Content Warning for HIV/AIDS and related deaths.
For a while now, off and on I’ve been working to create Love Life. This was an idea that grew out of one of Corvus’s Blogs of the Round Table, back in 2009. I keep coming back to it to tweak it, but international moves and not-nice recessions have made it something that almost feels a luxury to spend time on in any way (on the other hand, I get excited about people playing it). It was played once in 2010, though the approach was less than serious, and I have made some tweaks since then.
For the past month, I’ve been tweaking it more and more, and having various people test it and report back to me. I cannot promise this to be the final version (as I see how people tweak it themselves when more people play — I do hope people play it).
Without further ado, here are the instructions (and its new, permanent home is here):
So, what you need to know:
First, this is a game that requires storytelling. If such makes someone with whom you are playing uncomfortable, or if they are not the type to want to engage in such in front of other people, please be aware that it may make the experience not as engaging.
Players: 2-6, split off in pairs. You will be playing couples. Choose who you are (i.e. student, CEO, politician, activist, vagabond, criminal, etc.), how you relate to your partner, and then get ready. I would like you to try it with non-fantasy people.
Necessary components: These rules. The board (to be printed, at the bottom of this post). A d6. Tokens for each player.
Setting: Between the 1980s and ’90s. Pick anywhere from 1981 to the end of the millenium. Can be anywhere, but all couples are in the same geographic location.
Gameplay: You are telling a story. The goal is not to win, but to tell your story. The game ends when everyone has told the story they wish to tell.
Start: Everyone starts at the top of the board (the board has two lines that extend: choose one to be the top). The board itself indicates time passing. The right half can be morning to noon, the left can be noon to evening — use this to help guide your storytelling, though you do not have to rely on such.
On your turn, one of you will roll the d6, which indicates how many spaces your couple will move (move both tokens). The color you land on indicates what this part of your story will be about (you decide whether it is positive or negative):
White (&): Relationship-oriented
This can be a date, anniversary, sex, conversation — something that tells the story of your relationship. Does not need to have both people be active participants equally (can be jealousy, neglect, surprise gift, marriage proposal, etc.).
Blue (#): Education-oriented
This is general knowledge gathering or education of some sort (is one of you in school, perhaps?). Training of some sort, a class, etc. You can do this together, or individually.
Yellow ($): Wealth-oriented
Anything to do with money. Inheritance? A raise? Pay day? Money woes? Bills?
Red (!): HIV/AIDS
A chance for one of you to test positive for HIV. Upon landing on this space, roll another d6. If you roll a 1, choose on of you to test positive. From now on, when rolling to move, the partner with HIV subtracts one (1) from the roll and moves separately from their partner. If a 1 is rolled, they do not move.
The rest of the journey for this couple is the time period during which the one partner develops AIDS. You will often have two different space colors, so can mix and match how your stories are told together, or tell them separately. From now on, when landing on a red space, roll the d6 again to see if the other partner tests positive for HIV as well. This partner does not have the same movement changes.
Once the uninfected player passes their partner, the lagging partner dies of AIDS complications. Once this occurs, the partner is alone on the board. The players can decide if they have a new partner, or continue solo.
When landing on the same color, and on the same half of the board as another team, you are encouraged to join in on the story the first couple told. Be creative. Do not try to ruin their story: add to it. (For example, if the previous couple had some adventurous sex, one of you could have spoken to the other couple about it, and wants to try it with your own partner. Or you could be all in the same restaurant on a double date.)
Below find both an already colored in version of the board. If you feel adventurous, you can color your own board, using your own symbols, or the ones I have outlined in the rules.
Blank Love Life Board (PDF)
If you have any feedback, or wish to relate the story you told, I’d be happy to hear it!
If you appreciate the experience, a donation would also be lovely.