I have actually never played Apocalypse World, but I’ve played Dungeon World and Urban Shadow, both of which are awesome. At Gen Con, I got the chance to play the Powered by the Apocalypse game Cartel in a session run by the author, Mark Diaz Truman.
Like my review of Short Order Heroes, I have to disclose that I know Mark personally. Not well, mind you, but he helped immensely with the Kickstarter for Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, and his company fulfilled that Kickstarter and will fulfill Nefertiti Overdrive.
If you know Powered by the Apocalypse games, you know the basics of Cartel. What makes it different is the setting. I haven’t watched Breaking Bad (yes, I know, I’m a horrible person . . . I’ll get over it) but I had seen El Mariachi. I also read Killing Pablo, and who hasn’t been reading about the Mexican narcogangs recently? It’s an extremely cool setting and just relating to the playbooks, is captured with exquisite simplicity. Building the characters, watching the story grow even before we started to play, was a real pleasure.
Then we got into it. Just a taste – a quick game to show us how it all worked and how it all grows organically. This is exactly the kind of game I love. It’s interesting in that I generally don’t like to constrain players, especially with how characters interact with the world, but the way the system works, sometimes your PC loses a die roll and has to accept an argument.
And it was really interesting to work within that constraint. I hadn’t encountered it as much in Urban Shadows. In that game, physical actions failed which led to consequences and decisions, but I don’t recall engaging in as much social conflict. Most of what we did in Cartel was social. It was smooth, it propelled play rather than diminished it, and led to some interesting choices that I think really helped play blossom.
I will be backing the Cartel Kickstarter.
I give Cartel 4.5 kilos of masterclass meth out of 5. The game is smooth, fun, and really rocks social conflict in a setting that is fascinating as much as it is relevant.
You can learn more about Cartel here.
You can learn more about Killing Pablo at Wikipedia.