26 April 2018
Hidden feelings emerge when the bricks tumble
Have you ever associated a Jenga tower with high-strung romantic tension? Well, neither have we. But a new storytelling roleplaying game wants to change that with a clever wooden block-centric look at love and relationships. (There’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.)
Star Crossed sees two players create characters who are destined to be drawn to each other, but for whatever reason can’t be together – hence the Romeo and Juliet nod in the title.
Designer Alex Roberts has inventively symbolised the fragile nature of these relationships as a literal wobbly tower of bricks, which serves as the key device to deciding the outcome of the lovers’ romance.
The players take turns acting out scenes, describing what their characters do and say – some of the original suggestions on the game’s Kickstarter page include a superhero and supervillain whose pursuit goes beyond justice, intertwined rival werewolf and vampire clan leaders (hello, Twilight fans), and two nuns in a convent.
The tension comes from both characters’ inability to express their feelings out loud. As the sexual and romantic tension grows and it becomes harder to keep their passion supressed, the players pull blocks from the teetering tower and place them back on the top.
If the tower tumbles, the characters’ buried emotions suddenly rise to the top and they act on their feelings. How many bricks the players managed to remove from the tower before it toppled influences what happens, with the game’s rulebook guiding the relationship to tragic failure, eternal romance and everything in-between.
If the tower doesn’t fall and the players make it through their final scene, the secret feelings remain just that and the characters never reveal how they truly feel – which itself can lead to dramatic finales.
Star Crossed is designed to play in two-hour sessions, using the game’s rulebook, cards and character sheets – plus a tower of blocks.
It’s not the first RPG to use Jenga as a key gameplay factor, but Roberts’ loved-up design delivers a very different kind of tension to similarly block-powered horror game Dread.
The digital version of Star Crossed is due for release this summer following its successful Kickstarter campaign, with a boxed version to follow at the end of the year that includes a generic brick tower – but backers of the campaign receive an immediate copy of the pre-release draft rules, so you can reignite your romance with that forgotten Jenga tower in the cupboard right away.