Play and Review – Dialect: A Game of Languages and How they Die

25 June, 2020

DialectLast week we had a chance to play Dialect: A Game of Languages and How they Die by Thorny Games.  The play was via Roll20 and Discord, which has a play set for Dialect, and the mechanical parts of the game worked fairly well (except for the one player who was using a smartphone, apparently Roll20 and smartphones do not play well together).

Dialect is one of the indie games, focused on telling one particular type of story but telling it very well.  In this case it is the evolution and death (or abandonment) of a dialect of an existing language.

The game comes with four example settings, we went with Sing the Earth Electric where we are AIs sent back to Earth after humanity has abandoned the planet.  We decided we were there to preserve what cultural information we could and prepare the (now barren) planet for Re-Terraforming (and that we were looking for the answer to why the human left).

Character roles (just brief description like Explorer with hooks) are assigned by drawing three cards and choosing one.  Then the game is played in three rounds, each round each player will get to play one card, again from a hand  of three, most of these give you a chance to create a new word.   The card will tell you what the word is for (ritual, happiness and such) and you can, and should, discuss the word with the other players but whoever played the card has final say.  Then two (or more) characters are placed in a scene where they can use the word in conversation.  Once everyone has played a card, it moves onto the next round, the situation changes and the sequence begins again.

In addition to word, there are action cards which replace the player’s creation of a new word such as one which causes an existing word to change meaning over time.

Lastly, at the end of the three round, everyone gets an epilogue card to help conclude the story.

It plays very easily for those used to this style of game and everyone else should pick it up pretty quickly, most everyone was in the swing of things by round two.  It was a good time even if the story was rather sad and tragic.

An interesting experience if you want to explore the arc of evolution and decline of a sub-language.  Recommended by me.

You can purchase it directly from Thorny Games or (if you are in the North Georgia, USA, region) at Tyche’s Games.

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