and why was it so distracting. For that, I would suggest you pick yourself up a copy. You will not be disappointed.
Playability: 3 out 5
Writing: 4 out 5
Artwork: 6 out 5
Review by Sean “Nix” McConkey