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$22.00

Black Sonata!  This game is on FIRE!

Ok.  Well, I don’t normally play solo games as I’m solo a lot of the time already… 🤔  But I had to try this game because everyone who has played it LOVES it!  And once I tried it… I had to have it in the shop.  You’re starting to see how this works…

Despite my solo game XP being equivalent to a level-1 NPC, I will add my voice to the chorus of people singing this game’s praises.  Hands down – a really FUN and challenging solo game.

Thematically solid. Highly replayable. Unique (and really cool) mechanics. I. Am. Sold.

If you visit the original Kickstarter campaign here you can scan through the various video and written comments by a seemingly endless line-up of reviewers all saying the same thing… they LOVE it!

My personal favorite is by Rukus Reactions.  You can find it here.  This is a great summary of the components, game play, etc. Maybe instead of reading the rest of my poetic waxing (rambling) you should just watch that video to decide if this is for you. No. Really. 😟

The Origins 2018 video with Tom Vasel is also really fun. I enjoy watching videos where the designer or publisher sits down with a prominent game reviewer at a con, does a quick pitch/run-through of how the game works, and then they chat a bit… Yeah, I’m a total geek. I know.

In the opening remarks, one of the Side Room Games guys says they asked to sit with Tom and discuss the game because they know he hates solo games… I almost spit my coffee out watching that moment.

Tom emphatically denies this rumor, by the way. 😬

So how does the game play?

Essentially you set up the decks, lay out the game board, start your “investigative historian” meeple on a location of your choice… and it’s off to the races!  I should note that the term “investigative historian” is my take on the player’s identity… as the game doesn’t exactly say who you are..)

The basic game play is pretty straight forward…

Each turn you do two things:

  1. Update the Dark Lady’s location (reveal the top card of the stealth deck) There’s no actual physical movement of anything on the game board in case you were wondering… since the movements are stealthy and all.

Then choose one of these actions:

  1. Move your investigative historian to an adjoining location (linked to your current spot by a line on the map)
  2. Search for the Dark Lady at your current location by an amazingly cool mechanic that I will talk about in a minute
  3. Use the fog card special action (if a fog card is revealed as the active card in the stealth deck). More on this later…
  4. Pass (no action) – the end is nigh!  Haha… Just kidding… this makes sense as an action more than a few times throughout the game (particularly if you need a moment to take another Ibuprofen)

The Stealth Deck… so SWEET!

I won’t get too deep into the woods on the particulars, but suffice it to say that the stealth deck has a really ingenious set-up mechanism that ensures the Dark Lady’s movement is always in a linear path and always runs as a complete cycle each turn.

That is, she always moves from one space to an adjacent space on her turn and doesn’t jump all over the board randomly.  There are, however, 4 more difficult default settings where you can set the deck so she doesn’t actually move every turn; adding to the difficulty of finding her as you can’t really be sure that she actually moved on a given turn.

Either way, when she does move.. it’s along those same lines that connect spaces that you are moving along.

Once set up properly, the deck can be cut (so long as you always put the top of the cut properly onto the bottom of the deck) so that her starting location can be randomized as you play a second, third, or fourth time through the same basic deck set up.

The countdown card

Once your deck is all set, you place the countdown card on the bottom of the deck set to “2.”

Each time this card comes to the top of the deck you adjust it down by one.  When the card is set at zero and appears at the top of the deck it’s game over.  If you haven’t found the dark lady and properly identified her by then you lose 😥 Uh, this might happen a few times 🙄

So, how about those actions that you can perform on your turn?

Moving around during your investigation

Clear as crystal.  Move your pawn to an adjacent space.  Done. Find the location key for this new space and place it in an area below the board to keep track of where you’ve been.  Once you’ve visited every spot on the board you can look at the clue hidden beneath the location card stack!

Search for the Dark Lady at your current location

This is where things get REALLY interesting! If you would like to search for the Dark Lady you take the stealth card that’s at the top of the deck and place it on top of the location card from your current location.

Flip this card “sandwich” over carefully and look through the keyhole (a small actual hole in the location card) for the Dark Lady.  If she’s in that location, you’ll see her silhouette on the stealth card through that tiny hole in the location card!

