[Update: 3 years after I wrote this post, Consentacle is on Kickstarter! Thank you for your patience. In the intervening time I was juggling a lot of other things: starting to teach full-time, getting married, and moving into a new home where we had to fix the ceiling! And then I finished the slowly-advancing plans for production. In case you’re curious about my design notes below about what’s coming next, all those thoughts were part of the design goals for the new set of Advanced Cards that will ship with the game if it’s fully funded. The most ambitious ideas (more characters to pick from, purely competitive sex, three-player mode) didn’t survive the testing and design exploration process — some of them definitely wound up in “yeah… that’s a different game, not this one” territory.)]
[Important Note that’s important enough to go at the top: you can get the rules for Consentacle here!]
Consentacle debuted at the 5th annual No Quarter exhibition of games, which was a great success! Thanks to everyone who came out to try Consentacle and the other three No Quarter games (Slam City Oracles, Corporate Vandals, and Dog Park). The game worked better than I had hoped in a public setting–despite its racy nature and the fact that it’s a card game that takes a little time to learn–and Evan Narcisse was on hand to do a write-up for Kotaku.
The most common question I’ve gotten since setting the game up at No Quarter is “how do I get this game?” It’s not currently for sale–there are only four complete sets in existence, in part because Melanie Bossert only had time to cut a limited number of Trust and Satisfaction Tokens. I’ll have at least a set or two at Indiecade in a few weeks for those who’ll be there and can track me down while I’m helping to run this year’s conference sessions.
Beyond that, what’s next? I’m overwhelmed by the positive reception and interest in the game, and something like a Kickstarter is not out of the question in coming months. Because the current version of Consentacle was put together in the space of a few months especially for No Quarter, there are a lot of issues to sort out before that can happen. One one hand, making sure we can do production of things like tokens and playmats is important to me, since Consentacle is particularly physical and… sensual? Even more than those logistics, however, I don’t consider the rules and cards of Consentacle to be final yet. In addition to being a game about consensual sex, Consentacle is designed to be a game that straddles two genres–cooperative games with limits on information, such as Hanabi or Way, and deck-designing games with complex resource management, such as Netrunner. Consentacle currently has only two pre-built decks: Kit and Dup, the two characters shown in the image above. These two decks are great as an introduction to the game: they’re symmetrical and work well together. We were originally hoping to have two more identity cards (Kulos and Joe, both more on the masculine-presenting spectrum) with slightly different decks to choose from, but there just wasn’t time.
So, what’s the point of all this? Why would you want to WAIT to get your hands on these cards, with their gorgeous James Harvey illustrations? Well, my goal for Consentacle is to explore these themes–consensual sex, intimacy and turst, different and othered bodies–in a game that’s relatively easy to learn, but also deep, replayable, and expressive. The current version has convinced me this is possible, but there’s a ways to go still. In case you’re curious or tantalized, here’s what I’m working on in terms of the design:
- Greater Replayability. It’s possible to “master” the current version of Consentacle if you and a partner both come to know the decks really well. There are only a few players who’ve reached that point already, of course, but when you get there, the result of your encounters mostly has to do with luck and the occasional communication misfire. It’s still a lot of fun to solve this collaborative puzzle, but my idea of a great cooperative game is one that creates new situations–and that means the game needs more cards and a slightly different combo system!
- Better Influence over Randomness. The randomness of shuffling your deck and drawing cards in order is a huge obstacle for most deck-dueling games, and it’s what makes one session of Consentacle quite different from the next as well. At one level, this is all well and good–not every time you have sex is going to be mind-blowing, and a lot depends on synchronicity, timing, and head-space between you and your partner(s). When it comes to gameplay, however, randomness can get downright annoying, as Mattie Brice discusses in a recent piece. Other deck-dueling games rely on mechanics like “tutoring” to let players control some of the vagaries of a shuffle, and even the first version of Consentacle has a few cards like this (the Extension Cards, which are currently designated for advanced play) that give you more options for controlling your hand, adjusting timing, and giving hints to your partner.
- Self-Expression: what are your moves, what’s your body like, who are you? Consentacle is the kind of game that I hope will evolve to be highly replayable via creating and modifying a deck of cards (just as in many collectible card games and deck design games) rather than by throwing a lot of random challenges at you. The themes of the game work very well with bringing a character’s (or your own) unique predilections and aptitudes to the table, after all; right now, everyone who plays has an Envelop card and a Penetrate card, but there’s no reason these particular moves have to be part of every Consentacle encounter! What if you could make a deck that’s more heavily based around Licks or Bludgeons? Or an Extension Card called “Stone” that favors a “shoot the moon” strategy where you end up taking a lot of Satisfaction in the fact that you’ve satisfied your partner without being touched much or at all yourself? (That last sentence will make more sense if you’ve played the game, and if you know some queer terminology.) As your decks become more and more different than those of your partner, and don’t necessarily line up with each other as well, a new kind of cooperative challenge may emerge–or at least I hope so, since a lot more playtesting of this concept is needed! Every time you mutate and redesign your deck, basically, you’ll have to figure out if and how it’ll be able to cooperate with the decks of your playmates. Sound interesting?
- Competitive Sex and Beyond. As I talked about in my last post, one of the most interesting things that came up during playtesting was that some people I showed the game to really wanted to try and play Consentacle competitively–actively trying to tip the scales of satisfaction in their favor. Some of them even managed to try this with the final No Quarter version of the game! Unfortunately, the current decks don’t have any cards that are particularly useful for this style of play–there aren’t any cards that let you betray your partner and take Satisfaction from them, for instance. This omission may seem obvious–it’s primarily a game about working together to have a good time, right? And yes, Consentacle is intended to be a cooperative game first and foremost, but if two consenting partners want to engage in a struggle for dominance and pleasure-taking (super-NSFW link) –well, I would be more than happy to facilitate that. Good times will be had by all: you just have to add more modes. Don’t want competition? Play cooperatively and put cards in your deck to match. Beyond that… three-player mode? That might require entirely different sets of cards, but we’ll see!
This is all a preview of a design process that I’m just beginning now that No Quarter is over — and it’ll probably all change quite a bit before there’s a version of the game you can buy! I’d love to know what you think, especially if you’ve already played the No Quarter version of Consentacle. Alternately, if you’re not among the few people who got to come and play the game during the exhibition–does reading all this still leave you feeling like “I don’t care, just SELL me some cards immediately, even without the fancy laser-cut tokens!?” Or maybe you’re just like “how can I get some of that amazing artwork?” I’d love to any or all of the above, or other reactions as well; your support and thoughts are helpful for getting this game to the next stage where, I give you my solemn vow, it’ll be even more worth owning. Feel free to leave comments here or tweet at me.
A lot of people have written me or left comments and tweets saying they’d love to playtest the game. Since the No Quarter version is all done and I’m going back to the design board to work on the above stuff, it’s likely I won’t have another version that’ll be useful for me to playtest for some time. However, if you leave a comment saying you want to playtest, with an e-mail address (they’re not visible to the public, don’t worry) I’ll put you on the playtest list for a future print & play version of the game.