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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 Until next time!


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 – 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 Until next time!


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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:

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.

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.

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.


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:

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…


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:

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?


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.

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Black Sonata: Designer Diary Part 2

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 2:

30 May 2017

It’s 2am and I’m awake thinking about one of the suggestions posted above…

Say you had ten locations labelled 0 to 9. There are two pawns – one representing you and the other a spy with whom you need to rendezvous. You have a “code wheel” with two circles of card, slightly different sizes, pinned at the centre so that you can rotate them relative to each other. Each circle has the numbers 0 to 9 spaced evenly around the outside, and the top (smaller) circle has a small window cut into it.

Each turn you must place your pawn where you think the spy will go next. Then align the number corresponding to your pawn’s previous location (outside wheel) with that of the spy pawn (inside circle). Now a number is visible through the window, and determines the next location of the spy pawn. If you got it right, you and the spy will be in the same location and a clue is exchanged.

So your challenge is to deduce the pattern underlying the wheel. I’m guessing it will somehow involve modular arithmetic but will need to check that out… (not now – it’s 2am). The game could include several different wheels of each size and you’d choose some combination at random at the start of the game. Maybe there could be more than one window. Maybe the locations would be named rather than numbered, to make it harder.

This could work, I think, as long as the underlying maths is sound. I have no idea if it is yet, but will investigate further…


OK, I have put together a simple one-page PnP prototype for a deduction mechanism that seems to work (I think!). I have wrapped a simple pseudo-game around it, mostly as a way to test how many clues are needed to make the deduction (it seems to vary, but I haven’t had a chance yet to look at it more systematically).

I am excited because this seems to create a nice “if that then this OR that” logic puzzle that is not just about eliminating possibilities.

NOTE: Do not study the cards and try to discover the patterns or memorise their symbols! This will ruin the deductive element and spoil the game for you.

Please, if you do try it out, can you report back on how you got on. Useful data would be the “suit” of the hidden card and how many clues it took to correctly deduce its symbols. In lieu of that, your score would be almost as helpful. Thanks!


Meanwhile, I need to start thinking about a theme. I have a couple of off-the-wall ideas, but I need to digest them for a few days (and do some research!). More news soon…

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Black Sonata: Designer Diary Part 1

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 1:

29 May 2017

Recently I have been enjoying a range of solitaire PnP games, but noticed that there are very few replayable solitaire deduction games. I love deduction games and it seemed to me there is a gap here. A few weeks ago I posted a thread on this:

Replayable solitaire deduction game – is it possible?

The response was very interesting. At first the consensus was “nope, not possible”. Then it morphed to “OK, maybe possible with the use of a game app”. Then finally a couple of suggestions came out about how it might be approached, using edge-notched cards for instance. Overall, the consensus seems to be that it *might* be possible, maybe.

Well, that’s enough for me – challenge accepted!

I have enjoyed designing games for recent BGG contests, and in this year’s 9 Card Contest, just finishing up now, I set myself an extra challenge as a seed for creativity. In that case it was to design a solitaire deck-builder in just 9 cards, and I’m not sure that the resulting game (Blorg in the Midwest) quite achieved that, but it was a lot of fun exploring the idea with suggestions and input from this community.

So my personal design challenge for this contest is to design a replayable solitaire deduction game (not based on elimination), without the need for an accompanying app. I have been mulling this over in my head for a few weeks now, and I think I have an approach that may work. But more about that soon…


A few days ago a friend introduced me to Dobble, and like every newbie my first reaction was – how the heck do they do that?! The mechanism of every card having one (and only one) symbol in common with every other card seems somehow miraculous. I had to figure out how it works, and once I did I started to wonder if it might be a way to attack the solo deduction problem I had been thinking about…

Of course, you smart people will have figured out by now that it won’t work. Removing one card from the Dobble deck, you can’t possibly deduce what is on it from the remaining cards without comparing every single one of those cards with every single other one. Which would not be fun. And if there is more than one card that you don’t know then there is no way to deduce which of them is the target card.

But what about if you simplified the number of symbols and added a second loop? Well I’ve been playing around with that on paper and I think I have come up with something that is sort of half Dobble and half Mastermind.

