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Side Room Games – May 2021 Update

Hey everyone – as usual lots going on so let’s jump into it!

Mechanical Beast – Coming to Kickstarter 31 May!

Our next campaign is coming at the end of the month! Mechanical Beast was the big winner of the 2019 Solitaire Print and Play Contest, including the Best Overall Game. Ben Morayta, the designer, has come up with a fantastic tile laying/manipulation game that is awesome to play as a solo game or with multiple players in either cooperative or competitive modes. And we’re excited to work with Apolline Etienne and Brigitte Indelicato again for the art & graphic design (the same team who knocked it out of the part with Elements of the Gods). I can’t wait for this one to launch!

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

  • Elements of the Gods:  Almost all of the files are under review with our manufacturer so this one will start printing this month! The last piece is touching up the rulebook and then we’ll be 100% ready to go. Things are still on schedule – so far so good! I can’t wait to see the production proof for this one – from what I’ve seen rendered it’s going to be awesome on the table.
  • Maquis:  The Side Room Games files are complete and our licensing partners are wrapping up their translations this week. Our files are under review with the manufacturer as well so this one will start printing in May as well! In case you missed it, we are still taking late pledges on Gamefound so go check it out!
  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth We’re still working through our UK & EU fulfillment logistics, including getting VAT registered. It took a little while to get things squared away but games should be arriving in the EU in early June (barring any customs challenges). Once our VAT registration is squared away we’ll start taking orders again on our site for Europe and the UK. We do have stock now in China for orders in other places in the world and we should have the site fixed for those orders soon. One note:  for US & Canadian customers, we are working exclusively with The Gaming Goat so if you’re looking for copies head here!
  • Grove:  The print & play files are on fire on BGG so if you want to check it out now is the time! Still looking for a summer crowdfunding campaign so stay tuned for a specific launch date in the next month or so.
  • Village Builder:  As we mentioned last month, Village Builder is still in development and depending on how the year unfolds it’ll be coming in the fall or potentially early in 2022. As with Grove, the print & play files are available on BGG so check it out.

Another big note – the 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest on BoardGameGeek has entered the feedback phase! Over 50 entries this year and we’re really excited to start testing them out this month. I have a feeling that a) we’ll be signing a few of them and b) there are going to be too many for us so others will definitely get picked up for publishing. Go check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds and a huge chunk of them have Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, or playingcards.io implementation so even easier!), and provide some feedback. 

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

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Side Room Games – Mar/Apr 2021 Update

Hey everyone – last month was so busy we forgot to send a newsletter! So double duty this month – let’s get to it!

Maquis: 2nd Edition – Breaking SRG Records!

This campaign was bonkers!!! Most backers & funding by far for Side Room Games, so thanks to everyone who helped make the campaign a success. We’re really excited for this one (we say that all of the time, we know, but we’re serious every time! 😄). File prep for the English version is complete and we submitted the new print and play files to BoardGameGeek so they’ll be available soon. The plan is still in line for our licensing partners to get their translations completed this month and start printing in May. If anything changes we’ll let you know!

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

  • Elements of the Gods:  We’re putting the finishing touches on the files and will start printing this month. So just a bit behind schedule but we built in quite a bit of margin so overall we’re doing great. Mike dropped an update to the Kickstarter campaign showing off some of the tweaks & improvements to the 3D models and some of the new art & graphic design so check it out!
  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth Printing has completed for new English versions and they should be on their way to the fulfillment centers soon. We’re working through our UK & EU fulfillment adjustments (Brexit + VAT = 😭) but that should all be behind the scenes and no impact on your end. Once that’s squared away we’ll start taking orders again on our site. One note:  for US & Canadian customers, we are working exclusively with The Gaming Goat so if you’re looking for copies head here!
  • Mechanical Beast:  A little slower going than planned but progress is being made. (Note to self – spread out projects where you use the same artist and graphic designer… 🤣) We’re still planning on a Kickstarter launch soon and it’ll likely be in the first half of May as long as we stay on track. We’ll also throw up some pics on social media and BGG once we get the review copies in hand. 
  • Grove:  In case you missed our announcement in February, the sequel to Orchard is coming soon! Mark was able to come up with another hit design (as usual, he’s half-man, half-amazing). Still looking for a summer crowdfunding campaign so stay tuned. And, if you want to try it out early the print & play files are available on BGG.
  • Village Builder:  We also announced another amazing title we’ve signed – Village Builder by Janine Viglietti! This one is another great solo game (with a 2-player variant) and won the 2020 Solitaire Print and Play Design Contest on BGG, finishing 1st overall among other great finishes in the contest sub-categories. Depending on how the year unfolds it’ll be coming in the fall or potentially early in 2022 (we keep getting busier and busier!). As with Grove, the print & play files are available on BGG so check it out.

