A Digitally Assisted Role-playing Game
Today I’m going to be talking about Weave, a game I don’t recommend at all but one that still fascinates me for multiple reasons. It’s easily the worst game I’ve never played, however, in spite of that, I have a strange desire to give it a shot. Before we can dive into the game itself though, first, a little story about how the game came to my attention, and eventually, into my possession.
Necessary Context About Weave & Myself
For a few years now I’ve been in a fairly steady group that gets together weekly (well, almost weekly) to play games and hang out. For a long time that meant playing D&D 5th Edition, but sometimes we’d branch out into other systems. Other nights we just watch anime and stuff. While the group has shrunk considerably, there was a time where we had well over 10 people.
Two of these people would lead me to Weave. The first being a friend we’ll call Lauren. She one day messaged me asking if I had heard of this game called “Weave” before in 2017. I hadn’t, but after giving it a look, I had to admit that it seemed cool. Lauren knew that I was the kind of person who buys a lot of things to share with the group, ranging from nearly all the board games we play, a lot of the anime we watch, and of course, role-playing games.
What caught my attention about Weave was the fact that it was a digitally assisted experience. It kept track of the players, generated the scenarios, and had a visual presentation that looked really awesome. I’m a sucker for the tarot card style, and giving it this bright, almost paper craft look, really did work for the game.
There was a problem though, this was at a time where I was needing to be a lot more frugal with my money, like how things are now. I’ve always kept careful control of my budget for things, but Weave was just out of the question with a price tag of $29.99.
So Lauren and I pledged to look into it a bit further and maybe revisit purchasing Weave at a later date…
Of course we promptly forgot about it.
That was until another friend of mine, whom I have mentioned before, Michael (he’s done editing for me in the past on more significant projects) told me he bought the game. He was super excited! I mean, I couldn’t blame him, because again, Weave seems like a cool game.
Then he played it.
Our next conversation was one where he expressed frustration and confusion with the game. Knowing that I am a connoisseur of board games, so to speak, and the guy who often gets stuck teaching everything, he figured that maybe he was just making some obvious mistakes. Fair enough, I mean, that’s easy to do when learning a new game, and I’ve done that plenty of times.
Naturally I suggested we contact Lauren and give the game a shot. He gave me his copy of Weave so I could play around with it and learn the rules, figuring I’d have a pretty easy time getting it to the table. That’s how this beautiful disaster came to sit on a shelf near my bed. It’s always watching, yearning to be played, but I doubt Weave will ever get the chance.
That brings us back to today, about two years later, and why I consider this to be the worst game I’ve never played.
What’s in the Box?
When you get the game it comes in a very sturdy box that looks nice on the shelf. It’s pretty sparse on information, mostly just a short blurb about the game and the free companion app. Otherwise it is largely advertising for Monocle Society’s social media with a bulk of the remaining real estate showing some game art. Inside you’ll find:
- A large deck of custom tarot cards consisting of:
- 22 Story Cards
- 56 Challenge Cards
- 6 Six-Sided Weave Dice (they are unique, but you could replicate them with standard D6’s with a little work)
Notice what isn’t in the box:
- The rulebook
This is the start of my issues with Weave, and why I find it so interesting. In theory, by not providing a rulebook costs for the product can be reduced and the advantages of the digital age can be utilized. However, the drawbacks are fairly obvious. That leads us to, the game itself.
The Issues with Weave
When it comes to learning the rules you have 3 choices. You can read the rules through the app (don’t recommend, it’s very hard to read), download a PDF from the website, or watch some YouTube videos (also found on the website). No big deal, right? Well, no… unfortunately.
The rulebook is not very good and it has none of the features you would expect from a modern product that is trying to take full advantage of the digital format. What’s worse, is that the rules are spread across 2 documents for whatever reason. For what it is, it would have been better to just include a small booklet with the rules in the box as it would have actually been easier to manage.
How about the YouTube videos then? They aren’t great. There aren’t a lot of them, and most of them are pretty short, but after watching them, I didn’t really feel like Weave was explained to me. I understand the basic mechanics between them and the PDF’s, but what the game actually looks like in motion is just not explained well at all.
This is even more baffling when you realize they have actual plays that you can watch as well. I walked away even less clear on the rules as many things just aren’t explained or shown well enough for someone to get the concepts the game wants to present.
