One of the games I said I’d review/regale you with was Someone Has Died. I played this at PAX on Saturday with Drew, Bobby, and Jess.
Someone Has Died is a storytelling game where the players are responsible for most of the content. I’ll explain the game’s structure, which is quite simple, and then go over our stories as best as I can recall.
The gist of the game is that one of the players is acting as the arbitrator in the distribution of the deceased’s estate and the other players are trying to explain why they should be the beneficiary. The game utilizes identity cards, which tell the player who they are, relationship cards, which tell the player how they knew the deceased, and backstory cards, which help the player to develop their character’s story. Simple enough.
Now I’m going to go into a little more detail on the game. I promise it’s simple, but if you want to skip to where I weave our tale for you, then skip down a couple paragraphs. Anyway, the game begins with the arbitrator telling the other players who has died, how they died, and describing their estate. The arbitrator may draw inspiration from the identity deck. Or, you know, whatever. It’s a game with almost no rules.
Next begins the Opening Statements. Each player then receives an identity card, a relationship card, and 2 backstory cards. Don’t worry, you’ll get more backstory cards. The players then take turns introducing themselves to the group and explaining their relationship with the deceased. All the time lobbying for why they should inherit the estate.
Next, we have the Interrogation Round. Each player (I’m going to stop referring to the arbitrator as a player for simplicity’s sake) draws a new identity card and the arbitrator asks each player a question – presumably something related to their opening statement, but whatevs. The players must incorporate their new card in their answer. The directions were not clear on whether or not the arbitrator was supposed to know the card and we figured it would be funnier if he didn’t. That might be wrong. Who knows? You do you!
Recess! Players get an opportunity to ask one other player a question about their character. No new cards now.
And then we have the Final Statements. Players draw one more backstory card and weave it into their final plea.
Then, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the arbitrator makes their decision on how the fortune will be distributed amongst the players. Maybe someone will take it all or maybe it will be split up in some fashion. All up to the arbitrator.
Ok. Enough boring rules. You want to know what happened!
I was summoned to the law offices of Drew, Drew, and McDrew for some sort of estate hearing. When I entered, I found three others in the office. One introduced himself as “Drew, no relation”, and he said he had some terrible news for us. He told us that Tony Hawk, my close friend and professional skater, had suddenly died. I was too stunned by the news of his untimely demise to recall the details of his death, but I’m sure he went out in style. He said we were here as potential heirs of his vast skateboard collection as well as $10 found in the deceased’s pocket. I salivated. He told us that Tony’s estate planning was not in good order and that it was up to him to decide how the estate would be divided. At this, he invited us to introduce ourselves, beginning with the gentleman on the far right.
“Name’s Carmine”, he said as he began passing out business cards, “and legitimate business is my game.” I could tell right away that he was lying – hell, his business card even proclaimed “crime boss”. But I could wait my turn. He then described his super cringey relationship with Tony, where Carmine apparently read into Tony’s friendliness a bit much, but they worked it out and were “just friends.” He then told us a little about his air drumming hobby, which seemed pretty strange, and some other details about his life and how he deserved the estate. I stifled a laugh and the estate keeper asked the woman to my immediate right to plead her case.
“Hello, everyone. I hope you don’t mind that I baked some cookies for this trying time” she said in a too sweet voice. At first I rolled my eyes, and then I remembered I hadn’t eaten and the cookies sounded mighty tempting. She proceeded to introduce herself as Anne Teak, the antiques dealer. She apparently had gone on a singles cruise with Tony where they shared some intimate moments. I think there may have also been a not-so-savory run in with a dolphin, but I was having trouble thinking with the thought of those cookies. Then she announced she just so happened to be knitting a sweater for our estate keeper. A sweater? Bribe much, lady? I thought Carmine was the crime boss! Anyway, she concluded her case and Drew invited me to take the floor.
