There are all kinds of tabletop role-playing games, covering all kinds of topics, with wildly varied rules. You’ve got classic, generic Fantasy games with lots of number crunching. You’ve got games with ultra-simple rules about living in space. You’ve got everything in between. Some explore grand ideas, some delve into what makes a hero, others are just about getting some gold. A few, usually on the fringe, really deep dive into a specific concept. While this means it might not be for everyone, there should be some out there who will really love it, and I think this is the case with A Cool and Lonely Courage by Alex White.
The simple pitch is it’s a game about the women of the SOE who went behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France. Frankly, that’s cool enough. There is so much story potential here using any standard game. I’ve already contemplated using the SOE in a Call of Cthulhu game. But A Cool and Lonely Courage isn’t a standard game. No lists of skills, no hit points, no levels. This goes way over onto the storytelling side of things, and way away from the mechanics/simulation side. Together you and your group craft the stories of women traveling into hostile territory, spying, sabotaging, and generally being badasses. Each story takes place in chapters, where the tone of the chapter is influenced by the suits of playing cards. Does your character fall in love with a member of the French Resistance? Is her only friend killed in a bombing? Does someone sell her out? Does her French slip, causing her to be captured by the Gestapo?
While the game itself is simple, what you can do with it is quite impressive and special. I think you and your friends could create some truly special and memorable stories through this game. It’s primarily meant as a one-shot game, but I think could be used for campaigns. There’s even suggestions for doing an interesting solo play where you essentially create a diary for your character. I could also see this being used as a teaching aid, a way for folks studying the role of women in war to get a more personal view of things.
For such a short book, this captured a certain atmosphere extremely well. I was reminded of films like Black Book (2006), Charlotte Gray (2001), and others. It also features brief biographies of some of the real women who went to war, often paying the ultimate price, to fight against the forces of fascism.
I strongly recommend you check this out (you can get it at drivethrurpg.com). It’s something very different, something very special. And it’s a great reminder that this hobby is infinitely fascinating and full of surprises.