Till The Last Gasp Review

Till The Last Gasp is a unique duel roleplaying experience from @DarringtonPress, players create characters destined to duel and craft powerful stories through narrative battles.

Published: March 14, 2023 10:47 AM /

Reviewed By:

The game box for Till The Last Gasp

Everyone loves the moment in their favorite narrative where two important characters clash. It might be a father and son who have taken different sides in a scuffle, a character seeking revenge for their deceased parents, or a childhood rivalry that has continued to escalate to the point of no return. Darrington Press' Till The Last Gasp seeks to create a board game experience for two players to work collaboratively to create a narrative based on antagonism.

Till The Last Gasp is a two-player "roleplaying game about dramatic, emotionally charged duels". Players will work together to create a story of strife between characters, set the battle's location, and then fight mechanically and narratively until the stakes of the battle have been met. The game includes a healthy mix of mechanical gameplay elements to use as a framework, but heavily relies on the roleplay between the players to discuss their rivalry and react accordingly over the course of battle.

The contents of the game box for Till The Last Gasp
Till The Last Gasp includes locations, objectives, player guides, example characters, cards for stances, objectives, and drama, as well as dice to play the game

Before you get to creating your characters you must first create the setting of the game. The setting of the world and the context of your relationship are rails enough to then start to understand how the world might influence your character. The game includes a number of locations including a ship, temple, royal city, and space station to name a few. Once done deciding the shared elements of the story, including how your characters might know one another you then get to create the characters themselves.

Who is your character? What are they known for? What is their Overt or Hidden motivation for engaging in this battle? This portion of the game feels like creating a character in any other TTRPG but focuses on characterization aspects instead of on things like equipment or abilities. Taking time to think about what the most recognizable aspect of your character is, or what their secret objective is will help to efficiently flesh out your character for this roleplaying game.

Some examples provided might include that your player scorns the "irrational", or how your character can always be identified by the runic markings on their armor. Once you've established these elements of the character they begin to become wholly three-dimensional. Much like any character creation, you can always create your own driving factors.

The player guide for Till The Last Gasp
A player is ready for the round with allocated dice, a list of objectives to complete, and a stance selected and revealed

At this point you're ready to begin the game as each player can describe how their character enters the setting of the battle and poses a question to the other. At this point, players have created a world and two of it's inhabitants, their relationship, their personal drive, and the purpose of their duel. With each play of Till The Last Gasp, these will vary wildly creating a truly infinite list of possibilities, the flip side of this again is that required buy-in for the players to want to tell this story together. For many who are interested in board games the idea of a board game with this much improv or narrative roleplaying might just not be of interest.

Players set up the game boards by placing their character sheets and reference boards in front of them. They'll select an Objective Card with different goals that they want to try to meet, and allocate dice that can be used to protect themselves or to go on the offensive at the top of their board. Each player will also get extra dice, a token to track their action points, and a deck of five stance cards that they'll select one of at the top of each round.

Every round consists of the players secretly selecting a stance to be revealed at the same time, rolling their relevant Protective or Offensive dice based on the stance picked to accrue Action Points and then taking turns performing a single action until both players have no actions remaining. Once both players can't make an action the duel will progress to the next round. A player will win the game when they've managed to reach the fourth round and have completed at least three of their four objectives present on their Objective card.

An image of one of the different locations in Till The Last Gasp
Battle across the map making sure to utilize any special actions that you can take in each location and how they connect with one-another

Actions that you can perform are based on your stance card; the available stances are Wary, Quick, and Bold, but can be Defensive or Reckless when rattled. For two action points in a Wary stance, you might be able to compel your foe to draw a Drama card or change your stance, however, two Action Points on a Bold stance would allow you to land a hit on your foe allowing them to describe the injury that is suffered. These actions will tie directly into the objectives that you're trying to complete, with each success you can mark it down.

The Drama cards are what bring in even more roleplay. As you and your partner discuss your character's thoughts and feelings or jeer one another on your long-sworn rivalry, the Drama cards will compel a character narratively. You may be compelled to confess a hatred that you've been trying to suppress, to boast about your own natural talents, or even to show compassion. Some Drama cards will also have additional effects like changing your stance. These prompts force deeper thought on your character, not only helping you understand more about who they are through your improvisational abilities but also revealing to the player across the table more about them.

An important aspect of roleplay in a collaborative work is also in the presence of safety tools. Till The Last Gasp comes with an X-card as well as a written explanation of how to use it, the importance of following when a player invokes it, and healthy dialogue that surrounds it.

There's no health, or defense that you need to be looking out for. This battle, while physical, is one of the narrative ebbs and flows. The headspace that your character could enter the duel in, to the one where they end the duel could be entirely different. There are a few key roleplay tips in the instruction manual that all players should be thinking of while playing including being overt and obvious about your actions so that there's no ambiguity to misinterpret, that you should be interacting with the world around you, and that while it's a game about a conflict it's a collaborative and cooperation experience so you should be listening to one another when they're speaking.

What are our final thoughts on Till The Last Gasp?

Till The Last Gasp is a completely unique game in its setup and execution. Anyone seeing a game of duels for two players might be expecting a competitive fight to the death, but instead, Till The Last Gasp is a completely collaborative storytelling exercise where roleplay is gently prodded by gameplay elements such as setting, stance, and the drama of our lives. With the structures in place, you're able to create a full character to roleplay, and then explore that through improvised dialog and drama prompts while you work towards your objectives.

With so much built into the game to assist in creating a world, including some example scenarios, it allows players to focus on their characters and the character they're facing for a pure roleplaying experience. It was a blast creating these characters, and then a few rounds into the game surprising myself at times with the choices that they make.

Should I Buy Till The Last Gasp?

Till The Last Gasp is a fantastic game of short-form collaborative roleplay. It takes an aspect of storytelling that fans of almost every genre should be aware of and gives players creative reins. Whether it's Inigo Montoya fighting the six-fingered man, or Luke and Darth Vader aboard the Death Star, these kinds of conflicts can be found all over. Till The Last Gasp's simple yet effective use of mechanically driven actions and improv roleplay exercises through Drama cards helps elevate the conflict that's occurring allowing players to lose themselves in their characters and in what they learn about themselves and others.

If you're interested in a short-form roleplaying exercise to play with a single friend, or to use within your favorite systems to explore conflict, Till The Last Gasp is a no-brainer to purchase. A benefit of the game's framework system also allows players to implement it over and over again in any setting they see fit. If a game that includes roleplaying elements isn't your cup of tea though then Till The Last Gasp's reliance on it will likely turn you away.

The copy of Till The Last Gasp used to produce this review was provided by Darrington Press.

Review Summary

Till The Last Gasp is an exceptional short-form roleplay experience hidden as a tabletop game. Players will not only get to create full fleshed out characters through play, but create satisfying endings to narratives that will be invented as players duel. For any fan of roleplaying this is well worth picking up! (Review Policy)

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