“Well, as you may know, I am Art Vandelay, famous child actor.” I failed to mention that I had since become something of a loser, but I’m sure they knew. They always knew. I then explained how I had met Tony at a protest over the treatment of the extras in the Lord of the Rings, of which I was one. I then confessed my dark habit of Facebook stalking crime bosses legitimate business individuals, trying to help get the sympathy card as someone clearly damaged and in need of help. I don’t think it worked, but I proceeded to explain how Tony had promised to dedicate his life to putting right the treatment of the extras on the Lord of the Rings and that was why I deserved to be the beneficiary. All of this was true, but I could tell the estate keeper was not having it. I’d have to try another angle.
“I’ve heard enough”, Drew said. “Time for me to ask you all some questions to get a better understanding.” Oh good, I thought – maybe I can undo some of this harm. I began to think of what kind of thing he would ask me while he addressed Carmine and Anne. I don’t remember his questions for them, although I might have had a better idea what he’d ask me if I hadn’t been so engrossed in how I was going to plead my very legitimate case. Also, the cookie fumes were overwhelming, but I couldn’t be the first to cave in. Perhaps that was oh-so-innocent Anne’s plan all along. I love chocolate chip cookies.
I was formulating my plan when Drew got to me. Honestly, I don’t even remember what he asked. It didn’t matter. I was going to turn bring up my history of never having gone to Disneyland if it killed me. “Well”, I probably began, “as you may know, Tony and I bonded over neither of us having ever been to Disneyland and another thing Tony wanted to do was to use his fortune to make sure I could go someday.” It seemed only right that I would inherit these priceless skateboards and finally get to go. Plus the LotR reparations. Drew was having even less of this. “It’s impossible that Mr. Hawk has never been to Disneyland”, he insisted. As I thought about it, perhaps he was right. It did seem like Tony would have gone if he’d wanted to. Probably what had happened is that Tony felt so bad for me having never been that he was willing to lie about his Disneyland status to try and cheer me up. Regardless, I could feel the skateboards slipping further out of my grasp. I had to attack the others.
Carmine asked Anne a question and Anne asked Carmine a question. I think they were arguing about whether or not one of Tony’s skateboards would even qualify as an antique today. Waste of time in my estimation, but they were probably working their own angles. Finally, my moment came, and I thought I’d poke holes in Carmine’s alleged “air drumming” hobby. What even is that? I asked him what his favorite song to air drum to was and, without missing a beat, he replied “In the Air Tonight”. Damn. He was good. I still found the whole premise laughable, but if that wasn’t the truth then it would still be impossible to make his story fall apart. I decided his story checked out and Drew invited us to plead our final case. This was my last shot. I had to pull out the big guns.
Carmine and Anne pleaded their sob stories about how it wasn’t for the money and it was for their friendship with Tony and blah, blah, blah. Everyone’s attention turned to me and I almost chickened out, but I decided to spill the beans. “You may have a hard time telling, but I am actually a venus flytrap,” I admitted. “I know, hard to believe, but my acting skills are really that good.” I then explained how I got my start playing young Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, may have exaggerated my role in LotR where I was a houseplant on the bar. You can totally see me over Frodo’s shoulder if you pay attention. Also, Elijah Wood is kind of a dick. Although Peter Jackson deserves most of the credit for how poorly I was treated on the set. Disneyland’s strict no plants policy was to blame for my never having been to Disneyland, but Tony and I had been sure that I could gain admittance with a few skateboards distributed to the right people. I wept plant tears from my beady little plant eyes as I relived all the terrible experiences. I was sure the skateboards would be mine and I could begin to put my life back together. And meet the enchanted rose from Beauty and the Beast. “I think I’ve heard enough,” I heard Drew say over my crying. This was it.
“I’ve made my decision,” Drew proclaimed. I began to wonder how I would store the skateboards in my pot. Oh well. I’ll figure it out, I decided. To my horror, Drew then said that he was going to distribute the skateboards between Anne and Carmine and leave me with nothing! How heartless. Apparently it’s not just Peter Jackson that hates plants and LotR extras. “What about the $10?” I asked. “I could really use that money for bus fare.” “Oh, that?” he replied. “Carmine can have that to buy some new air drumsticks.” I couldn’t believe it. That didn’t even make sense! Isn’t the point of air drumming that you don’t need drumsticks?!?