As usual, I’ll keep plugging our 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest on BoardGameGeek. There are going to be some awesome games coming out of this one – probably too many for us to publish! Luckily we’ve had good luck in getting entries from previous contests signed with other publishers and I expect that to continue this year. Definitely check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds 😁), and provide some feedback. And, if you have a design that’s been tinkering around in your head you should definitely get it down on paper & get it entered!

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

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Side Room Games – Feb 2021 Update

Hey everyone – it’s been a busy month so let’s dive in with some news!

Maquis: 2nd Edition is live on Kickstarter!

Maquis: 2nd Edition is live on Kickstarter! This one has some new content (missions, spare rooms, and resources) as well as some general clean up of the rules to help explain some of the finer details of the game and improve playability. For our previous backers & customers, the new content is available to purchase as a mini-expansion and you’ll be able to fit it in the original box with some maneuvering. The campaign has gone fantastic so far, breaking our previous backer number record at Side Room Games and it’s on pace to pass our funding level record too! 😊

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

  • Elements of the Gods:  The pledge manager on Gamefound is live so if you didn’t get a link please let me know. We’re still in file preparation mode over the next month and should wrap things up by March. Be on the lookout for some pics on a KS update & through our social media outlets!
  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth We’re resolving some of the missing/lost packages from fulfillment so if you’re still waiting for delivery reach out to us and we can investigate. We’re also in the preproduction phase for another print run, so if you missed out on the latest Kickstarter & preorders we’ll have stock soon, likely later this spring. 
  • Fallen Angels:  As above, we’re resolving shipping issues so if you’re waiting let us know and we can help. We also still have copies on our site available!
  • Mechanical Beast:  Still working art development on the tiles and things are coming along nicely! We’re on schedule and looking at an April/May launch date for this one.
  • Grove:  In case you missed our announcement last month, the sequel to Orchard is coming soon! Mark was able to come up with another hit design and I can tell you it’s fantastic. We’re looking for this one to hit Kickstarter this summer so stay tuned. And, if you want to try it out early the print & play files are available on BGG.

As usual, I’ll keep plugging our 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest on BoardGameGeek. There are going to be some awesome games coming out of this one – probably too many for us to publish! Luckily we’ve had good luck in getting entries from previous contests signed with other publishers and I expect that to continue this year. Definitely check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds 😁), and provide some feedback. And, if you have a design that’s been tinkering around in your head you should definitely get it down on paper & get it entered!

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

P.S.  We have another announcement coming soon on another title we’re going to publish… A perfect fit to our catalog. We’ll let the village know about it once it’s ready to start building… 😉

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Side Room Games – Jan 2021 Update

Hey everyone – let’s dive in with some news!

Maquis: 2nd Edition coming 1 February!

Maquis is coming back to Kickstarter! This will be the 2nd Edition with some new content (missions, spare rooms, and resources) as well as some general clean up of the rules to help explain some of the finer details of the game and improve playability. For our previous backers & customers, the new content will be available to purchase as a mini-expansion and you’ll be able to fit it in the original box with some maneuvering. 🙂

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

  • Elements of the Gods:  The pledge manager on Gamefound is live as of today! Backers should have received an invite this morning. If you didn’t please send me a note and I can investigate. We’re working on getting the files prepped over the next month or so and should wrap things up by March at the latest. Next month we’ll share some of the updates & final versions!
  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth We FINALLY got all of the issues resolved for European backers and games have gotten out to folks. There are still a few areas where delivery is a little behind but they all have left Collext. And with the last-minute Brexit deal it’s a huge sigh of relief for us since things will stay EU friendly. Because of general delays, if folks haven’t received packages by the middle of the month we can start looking into things. By then I’d expect any undeliverable packages to return back to Collext. We’re also in the preproduction phase for another print run, so if you missed out on the latest Kickstarter & preorders we’ll have stock soon, likely later this spring. 
  • Fallen Angels:  These also made it to Collext for EU fulfillment right before Christmas and are starting to arrive to the last backers in the EU. Much like above, we’ll give it some time to make it through the standard delivery timelines and then we’ll assess if there’s any issues to resolve. We also still have copies on our site available! 🙂
  • Mechanical Beast:  Here’s some more art in development! We really like the way the tiles are coming together. Still planning for launching after Maquis, likely around the April timeframe.

