How Do We Sleep While Our Beds Are Burning? – Book Review of Misspent Youth

Sometimes, enough is just fucking enough. You’ve been kicked, beaten down, repressed, controlled and it’s time to do something about it. You’re young, you’re a little idealistic and you’re mad as hell. It’s time to pull out the stops and give The Man a big, fat middle finger. Sound like a good time? Then you’ll want to put on some Public Enemy and check out Misspent Youth.

The year is some time in the future and the world, well, it’s pretty fucked up. You’ve got some kind of Authority who controls everything. Maybe they’ve gone all Orwellian and they control everything by threat of pain. Maybe it’s more Brave New World-esque and the populace has been pleasured into submission. Maybe it’s something else entirely. The point is that it’s wrong and your group of friend is the group that’s going to change all of it.

You’re all between the ages of 12-17 and you’ve got enough energy and enough balls to see that things can and should be different. What you don’t know is that, along the way, you’re going to change. That driving naievte  is going to get used up and you might not like what you become when it’s all said and done.

The game is played out via a series of scenes. The scene follow a narrative arc that will seem familiar to anyone who has watched a movie like this. The kids see there’s a problem and they strike. Things get a little real and then the kids score a victory. Then, The Authority puts the clamps on them and things look bleak. Next, things escalate even more and we find out who actually wins. Once the dust settles, the kids take stock of how things stand. It puts me in mind of the narrative arc of Episodes 4-6 of Star Wars (the original three, as it were).

A big portion of how the game plays out is through the relationship of the kids interact with one another. In fact, the collaborative nature of this game puts me in mind of other such games, like Steal Away Jordon. Unlike, say, Fiasco, there is someone who plays the part of The Authority and plots the moves of that dark entity. Struggles happen when The Authority says they do and conflict is resolved through narration and dice-rolling on the parts of the players. The Youth each have a set of conviction that drive them and a Struggle can either be won by rolling appropriately or by selling out a conviction and thereby changing your character in some irreparable way. If this sounds different than most games you’ll come across, that’s because it is. Mich like Fiasco and Steal Away Jordon, you’re working as a group to tell a story and seeing bad things happen to your characters is part of the fun.

The book itself very well done for a black-and-white publication. It’s full of rebellious motifs and plenty of ideas on what can be included in a given session of the game, as well as all of the rules you’ll need to actually play the game. Once nice touch is that the typeface is evocative of the feel the author wants for the game, but it’s not distracting. Bonus points there.

Overall, Misspent Youth looks like a really interesting game. It’s one that I would like to play with someone who already knows the rules, as my d20/Savage Worlds-centric brain had some trouble wrapping itself around the mechanics of the game. Still and all, it’s presented in an appealing package and, after all, who doesn’t want to be part of an underground movement every once in a while?

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars. A great-looking game and book. It’s a niche product, but it’s one with nearly universal appeal. $20 at

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, reviews, Misspent Youth[/tags]

5 thoughts on “How Do We Sleep While Our Beds Are Burning? – Book Review of Misspent Youth

Add yours

  1. Tracy,

    Thanks very much for the kind review. I’m curious, when you say, “my d20/Savage Worlds-centric brain had some trouble wrapping itself around the mechanics of the game,” I’m wondering what, in particular, was a challenge?


  2. Basically, I was referring to the Struggle Sheet, the claiming of numbers and so forth. It’s not a knock on the game, but it is an observation about my own adaptability. When it comes to narrative, I can absorb now things very quickly. When it comes to things like game mechanics, I do a lot better when someone shows me how it works. So any time I encounter a new mechanic when I’m reviewing a book, it always takes me a bit to become comfortable with how it would play out.


  3. I think I get what you’re saying. I’ve been considering doing a YouTube video showing how it works, and maybe an audio explanation of the game for download, as well.

    But playing the game is really the best way to learn it. If you (or anyone) wants help getting a game together, I know a lot of people from a lot of places that I might be able to contact.


  4. I’m going to be attending another round of conventions this spring/summer and getting into a game at one of those would be the best scenario for me. I should be at PAX East in March and will definitely be at Origins, KantCon and GenCon this summer. If anything with Misspent Youth is going on at any of those venues, I’d love to get in on it.


  5. I’ll be at Pax East (already bought my ticket), and almost certainly at Gen Con. Look me up (I’ll be working the IPR booth and probably one other place), and we’ll work something out.


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