It would use 11 cards, and each card would have three mystery symbols. You’d shuffle the cards and set one aside unseen. Your task is to deduce the three symbols on the set aside card from a subset of the remaining ones. There would need to be another game mechanic for how you earn a clue card, but each time you do you’d get more information on the target card, because each clue would say how many of that card’s symbols are present on the target card.

I think it works on paper. Next step is to try it out with some old business cards…

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Business is Picking Up!

Hey, remember us? I can barely remember the last few months! It’s been pretty exciting here at Side Room Games. Not only are we wrapping up the judging of the 54 Card Game Design Contest but we’ve also signed 2(!) games to publish – more on them in a bit!

We’re a little over halfway through all of the 54 Card Contest entries and we’re making a big push this weekend to get them all played. We may have to extend our judging by a week but we’re definitely going to get through them all. There have been some really good ones so far and there are some on the to-do list we’re really excited to play.

My personal favorite so far has been Neapolitan Sundaes by Jason Meyers. The basic gist is you’re connecting various sundae cards on a grid and trying to create links of 3 different characteristics on the cards (either toppings, fruit, or flavor). You score in the competitive version by matching a “favorites” card you get at the beginning of the game. When the game starts there are a ton of options and it’s easy to pick out good combos and get your feet wet. But when the board starts clearing out the difficulty level ramps up and you have to start planning moves ahead as well as avoid giving your opponents opportunities to make links. The way the game climbs in challenge as the game progresses really sets it out from similar games. It might make for a better tile laying game than a card game but the simple design, ease of entry, interesting decisions, and quick gameplay make it a real contender.

I’ve put some other notes on the rest of the entries on our Facebook page as well as via Twitter. As we finish up the testing process we’ll continue to update folks on our progress.

On top of the contest, we’ve been working with two designers and have officially signed their games to publish. The first is Black Sonata by John Kean. The game was created as a part of the 2017 Solo Print & Play Design Contest on BoardGameGeek and won 1st place in Below is his (amazing!) description of the game:

For more than four centuries scholars have argued over the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady of William Shakespeare’s sonnets. According to the sonnets, the Dark Lady seduced the poet and held him in an agonized thrall while also conducting an affair with the Fair Youth who Shakespeare also loved.

In Black Sonata you will find yourself in Shakespeare’s London, circa 1600, in pursuit of the shadowy Lady. A specially ordered deck of cards determines her hidden movements from place to place. You must deduce her location and then intercept her to catch a glimpse and gain a clue to her identity. You will need several clues to deduce her identity, but with each clue gained the Lady becomes harder to track. Black Sonata combines hidden movement and logical deduction into a unique solitaire steeped in literary history.

Can you finally solve English literature’s greatest mystery? Or will the Dark Lady elude you, melting from your grasp like a curl of smoke and promises?

I’ve never played a game like it and I knew I wanted to get it from a print & play version out to the community. John’s design is fantastic and his graphic design is really impressive. It’s basically a finished product – all that’s left is to push to get the Kickstarter ready to launch. We’re planning for a summer launch so stay tuned!

The second game we signed is Pocket Landship by Scott Allen Czysz. The original version is a solo game set in World War I where you command a landship (the original British term for tank) to clear a sector of enemy infantry, artillery and landships. On your turn, you roll dice and allocate them to your landship equipment to make attacks, heal damage, or utilize special abilities. On the enemies turn the dice are allocated based on the enemy set up and you resolve their actions. The really clever mechanic is that each enemy is trying to maneuver the battlespace throughout the game to get into a better position to attack you. A really fun game that’s challenging, tense, and an easy set up & tear down.

The original version was an entry in the 2017 9 Card Nanogame Design Contest on BoardGameGeek where you were limited to 9 cards, up to 9 dice and 9 tokens. Since his original design, Scott created an expansion to increase the number of enemies and player options. For what we plan to publish, he’s been working on coming up with some new enemy and player powers, as well as creating a 2-player cooperative variant. We’re also looking to re-theme the game with all new art and graphic design. I’m really excited about this one as well – the look and feel when we’re done is going to be awesome!

If you want to stay up to date with the progress of these two games and the 54 Card Contest results, sign up for our mailing list in the side menu. We plan on sending out monthly updates as well as notifications when our Kickstarters launch.

Until next time!