Finally, I’ll keep plugging our 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest on BoardGameGeek. There are going to be some awesome games coming out of this one – probably too many for us to publish! Luckily we’ve had good luck in getting entries from previous contests signed with other publishers and I expect that to continue this year. Definitely check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds), and provide some feedback. And, if you have a design that’s been tinkering around in your head you should definitely get it down on paper & get it entered!

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

P.S.  If you’ve made it this far, you may want to stay tuned over the next week or so… We’re meandering out of the Orchard and have found a lovely little Grove we’re quite fond of… 😉

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Side Room Games – Dec 2020 Update

Hey everyone! We’re in the last week of our Elements of the Gods Kickstarter and we have some exciting updates on a few upcoming projects. Let’s roll!

Elements of the Gods – Kickstarter Exclusive!

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We’re in the final week of our Kickstarter campaign for Elements of the Gods! Remember, this one is a Kickstarter Exclusive, our first at Side Room Games. This means that the game won’t see a larger distribution for the English version and only retailers who back will be able to have it in stores in a limited quantity. Any leftover copies after fulfillment will only be available on our site at the planned MSRP of $60.

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth For European backers, we hit another snag… 🙁 There was an issue with the labeling process with Collext so the games have been sitting for almost 3 weeks at Heathrow. We figured out the issue and they’ve been working to get all of the packages relabeled & dispatched. Again, I am truly sorry that we’ve had these delays. There’s nothing more frustrating to a publisher than having games ready to get to backers & customers and when the process gets out of our hands things get complicated. We’re pushing Collext as hard as we can to make sure that things move quickly and this doesn’t happen again.
  • Fallen Angels:  As mentioned before, the last subset of games that are going to folks in Europe who ordered multiple copies + some specific countries where it made sense to send from the EU rather than China are on their way to the UK. They’re still in transit and hopefully arriving soon – that’ll wrap up fulfillment for that one but we still have copies on our site available.
  • Maquis:  We got our first sketches in from Ilya for the expansion missions & spare rooms – looking good so far! The plan is still for the expansion & reprint Kickstarter campaign in early 2021. As soon as we get the official launch date nailed down we’ll let folks know. 
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Mechanical Beast:  We’ve also got some of the first art sketches/draft in for it too! Really excited for where we’re going on this one. The plan is for Mechanical Beast to launch after Maquis, likely around the April timeframe. 

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Finally, if you’re interested in designing a game or just want to check out some cool ones in development, our 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest is live on BoardGameGeek. Some of them are looking amazing so far. Definitely check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds :D), and provide some feedback. And, if you have a design that’s been tinkering around in your head you should definitely get it down on paper & get it entered!

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

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Side Room Games – Oct 2020 Update

Hey everyone! Exciting news from our end. 😀 As we mentioned previously in the newsletter and teased through some of our social media outlets, Elements of the Gods is coming. And we’ve selected a launch date – 10 November! Review copies are starting to go out this week, but here are some of the initial looks:
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We also have a Tabletop Simulator module ready to go! Feel free to give it a try and give us any feedback you have. 🙂 We’ll also have print & play files ready to go later this month if you’re so inclined.

This is our biggest project yet and we’re chomping at the bit to get it out there! This is what I’d consider our first original project (non-PnP beforehand) so we’ve put a lot of energy & love into it. It’s a great game and we’re hoping you will all love it! We’ll remind folks once it gets closer to launch, so definitely stay tuned. You can also subscribe & become a fan on BGG too!

Also, here’s an update on some of our ongoing projects:

Black Sonata & The Fair Youth  Fulfillment has been going on all through September and into October. The last major piece is Europe – the games made it to the UK on 7 October and will start heading out to backers/customers this week and next week. We also addressed some concerns/issues with the expansion box in an Kickstarter update (check it here). If you have any questions or issues feel free to reach out to us at support@sideroomgames.com.
Fallen Angels:   Production is still on track to wrap up on 20 October, so games should start heading out to backers by the first week of November. Woohoo! 😀
Orchard  Production has started for the different languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese, German, Japanese, Thai, and Dutch) as well as some exclusive deals for English versions in Australia and the US. Current schedule shows finishing different versions around the end of October and continuing through November. So if you’re on the look out for a different language version stay tuned for more info!
Maquis:  Still planning (lame!)… No news yet but we’re working it!