Remember, I have a LOT of experience when it comes to games so this isn’t some failure in rulebook literacy or something. I genuinely just don’t know what Weave is when you put everything together. Like I said, I do understand the rules in theory, but I don’t really get them in practice, and I’m not alone as this is a fairly common complaint with the product from detractors.
For a game billed as something that is easy to learn and get playing right away, this simply just isn’t true. I had to spend a few hours reading and watching videos before things fully “clicked” for me in a way that I felt I could maybe run a game of it.
Moving past that, the bulk of my complaints actually center around the app itself. While it is free, pretty small, and perfectly functional it is 100% mandatory. You’d think that a game with an app like this would be GM’less (meaning everybody gets to play a character and the app dictates what kind of things happen), you actually need somebody to run everything. That somebody, to no surprise, is probably whoever owns the game since learning all the rules just isn’t realistic to thrust on somebody.
While you can manage with 1 device with the app on it, you really do NEED one device with the app PER PLAYER. That’s just insane! It takes away the value of having this be digital in the first place. Why not just have optional offline character sheets and such at that point?
For those of you who don’t really play tabletop role-playing games, you may not see this as a major issue, so let me explain a bit further. You can get away with just the storyteller (Weave’s version of a GM) having it, but then they also have to shoulder the burden of managing every person’s character. That’s asking the DM to do way too much. I should not have to juggle rules, guide the experience, and keep track of every detail of the player’s character for them. If your players have the app, not a big issue, but I know folks who can’t or won’t download the app, so having that be the only real option is a pretty poor design oversight.
Compared to other games that do this app thing, what makes Weave differ is in the implementation and what information the person with the app has to manage. It’s not just a timer or a few pieces of information that impact the board, instead it is EVERYTHING that Weave is. That’s just asking a lot of anybody, especially a GM who already has a tough job of delivering a fun story experience to the players.
I’m not a fan of the dice either. This is kind of a personal preference thing, but at the same time they do add to the rules confusion because that’s a whole extra set of things people need to familiarize themselves with. As a game that looks like it should be a pick-up-an-play deal, it requires a surprisingly large amount of work to really play.
As I mentioned earlier, the dice easily could be converted to conform to standard six-sided dice as each face is unique and follows the same kind of logic with the pictured faces on the Weave dice. Over-complication is a common component with these issues. It really does seem like every design decision runs counter to the core premise of the game itself.
This issue is made more complicated with the cards themselves. They represent and dictate too many things. It’s not a very streamlined process, by which I mean the entire game. After putting all this together, what claims to be this “pick-up-and-play” experience, is actually a quite heavy and complex game with a lot of moving pieces.
App-wise, things are managed well and it does prompt you with when to do things. However, it just isn’t enough. Not being able to easily reference rules and have to navigate multiple menus to do all of this is enough to keep anybody even slightly technologically challenged completely lost. To be clear, I’m not, and I still feel overwhelmed by all the stuff going on here.
Finally, I should mention the scenarios. There aren’t a lot of them and they don’t seem to get updated from the times I’ve checked the app. They don’t seem bad or anything, but the lack of considerable variety is a mark against Weave as a product since it just doesn’t have the flexibility that any other TRPG would offer for the price.
An Interesting Case Study
At the very worst, this has offered me an interesting look at how a good idea can be ruined by poor implementation. I’d love to actually convince somebody to play this with me, but so far I’ve had no takers. Maybe it will all just “click” and come together to create a fantastic experience, it seems to deliver for a lot of people, but as it stands I simply can’t see it.
Personally, I could see using the cards and dice as a tool for creative writing so they do hold some value to me at least. While I would love the game part to wow me, I guess I can’t complain too much since I got this for free from a friend. At the same time, I feel bad for never getting it to a table.
If you feel up to the task, you can purchase the game at Monocle Society’s website for $29.99 by following the link here. That said, you may want to hold off as a revamped version is slated for release September 2019. Not much information has been stated beyond that at the time of writing (8/28/19), but I figured it was worth mentioning.
I’d love to hear about a game that you thought would be AWESOME but managed to fail in interesting ways in the comments. If you’ve played Weave before, I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts on this as well. Did you enjoy the read? If so, please consider a small donation by clicking the Ko-fi button below. Every dollar counts folks. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!