FreeMarket. Imagine Facebook, if you lived there.
It is the future. You live on a giant floating metal donut near Titan. All food and drink are free. You cannot die, because little robots will find your corpse and rebuild a new body for you. Augmented reality tags hang on everything. The only thing that matters is how many people like you, because if they like you, you get Flow.
And Flow is all.
Once you wrap your head around the idea that the only things you are entitled to on the donut are sustenance and immortality, your whole perspective of the world changes.
This is a game where giving someone a “Frownie” – the equivalent of Facebook’s much-clamored-for-but-never-implemented Unlike button – is worse than killing them.
Sure sure, if someone dies they are unconscious for a day as the Aggregate (the giant AI that runs things) rebuilds their body, but if you Frownie someone they lose Flow. They become less popular. And that is the true death of this game. Unpopularity.
This is a game where life is unashamedly nothing more than a popularity contest.
If you want to pay someone something, you give them Flow. But also, you can earn Flow. If you and someone else become friends, you each get some Flow. You can spend that Flow on anything you want. So the more friends you have, the richer you become. Flow is also used to complete any in-game action, and here you can see the true elegance of the mechanic.
If you want to grow yourself a living Welsh Corgi, like we did last game, you spend flow on it. If you are a direct descendant of Sam Adams and you need to defend yourself in a bowling alley against a direct descendant of Andrew Jackson, which happened to me last game, you spend flow.
The essential elegance of Freemarket does slow down a bit once we get to the card mechanic.
You solve disputes by playing a little card game, which also uses your stats. It’s pretty similar to rolling dice, but since it’s a deck, you can anticipate future results and do some card-counting if you want to. I did. Decks have 45 cards and the cards don’t change, and you don’t reshuffle the discard pile back into the deck, so you can, in some ways, see the future.
The cards are cool, but they do slow down gameplay and force it in certain directions.
As anyone knows, most conflicts can be solved by role-playing the thing out. You don’t always need to get into a prolonged rules-bound engagement.
That’s probably the issue with the cards. With dice, you can just roll one and decide what that means. Every time you want to do something major in Freemarket, you need to do a whole Tarot-style spread to see what happens in the future.
That’s fine if that’s the only kind of conflict resolution you want, but I prefer things a little looser. Still, this is a game I’m absolutely sure I will find myself playing again, because it’s just, well – fun.
Something about this game is very fun. The design and artwork are beautiful. The setting is clever and funny and not pushy or arrogant. You can make pretty much any character you want.
I am John Samuel Adams, 55th generation direct descendant of Sam Adams, and I came to the dount after my family’s attempt to establish New America on Mars failed. I have a robotic eagle painted red white and blue called Uncle Sam. I also have a deadly flying poisonous robot wasp.
My friend is Les Bitters, from the Lebowski family. He’s an expert at growing living organisms, bowling and mixing White Russians. We grew a Corgi for him last game.
We’re barely scratching the surface with these characters. One of the NPCs we interact with is called Galaxy Orange. He’s human, but he’s a giant orange ball of fur with a big black snout. Humans can look like anything now, with so much bio-engineering.
Freemarket is fun. I like it.