Also, if you’re interested in designing a game or just want to check out some cool ones in development, our 2021 54 Card Game Design Contest is live on BoardGameGeek. So far we have 12 entries and more will be coming soon. Definitely check them out, give them a playtest (easy print & play builds :D), and provide some feedback. And, if you have a design that’s been tinkering around in your head you should definitely get it down on paper & get it entered!

As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin
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Side Room Games – Sep 2020 Update

Hey everyone! I think we’re finally at the point where it’s worthwhile to write a blog post every once in a while. 🙂 Not sure if this will be a monthly or quarterly thing but we have so many projects either wrapping up, in works, or about to start some folks out there might be interested in hearing about them. Without further ado let’s get rolling!


  • Black Sonata & The Fair Youth Production is complete on this one and we’re in the process of getting games to their respective fulfillment centers. We had a slight hiccup in getting the shipping set up (lesson learned, get all of this prepped during production as opposed to after…) but we should have games leaving BangWee this week. As most of you are aware from the KS update, shipping will go out in stages and start in September and continue through into October until all of the games are out. 
  • Fallen Angels:  Production has just started – we got the proofs in and they look fantastic! We’re still on pace for fulfillment in November and I’m slightly confident we’ll even beat that for the start of shipping. This one has been smooth sailing so far. 🙂
  • Orchard In case you haven’t heard, Orchard is going global! We have licensing deals in place with 8 different publishers in 9 different languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese, German, Japanese, Thai, and Dutch) as well as some exclusive deals for English versions in Australia and the US. Production on those will start in September and will hit game stores across the globe this fall.
  • Maquis:  Lots of people have been looking for a reprint and/or an expansion on this one! We are in the planning stages right now looking at expansion options as well as localization partners. We were thinking about later this year but we may shift things around depending on whether or not new content will be ready. So no news yet but we’re working it!
  • Elements of the Gods:  Our next Kickstarter is coming up quickly! We’re still planning for an October/November launch but we’re still trying to get a final date setup. We have some of the review copy pieces in (minis!) and the rest are either in production or on order. Once everything is in hand we’ll pick a specific launch date & let folks know.

We have other projects in development, including Mechanical Beast (BGG 2019 Solo Game Design Contest Winner). These are all slated for 2021 releases. As we get more information on those we’ll keep everyone up to date. One great way to stay up to speed is to subscribe on BoardGameGeek to the game pages (links above) and our publisher page… 😉

Finally, we were able to participate in a speed pitching session a few weeks ago and there were some amazing designs! We have some Tabletop Simulator playthroughs lined up and we’re hoping to snag a few and turn them into Side Room Games titles. 😀

Like I said, lots of projects at various stages. And all of them we’re extremely excited about & can’t wait to get out to our backers/customers! As always, if you have any questions or issues feel free to drop us a line through our social media outlets or send us an email at support@sideroomgames.com. Until next time!

Dustin

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Black Sonata: Designer Diary Part 5

The chase is on…

To show off the brilliant mind of John Kean, we wanted to share some of his thought process while making Black Sonata. This series of posts are pulled from his Work In Progress thread on BoardGameGeek. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter launching on June 5th! Here’s part 5, the final of the series:

PROGRESS REPORT
19 June 2017

I’ve just done a test of the latest tweaks and feel like the game is finally taking shape.

The main game is working reasonably well as a chase around Elizabethan London, circa 1600, visiting eleven sites associated with Shakespeare’s life. A deck of around 30 cards governs the secret movements of the Dark Lady and once you deduce where she currently is you need to give chase with your own pawn until you can intercept her and gain a clue. If you’re too slow she can escape you.

I am figuring out what extra cards to add to the deck to spice it up and gradually ramp up the difficulty over time. There’s still a lot of balancing to do, but for the first time I’m starting to feel like it might be possible to get some rules and components ready in time for the volunteer playtesters at the end of the month.

I think I have overcome the problem of set up being too fiddly and time consuming. I’ve managed to work in two separate deduction mechanisms – an easier one for the main game (where is the Dark Lady?) and a harder one for the end game (who is she?). I have a potential use for the sonnets themselves as elements of the game play, and have sourced some very cool images and icons for the graphic design. But I’m still not really sure if the game is actually *fun*…

Tired now, bed awaits.

PROGRESS 
27 June 2017

Hurrah! Tonight I completed a first draft of the rules and have almost got a complete low ink version of the components. Writing out the rules was great because it helped identify some places where simplifications could be made.

