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Home » Below 459 – RPG Journaling Review

Below 459 – RPG Journaling Review

The year is 1968. You find yourself aboard a damaged West German Type 205 U-Boat.

You’ve set out for the Baltic Sea, keeping an eye on those socialists from the DDR just next door. Then, the incident happened.

Somehow, you are the only one who survived, the dead bodies of your Kameraden all around. The boat lays still on the sea floor, water dripping from the ceiling. You cannot escape and have to wait for the rescue team.

To make yourself know, you have to find the Funkboje first and launch it to the surface to send an S.O.S. Until then, you have to survive, both physically and mentally.

– Description by author

Game Description

Below 459 is a GM-less, solo journaling ttrpg played with a set of cards, a d6, and a tumbling tower.

It uses:

  • A standard deck of 52 playing cards, with jokers removed
  • A single six-sided die
  • A tumbling block tower (optional)
  • 5 tokens or counters

Like most Wretched games, your journal progresses until the block tower falls.

Your deck of cards represents the events that will happen during a shift, and the 6 sided die determines how many cards are pulled for each shift.

A normal shift on a submarine is 4 hours of work and 4 hours of rest.

The 5 tokens come into play when you find the Funkboje and manage to send an S.O.S

The chances of winning are extremely low – but it is possible.

How to Play

The game is divided into shifts. Each shift has two phases.

  • Work
  • Record (Written journal or voice)

Work

Roll your die and draw that number of cards from the deck, keeping them face down. A low number means your shift was uneventful, while a high number means it lasted well into your rest time.

Turn over the first card you drew and consult the tables of prompts (The Handbuch). If the instructions ask you to do a specific thing, do it.

Continue turning over cards and consulting the instructions until your tasks are complete.

When you have completed all your tasks, discard the cards you have used unless you are told otherwise.

Record

Take a moment to consider the events of the day:

– Your hardships.
– The successes.
– What happened during the shift.
– How you are feeling during all of this.

Remember, this game is also about political ideology in an era where the world is at the brink of total annihilation.

Record your journal entry.

The Card Prompts

Each of the 52 cards have a unique prompt that relates to the face value, and the suit it belongs to.

Hearts represent the boat. Maybe you’ll find out what caused the disaster on board. Maybe it’s you who caused it. Maybe it’ll get you first.

Diamond represent you, physically and mentally. Rising levels of CO2, sleep deprivation, harsh conditions. Sooner or later, you’ll have to pay the toll.

Clubs represent the crew. While exploring the boat, you find the bodies of your fellow Kameraden (crew members). Whatever their fate was, chances are high that you will share it.

Finally, Spades represent ideology. These prompts will challenge you to make up your mind about socialism and capitalism. It’s evident that you believe in something.

Note: I don't post actual prompts in my reviews. This is to protect the IP of the designer. You will need to buy the game to read the actual prompts.

Overall Impression

You don’t have to understand US and Soviet ideology to play this game, but it certainly helps with the immersion of the game.

I also found myself wanting an audio recording of the Soviet and US Nation Anthems (used by one of the cards)

The prompts are well written and fit well into their general categories. The limited confides of a submarine make it a lot easier to appreciate the environment around you than other Wretched gamed I have playing in the past.

There is plenty of time to reflect on memories and feelings. The inclusion of dead crew members gives the opportunity to go off on all sorts of tangents.

Many of the cards have German words interspersed into the text. There is a glossary at the end of the rules. However, most of the words are fairly easy to translate or obvious in context. The use of German words is a nice touch.

If you do manage to survive and get rescued, the game has one final twist. (I wont describe it here to avoiding spoiling it)

I love this game.

VERDICT : EXCELLENT

Safety

This game includes themes of fear, suspense, despair, violence, and death.

Read and play with caution, keeping in mind that you can take a break or stop completely at any time. Your mental health is important, and this is just a game.

This game is designed to make success very difficult and very unlikely. It is meant to be challenging and harrowing and emotional. If that doesn't sound fun to you, that's absolutely fine.

If you ever draw a card that makes you uncomfortable, or that you do not want to journal about for any reason, discard it and draw a different card.

Remember that you can change, ignore, rewrite or abandon any part of this game that you want.

The Wretched

This work is based on The Wretched, product of Chris Bissette and Loot The Room, and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

THE WRETCHED™ is a trademark of Chris Bissette. If you want to make your own game, the System Reference Document (SRD) can be downloaded from the Sealed Library itch.io page

How to get the Game

Below 459 was created by Johannes Forster

Web: https://johannes-forster.itch.io/below-459