Author – Starshine (@Starshinescrib)
Where to Buy – https://starshinescribbles.itch.io/bust-blockers
For me, the point of tabletop RPGs is to get together with friends around a table and tell engaging, entertaining stories collaboratively. When I first heard of solo journaling RPGs, I really didn’t understand the draw. I mean, is it just a writing prompt? And why would anyone forgo getting together with their friends to play one of these by themselves?
And then I found Bust Blockers by Starshine and it all made sense. In Bust Blockers, you take on the role of the pseudo-manager of the last operating video rental store, located in Alaska. This theme intrigued me because I worked at a Blockbuster…er…Bust Blockers video for years in my high school and college days. It was a fun job with terrible pay and great perks but I have never, not once, felt nostalgic about it in the interceding decade since I last worked there. This game changed that.
As the manager of this video store, you are writing a blog to record the final days of the failing franchise with the ultimate nigh-impossible goal of saving the store. The game’s setup is straightforward, requiring a block tower game, a deck of cards, ten tokens, and a d6. You draw cards based on a die roll, choose whether to act on the prompt(s) or kick the problem(s) down the road, and pull blocks from the tower based on what the cards tell you to do. If the tower falls or if you pull four kings, the game ends and the store is sold out from under you. The only way to save the store is to draw an Ace of Hearts and remove ten tokens from it by rolling a 6 on a d6 once per turn. The rules are simple, straightforward, and do a great job of providing a scaffolding before getting out of the way.
The real joy of the game comes from the prompts triggered by the cards. One day you might be writing about your favorite customer and what your most commonly stolen item is, the next day you’re writing about why you’re struggling to motivate yourself in the face of your livelihood collapsing around you. There is a lot of depth and variety in the game and I actually think there’s a surprising amount of replay value to be found in these 11 pages.
As I was writing, I found myself thinking back to my old managers and coworkers, the customers that made the job challenging and wonderful, and the completely off the wall things that happened week in and week out. I’m very thankful this game gave me that opportunity. Honestly, I was surprisingly affected when the tower fell and my store was once again taken away from me. I was even more shocked when I realized I had written over 3,000 words about this fictional video store! Even if you never worked in a video rental store, do yourself a favor and spend the $4 to make this a Bust Blockers night.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Also, back in the day we could totally waive late fees if we wanted to. We could also give out free rentals whenever we damn well pleased. The power was intoxicating.