The game is basically made of two halves: a hidden movement part where you must deduce the location of the Dark Lady to earn clues, and a “Mastermind”-like part where you use those clues to deduce her identity. Each part is complete and has had some testing, but what is missing is the glue to hold them together. Fortunately I have some glue, in the form of the sonnets themselves, but now I need to tune the various bits to make sure they play well together.

This will probably take a couple of days, but I’m determined to be Components Available in time for the volunteer tester deadline.

BACKGROUND BOOKLET AVAILABLE
10 July 2017

Putting the theme of this game together has involved quite a lot of background research. Over the last month or so I have read Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare, trawled the web for info and portraits of the candidate Dark Ladies, wandered around the earliest extant maps of London, pored over online reviews of Shakespeare themed tours, and of course read and reread all 154 sonnets, especially those relating to the Lady. She has occupied most of my free thoughts, and she stalks my dreams… Above all, I have continually sieved and sorted facts (of which there are few) from wild speculation (of which there is much).

Through all of this I have assembled some notes on the lives of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, with a special focus on the question: Who was the Dark Lady? To be honest, I don’t really believe there was a single Dark Lady that Shakespeare biographies in his sonnets. And the game would less interesting if there were. Instead I think she is probably a half-truth created from several of the women that crossed Shakespeare’s path, together with a healthy dose of fantasy. But that doesn’t detract from the exhilaration of the hunt!

Anyway, for anyone who is interested, I have sorted and formatted my notes into a booklet which you can download here. The pages are sized for printing A5, that is two pages per side of A4 or letter paper. If you print in booklet format it comes to six double sided pages in greyscale/low ink. Or they should look good for reading on your tablet etc.

So if you’ve ever wondered exactly where Shakespeare lived during the plague of 1603-04, or what sort of place is called The Liberty of The Clink (seriously, no nation can top the English for interesting placenames; my personal favourite is the village of Nempnet Thrubwell), or whether an African woman might have attended Elizabeth I only to show up a few years later as the Madam of a notorious brothel… Well, if you are as fascinated with history as me, then you might like to check it out. If nothing else, it will give some meaning to the places and people named in Black Sonata.

Cheers,
JK

PS I have done my best to indicate what is fact and what is speculation, but please let me know of any errors or significant omissions, of which there are bound to be many…

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Black Sonata: Designer Diary Part 4

Game in Progress…

To show off the brilliant mind of John Kean, we wanted to share some of his thought process while making Black Sonata. This series of posts are pulled from his Work In Progress thread on BoardGameGeek. Here’s part 4:

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD…
12 June 2017

Ugh. I stayed up late last night trying out my idea for the main game mechanism. It worked as intended (after some tweaking) but after a while I had to admit to myself that it just wasn’t much fun.

So I have straightened the spine, stiffened the upper lip and headed back to the drawing board. It is a scary thing to do, but I feel I owe it Shakespeare and his Dark Lady to find the best possible use for this theme (which I am totally smitten by).

My failed idea was based on a shifting labyrinth of tiles through which you and the Dark Lady would move according to a roll-and-move mechanism. Your task was to keep the Lady from escaping off the edges while searching for tiles (books and letters) with clues to her identity.

Now I am thinking it would be cool to use a game board representing Shakespeare’s London and the ten or so significant locations that we know about. I’m not sure yet exactly how to use it, but I’m sure inspiration will come eventually. I suspect it needs to involve a Dark Lady pawn, and it would be good if it also used another deduction mechanism. I’ll go back through all the suggestions in this thread again for potential solutions…

To clarify – I will keep the deduction mechanism with the suited cards, though this still needs some tweaking, and find a new way of earning the clues. Fingers crossed…

SOLO HIDDEN MOVEMENT MECHANIC?

Here’s an idea for a deduction/hidden movement mechanic. It is distilled from some of the posts above, particularly suggestions from Jan and Deyan about discovering hidden rules, together with ideas about wheels, moving coordinates and clues on the backs of cards. Actually, I didn’t really invent this at all: it was all you guys – thanks!

Anyway, imagine you have a map of say 10 locations, joined by paths so that each location has 2 to 4 paths leaving it. At each location are some features, like a tree, a church, a water view, a flower garden, a statue etc represented by 2 to 4 icons at the location.

You also have say 30 or 40 tiles (or cards), three or four for each location. Each tile is numbered unobtrusively on one side and also features a dot in a particular position that corresponds to that location (like the clue cards in Outfoxed). On the reverse side is an icon denoting one of the features present at that location.

