06 February 2019
There’s a monster in the woods, black helicopters are lurking on the horizon and the weird kid in history class can move things with her mind. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that the only people with a chance of getting to the bottom of these mysteries are a plucky band of kids with beaten-up bicycles, outdated slang and a whole lot of moxie. Whatever that is.
Kids on Bikes propels the players into the dusty trainers of such a group of kids – and possibly a couple of friendly adults – as they puzzle through the dangers of their hometown. Depending on how people are feeling and what comes to mind during regular bouts of collaborative worldbuilding these dangers can swing between the lighthearted adventure of E.T. and the creeping horror of It, and one of the system’s biggest strengths is how it approaches these kinds of decisions.
From the very first page, Kids on Bikes makes it clear that this is a game where everyone at the table is expected to bring their own ideas and storytelling to the table. The GM acts less as an overlord and more as a moderator, deciding which threads to run with and how they weave together. When the time does come to roll some dice, the mechanics aren’t particularly deep but are easy to grasp.
This collaborative, rules-light approach to roleplaying is the defining characteristic of the entire game, with the strongest example coming in the form of its ‘powered characters’ – the friendly alien, pyrokinetic drifter or other supernatural outsider that often lies at the heart of these stories.
Every group is expected to run into one of these figures early into their game, and from then on the players and GM share control of them. This is where the complexity comes into play – not in terms of rules and mechanics, but in requiring everyone to play along and put some effort into crafting an enjoyable story.
If that sounds like something you and your friends could play with, Kids on Bikes is a neat system that can generate some fascinating stories.
Designer: Jonathan Gilmour, Doug Levandowski
This review originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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