Review: Hunters Entertainment – Alice is Missing

Alice is Missing
Alice is Missing is a modern storytelling game written by Spenser Starke, published by Hunters Entertainment, and distributed by Renegade Games.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Alice is Missing is an interactive storytelling game played with friends entirely over textual media (phone, PC, & tablet). It is a role-playing game in the sense that the players take on the role of different characters within the game, but there are no dice and the game utilizes cards as prompts during gameplay. It is a self-contained story with a multitude of paths to take, depending on the overall combination of what cards of pulled, and an ending that is achieved through investigation in a very non-professional sense. In all honesty, the game is like a surreal version of Investigation Discovery following the path of an all-too-real disappearance (it isn’t a spoiler as it’s the title of the game) and how everyone involved figures it out. It is meant as a one-shot game and definitely requires players with a significant amount of imagination, creativity, and the ability to improv. If your players need dice to effect an outcome, they’re going to need some lessons on how to game without dice.

When I look at the history of role-playing games, it appears there are three eras in which games have been designed. The first era is the mechanical-heavy RPGs with a lot of mechanics designed to perform a lot of different tasks in a very static manner. The second era is where the mechanics are stripped down to a more generic flavor to focus more on quickness of gameplay and less on the fiddly bits of gaming. The mechanics are still static but there are considerably less to deal with, opening the path for improvisation. The third era is where games transition from static to dynamic mechanics to create a completely new aspect of role-playing. This third era is also where designers get very creative on how to represent those dynamic mechanics including GM-less, dice-less, card-based, prompt lists, and letting players dictate how an in-game benefit is achieved. Alice is Missing obviously falls into that third era and you can very likely pinpoint games that fall into the other two. Games such as this push the envelope of what it means to play a role-playing game… and then it goes the extra mile by removing that verbal interaction and moves it to a technology-driven interaction. While this may seem awkward, think of how many gaming groups nowadays no longer sit around a table due to a variety of roadblocks (including the pandemic we are dealing with right now).

I personally love games that push the boundaries of role-playing (really any type of gameplay) in different directions to create new experiences. Especially those that explore non-traditional themes. But then, that’s my personal taste. I also know at least a few people who could never play a game like this because they rely so heavily on the static mechanics either to avoid having to describe in detail what a character is doing or find a way to get the most “bang” out of character creation. This game is not recommended for those types of players. I just don’t think they’d find it enjoyable or would get so flustered that they would feel they haven’t offered anything to the game and thus not enjoy themselves.

For everyone that doesn’t fall into that category, Alice is Missing offers a unique opportunity. You get an entire game played entirely through interactive storytelling with timed cues from the cards that keep things moving along toward the finale. Everything you need is included and you even get some great artwork to go with it. The game itself is quite self-explanatory with a read through of the core rulebook and the cards really do the rest of the work. In fact, you really only need one person at the table who fully understands how the game is played to keep it moving forward. After you play through once, you can even repeat the process and end up with different results. The replayability, unfortunately, is not that great within a single gaming group, but maybe you just need to seek out other individuals and test the waters of how much fun interactive storytelling can be!

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