Now, the designer provides a list of numbers that specify the order that you should stack the tiles at the start of the game. (Actually, there would be several different lists corresponding to different paths that the quarry could travel around the board, but each game would use only one with the rest being for replayability.) After ordering the tiles in a stack, face down (and icon up) the pile is “cut” several times as a magician does with cards so that the player does not know the starting point.

You are represented by a pawn on the board, while the location of your quarry (the Dark Lady) is hidden as the top tile in the pile. Each turn you would take the top tile and place it on the bottom of the pile, so that the Lady has moved to another location (or not!). The tile icons would give clues as to where she might have moved and could be now. Then you’d move your pawn one space along a path OR, if you think you have tracked her down, search for the Lady at your current location.

Each location would have its own “master” tile with a hole bored in a unique position. To search for the Lady you’d place the top tile from the pile onto your location tile and then flip them over as one. If the dot appears in the location tile’s window then you have found her, otherwise you know she is somewhere else on the map, but you still don’t know where.

So the aim is to deduce where the Dark Lady is lurking from the sequence of location icons she passes, then try to get your pawn one step ahead and catch her at that location. If you do, you earn a clue to the main mystery (her identity). But here’s the catch – after searching a location, whether successfully or not, that tile is discarded from the game. This means that the Lady will start to jump around the map more and more erratically as tiles are lost from her initially smooth path, and it will become harder and harder to find her. Your aim would be to find her enough times to get sufficient clues to solve the final mystery before you run out of tiles in the deck (or it gets down to say ten tiles).

(Of course you could use cards and sleeves with windows instead of tiles, but I think tiles might be easier to handle if there’s not too many of them.)

Righto – in my head this sounds like it might just work. Or am I missing something obvious here? Maybe there’s a nifty way to refine this idea before I go to the trouble of building a prototype. And maybe I am destined for disappointment as in my previous mechanic…

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Black Sonata: Designer Diary Part 3

Is it her?

To show off the brilliant mind of John Kean, we wanted to share some of his thought process while making Black Sonata. This series of posts are pulled from his Work In Progress thread on BoardGameGeek. Here’s part 3:

THE THEME
5 June 2017

William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets were first published in 1609, possibly against his will. The first 126 sonnets are outpourings of homosexual love and admiration to a “Fair Youth”, probably one of Shakespeare’s patrons: Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, or William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. The subsequent 28 sonnets, however, document a stormy relationship with a “Dark Lady” who seduces the poet and holds him in an agonised thrall. In a bizarre twist, sonnets 144 and 145 reveal that the Dark Lady has also seduced the Fair Youth and the subsequent love triangle sees the poet spiral into a deep and melancholy madness of fire and syphilis.

For more than four centuries scholars have argued over the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady. At least eight plausible candidates have been suggested, plus a plethora of less convincing ones. But like so much of the great poet’s life little documentary proof remains, so we shall probably never know…

At least that’s what you had been taught as a young student of English literature. And it springs to mind now, years later, as you discover a forgotten cache of letters in the basement of the National Archives. For among them are two penned by Augustine Phillips, a known associate of Shakespeare, that hint at the identity of the Bard’s shadowy mistress.

Suddenly with fresh eyes and thumping heart you find yourself catapulted into a labyrinthine web of hints and allusions scattered through the remaining fragments of the lives and works of Shakespeare and his associates. From document to dusty document you will chase the ephemeral shadow of the Lady, gradually collecting clues to her identity as she darts teasingly just out of reach.

Can you solve English literature’s greatest mystery? Or will the Dark Lady elude you, slipping away like smoke to be lost forever from the pages of history?

ABOUT THE NAME

Once I decided to theme the game around Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady”, I needed a name that would evoke a shadowy pursuit.

Shakespeare repeatedly refers to the Lady as “black” (both in colouring and deeds) so that part was easy. “Black Sonnet” didn’t sound right, but somehow “Black Sonata” did. It carries echoes of noir mysteries like the Black Dahlia videogame and Black Vienna. Plus, I like the allusion to music, whitch is another of my passions.

Or her…

The term sonata has a very precise meaning in Classical music, but in Shakespeare’s time that was not the case. Then, sonata could refer to any instrumental music: music that was “sounded” rather than “sung”. Sonata and sonnet share the same word origin, and the clincher is Shakespeare’s sonnet 128 which concerns the poet’s feelings as he watches the Dark Lady play the virginals (an early keyboard instrument):

How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.