Train Mafia, CPH Edition, Take #2

In honor of Markus and Jaakko being in town, we decided to run Train Mafia on the CPH Metro for a second time.

Witch hunt!

This time around, the citizens won. But it went right down to the wire – to the final three. Exciting!

The second game (on the “loser train”) was affected by unexpected Metro delays. But we made the most of it, and had a good time anyway.

More photos and analysis after the jump.

Bernie and Lawrence, kicked off at Lufthavnen

I had a lot of fun, but speaking as one of the original designers, I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the game. On his blog, Markus rightly observes that the “pervasivity” of the game isn’t ultimately that strong. One might reasonably ask: is anything actually gained from playing Mafia on the Metro? I think there are several answers.

First, I would respond that the games in CPH didn’t work quite as well as the game we hosted in NYC for Come Out And Play 2009. Both times we’ve run the game in CPH, the Metro has been rather abandoned, so the public nature of the space didn’t affect the games like it did in NYC. As Markus remarks, the game got more interesting towards the end when the Metro car suddenly got jam-packed. As I observed in my last post on CPH Train Mafia, the game became more of a “spectacle” on the NYC subway – for better or worse.

Second, I would answer that the vision behind Train Mafia is less a pervasive game played in a public space, but more a version of Mafia that uses the train space to convey the finality of being removed from the game. Spatial and social expansion (to use Markus’ terms) isn’t really the point. Rather, Train Mafia is about the visual imagery of dead players getting kicked off the train.

Alex gets booted off the train

For both the booted player and the survivors, the experience is a visceral one – the doors close, the train pulls away, and the booted player recedes into the distance as they wave goodbye. It’s humorous, cheesy, and poignant all at the same time. In that sense, the point of playing Mafia on a train is to wrap the game in a kind of the cinematic imagery, so that players really “feel” the deaths as something final and irreversible. Or as Jaakko put it, it’s all about “doing things for real.”

Last but not least, the game did occasion an opportunity for players to gather and meet one another. By the end, most of us didn’t even really care about the game itself – we were just having fun socializing with friends, new and old. Sure, Train Mafia might just be another Mafia rip-off, but the Mafia mechanics work well as a reference point because the game is already familiar to many players, and it always succeeds in getting players talking to one another. As a testament to the success of the game as a social lubricant, most of us ended the night out in town at a pub.

Markus, Jaakko, and Alex celebrate their hard-earned victory points

Thanks to Markus and Jaakko for joining us, and to everyone else who played!

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