This is AWESOME!!!!

If you found the Dark Lady, you can reveal the top clue card from the clue deck.  If you have enough clues to deduce her characteristics you can confront her.  But you’d better be right… because if you’re not… yep… you lose.

If she’s not there… we move on.

Either way, when this is over two things happen.  A fog card replaces the stealth card you just used to look for the Dark Lady (more on fog cards later).  This actually happens at the start of the sequence, but I digress 🙂  Then, you advance the stealth deck one card for each clue currently in your possession. This represents the Dark lady fleeing the area if not confronted… I am hooked on the thematic tie-in to game play.  Well done, Side Room Games!

Using a  fog card

So now that you know how fog cards are basically added to the deck… what do they do?

If a fog card appears as the top card in the stealth deck throughout the game the Dark lady will move along as normal but you won’t be able to search for her that turn.

Alternatively, you can replace this fog card with another one from the deck, turn over the original fog card, and read its special action.  Then you return that fog card to the bottom of the of card deck and carry out that special action.

If you are unable to carry out the action… yeah… you lose the game.  Darn that fog!

Passing

Pass the duchy… Since you’re not doing anything on your turn, the Dark Lady is ready to move on.  Reveal a new stealth card and carry on smartly…

8 different Ladies, clues, and assorted factoids

Each of the 8 possible dark lady cards (your suspect) has a different combination of three characteristics. As you reveal clues you will be provided with the traits of a given lady and the clues that will help you deduce if she is in fact the Dark Lady…

I won’t get into all the details of how this works, but let me just say that it is WELL DONE! There is a ton of brain-hurting, puzzle solving goodness in this box to last even the most die-hard solo gamers a good, long while.

Admittedly I can’t really say that because I’m not a solo gamer… but if I try to imagine myself as a hard-core solo gamer, I can see how this one would make its way back to the table again and again. And admittedly, I am now at least a nascent solo gamer!  Huzzah!

Replayability is off the charts given the various Stealth Deck setups (the rules come with a whole host of custom variations… and then there are the 8 basic set ups (4 allegedly “easy” layouts and 4 difficult ones)… and finally you can cut the cards an infinite number of times to shake things up a little further.

This is a major “W” on the score card!!

And I say that even though I have yet to even come close to winning.  Clearly I either need more coffee or this game needs an ultra-easy, hand-hold mode… 😉

Then again I’ve never been part of a successful campaign in The Grizzled. You be the judge.

Game ON!

Ages: 12+
Players: 1
Play Time: 30 minutes
Designer
Artist: John Kean
Publisher: Side Room Games
SKU: SIDE ROOM GAMES 001
MSRP:
$25 on the Side Room Games site. By
all means, please head over there and support
their cause if they still have stock! I’m not
looking to disrupt publisher sales! Of course,
I only have  a handful of copies (and direct
publisher confirmation that there are no restraints
on pricing) for just that reason (smile). If it’s
more convenient to get it here… I am thrilled
to help out and thankful for your support! 😉
Our Price: $22.00
Link to BGG: Black Sonata

 

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Description

 Black Sonata has arrived!  This is one HECK of an amazing solo game!

The identity of the Dark Lady from Shakespeare’s sonnets has eluded scholars and historians for more than four centuries. In Black Sonata, you will pursue the elusive Lady through the streets and alleyways of Elizabethan London, catching glimpses and whispers which may yield clues to her identity. However, not all of the evidence is clear. You will need to sharpen your wits if you are to finally unmask the Dark Lady before she slips quietly from the pages of history and is lost.Black Sonata is a solitaire deduction game for ages 12 and up.

You will track the Dark Lady as she flits through Shakespeare’s London, circa 1600. If you manage to find her you may gain a clue to her identity before she slips away once more.You must acquire enough clues to deduce her key characteristics and confront her before she escapes for good. If you can successfully catch and unmask her then you will win fame, respect, and the game.

Additional information
Weight 1.1 lbs
Dimensions 7.5 × 5.5 × 2.5 in
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