The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

This weekend we strayed from the golden path of boardgames a little and once more went into Role Playing County. Our drugs of choice this week were – once more – Fiasco, and – for the first time – The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. As we have come to expect, Fiasco was highly entertaining. We went with the Channel 6 News playset and created a disastrous story about the aging anchorman his seven wives and his eager successor-to-be. Although six players is not the recommended number, the plot came together nicely and some of us will never again be able to look at people in a bear costume without a moment of shock.

But the novelty of the day was Hogshead Publishing’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Jan had been eager to try it for some time now and we finally indulged him. We really should have done so sooner. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen puts itself in the category role-playing game, but I consider story-telling game a better term since the “role” you play is yourself if you were an 18th century noble. All you need to play is a couple of tokens for each player – counting as money – and if you want to be fancy some pens and paper so everyone can put up a name tag with his full title and credentials which you come up with before the game starts. Allow me to introduce myself: Don Koboldo of San Lorenzo, Protector of Marrakech.

The game goes around the table just once: the starting player asks the person to his right about his imaginary and highly unlikely exploits. “Dearest Prince, I heard some wild rumours about your landing in Venice in a hot-air balloon sewn from spinach leaves. Surely that’s a wild exaggeration, isn’t it?”  The player thus challenged now has to tell the tale how he came to be in that balloon, why it was made from spinach leaves and how he managed to survive this ordeal.

The question put towards Don Koboldo, as an example, was a highly personal and embarrassing one: “Honoured Don, how can you claim to be the Protector of Marrakech when it is well-known to everyone that this office can only be held by women?” I spun a truly heart-warming yarn about my twin-sister, may she rest in peace, who died in very young years, how the grief drove my parents to the edge of insanity and how I, although still a child myself, decided to take her role every Monday and Wednesday to spare my parents the pain. The Duke of San Lorenzo, who owed me a favour for unrelated reasons, relating which would go to far here, aided me in my deception by giving me a special birth certificate stating that, on Monday and Wednesdays, I was for all purposes my own sister. The title of Protector of Marrakech was only a small step from there: I was granted the title and the attached privileges on a Monday, and my first act of office was to decree that a new Protector can only be instantiated after the current one has been missing for more than four days, making sure that until the next calendar reform, my dear sister will remain in office.

Yes, that’s the kind of utter bull**** we came up with during the game, and it’s not the worst of it. This is pretty hilarious already, but would be altogether to easy for the tale-spinner. And that’s why everyone got a handful of coins in the beginning. With these tokens, everyone can buy the current storyteller a drink and ask him to elaborate on some previously not mentioned, completely unrelated and utterly inane part of his story – the rules don’t actually call it buying a drink, but that’s what makes most sense to me so I’m flying with it. The storyteller may either accept the coin and has to include this new insanity into his story, or he can flat-out deny that the story happened like that, in which case he has to buy the interrupter a drink to placate him. The interrupter does not need to be placated if he doesn’t wish to and can challenge the storyteller to a duel for basically calling him a liar: the duel is fought as three rounds of stone-paper-scissors and the loser is dead and out of the game – we all considered that the most boring way to play the game and no blood was spilled on our fancy dinner table.

After everyone has spun a tale, the best story is rewarded: each player gives all the tokens he owned at the end of the game to the player with the most amazing story and whoever owns the most tokens in the end is the winner. The token-voting has some strategic issues – the last player will usually end up with more tokens than anyone else, so he can always be certain that the biggest vote is not going to him – but, honestly, you don’t play a game like The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen to win, you play it for the sheer hilarity.

The first round took around 40 minutes and we decided to end the evening with some more of the same. After the first round, the game drifted deeper into role-playing territory: we all kept our original character for the additional rounds and references to previous adventures started popping up, creating a fantastical world from our individual tales. When asked why there was an avenue in Korea with 200 statues of Don Koboldo wearing women’s clothing on the third round, the first part of the answer was both easy and obvious: “I only travel to Korea on Wednesdays.” I’m pretty sure this house – nay, this city! – has never heard such a ridiculous amount of bollocks at once and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen needs the right kind of people to play: creativity and the utter disregard of common sense are necessary prerequisites, but if you just have one or two people that don’t feel like participating in this confabulation, Sizinha assures me that The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is also great entertainment for the passive audience.


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