Last year, I was walking by my friendly local gaming store and stopped to look at the window display. The proprietor of the shop often positions new releases in the window where you can see them from the street. On this particular day, a obviously homemade booklet was given a prominent position. The booklet has the intriguing title, “Hot Guys Making Out.” Looking closer, I saw it was written by Ben Lehman. I’ve been a fan of Ben’s games since reading Polaris. His game mechanics are clean and he writes in an engaging literary style. I was sure I’d be entertained by whatever was inside.
“Hot Guys Making Out” is a role-playing game that recreates the stories of yaoi manga, a homoerotic sub-genre. Interestingly enough, the audience is primarily female in Japan. The game is set against the backdrop of the Spanish civil war. Players have the choice of taking on the roles of Gonsalvo, the decisive nobleman, Honore, an introspective orphan under his care, Maria, the maid, or Olivier, the butler. Gonsalvo and Honere are the main characters while Maria and Olivier are supporting characters. The story revolves around the Threat, an event that comes between the protagonists. The Threat puts a strain on the main characters relationship, but should eventually bring it into focus. The game is played with a deck of playing cards. The Aces drive the threat forward and different face cards allow characters to activate special moves.
“Hot Guys Making Out” does well in the niche of short format romance games. I never thought the subject matter was a gaming itch I would want to scratch, but it was fun. If your gaming group likes playing many different games, a one shot of this game will definitely leave an impression. It all depends on your gaming group though.
I recently was given a review electronic copy of the full version of the game. There are quite a few differences between the preview and final editions though none involving game play. If you have the preview edition, your essentially have the full game. The final edition does add quite a bit in terms of layout and presentation. The most noticeable difference is a full color cover and black and white interior art. The cover art is evocative. It should be easier to find on my bookshelf once I pick up a physical copy. The rules are also much better organized. The sections seem to flow much better. The game steps and actions are broken down and explained much better for someone new to gaming altogether. The book also contains a few pages on creating your own characters and hacking the system to tell romantic stories in other settings. There really isn’t anything in the game design that forces you to tell love stories though.
My one minor quibble with the game still stands. The book never says to shuffle jokers into the deck when you start the game. I think most people’s default mode is to not shuffle jokers into a deck unless the rules call for it. The first time we played, we had to restart when the player of Olivier realized he couldn’t perform his support action without a joker.
My friends still laugh about the first game of “Hot Guys Making Out” we played. We had just finished a large game of Fiasco and people were starting to leave, but four of us weren’t ready to go. I had just the thing – a copy of “Hot Guys Making Out” in my backpack. My buddy Chris was pretty uncomfortable with the concept of the game. He looked really nervous and kept protesting, “I dunno, guys. This seems pretty weird.” No one was willing to let him off the hook though. I grabbed Gonsalvo, Nick jumped on Honore, Damon fingered Olivier’s character sheet, and Chris snatched Maria ostensibly because she was the character with the least chance of having a homosexual encounter. We played the default Threat: “Maria is jealous of Gonsalvo.” Maria started the game with an ace and made Gonsalvo look foolish in front of Honore. Oliver took the bags while Honore took Gonsalvo on a tour of the grounds. Eventually, the nobleman and his ward ended up inside, warming themselves by the fire and flirting. Chris had managed to draw every ace in the deck within 3 rounds. Now, Maria was ready to sabotage Gonsalvo’s chances with Honore. Maria snuck behind Gonsalvo and pulled his pants down to his ankles revealing Gonsalvo had a vagina. He was a she! Honore promptly lost all interest. The entire game only lasted 15 minutes.
Even if you already own the preview edition, you should buy this book. The rules are better organized. There’s a surprising amount of depth in this little game.