The Enclave

The Enclave is a game about an isolated community separating itself from and external threat (real or imagined). Of course the community has stresses and tensions within itself that threaten the community and allow the threat to seep in a corrupt everything.

The game tone is going to massively vary within this fixed frame. A cult with a charismatic leader trying to seal out the rest of the world is going to be significantly different to a medieval town trying to quarantine itself from the plague. You can also extend the basic idea to cover children on the summer vacation hiding from neighbourhood bullies in a treehouse or even the Siege of Troy.

The group chooses a type of Enclave from a table of suggestions (or they can make their own). They mutually sketch out a drawing or map of the physical domain of the Enclave. Then each player creates a character, they roll to discover how loyal the character is to the community and how they view those outside the community. The rolls also determine which character will be the leader of the community.

The game proper then begins with players taking turns which are called Ordeals (although Ordeals may actually be positive for the Enclave). The game is played out to a fixed number of scenes and the game suggests using a sheet of stickers to record the elapsed ordeals but essentially you're going to play 26 unless you're playing with five players in which case you do 25 total.

Each Ordeal begins with a dice roll on the playset table. There is an interesting but involved process for handling duplicates where events that get repeated are either replaced by a less desirable event but a reward of tokens to the player or the player can pay tokens to shift the event to be from the more favourable part of the event table.

The system is designed to avoid repetition and provide an arc to the game play that makes it more likely for positive events for the Enclave to happen earlier and negative events more likely at the end of the game.

I admire it as a piece of game design but I had to read through it a few times to understand what was going on and I can't help but feel that something like Deep Forest does a similar thing but in a simpler and more elegant way by choosing a random method that doesn't inherently contain repetition.

Having selected an Ordeal the player then frames a scene around the requirements of the Ordeal, interestingly not necessarily involving the character they created. Instead their goal is to interpret the prompt and provide the detail of what happens and how the people in the Enclave are affected. This includes drawing and modifying the map of the Enclave. It also means exploring some of the consequences that might be picked up later.

There's a lot I like about Enclave, it has really got to the heart of a particular scenario, as witnessed by all the variations you can play around with. It also has the classic elements of a storygame: a crisis that can't be ignored, characters in conflict and a flow to an inevitable end. What puts me off is the structure that it has been put around that framework. The game rules feel fussy and not particularly streamlined. It feels strongly influenced by map drawing games but doesn't have the elegance that other systems do. I'd be interested in playing a lighter hack of the game but not so much in grappling with the process or playsets of the current iteration of the rules.

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