Do Not Forsake Me (Oh My Darling)
Teaching Time: 15 mins
Playing Time: 10 mins
Setup Time: 5 mins
Value For Money: High
Price: Print and Play
Recommended: No unless you're a game designer
Solo Play Review
I only know I must be brave. Its an odd coincidence that this Western ballad has been featured in at least two sci-fi productions to my knowledge. Sadly I'm much fonder of the other one.
In Do Not Forsake Me you're given a space ship which you pilot about arresting space villains for bounty that eventually wins the game but which can also be spent on repairing and upgrading your ship's facilities. This is done by drawing cards to represent the villains then pulling other cards as dice values for your attacks and theirs. You can avoid the villains and you suffer random events during play but that's about the whole of it.
The entire game is contained in 18 cards including its full rules which is very impressive and its graphic design has a fantastic "Flash Gordon" Pulp sci-fi feel which is very effective. That said the low ink version I used had text both in pale yellow on a white background and electric blue on a powder blue background which was near impossible to read. Additionally, although the game is both clever and efficient it does at times feel more like an exercise in efficient use of cards than an attempt to make a fun game and at times it feels a little in love with its own genius.
There are choices in the game but there feels little pressure to take them. I played through a few times doing nothing but take the minimum travel distance, fight all bad guys and repair all damage and still won before reaching the first space station to even consider buying upgrades. The upgrades themselves struggle to feel interesting, especially problematic considering that the currency used to buy them is the victory points used to win the game. Some of their advantages even make enemy ships more powerful, making purchasing them a quite bitter pill. Enemies come with nicely phrased pieces of flavour text but sadly lack any special rules to make those phrases into game effects.
An astonishing amount has been done with very few resources here and done in a slick and impressive manner but ultimately I was left with a feeling that a few more components to give a little more story and heart would have been a worthwhile investment. Stripping a game back to its simplest components is an interesting exercise but it is vital not to rip out the character along with the unnecessary mechanics. The irony is that the game has a good depth of mechanics and makes an excellent learning tool or master class for game designers who want to know how much you can do with very little, its just that they never make the crew feel personal, the ship individual nor the threats characterful. As a time filler its fine, it fits in a small pocket and I feel bad recommending against anything free with this much work in it but as a game it feels more like the operation of a clever engine than a rewarding gaming experience.