A review copy of Black Sonata: the Fair Youth was provided by Side Room Games. I would like to thank Dustin Culbertson and Side Room Games for supporting my blog. All thoughts, comments, and pictures herein are my own.
A while back I wrote about a fun solo game published by Side Room Games, Black Sonata. If you are interested in reading my thoughts about this game, you can find it here. The original post was written about a Kickstarter preview copy. Since then the actual factual copy has come to me, and I have played the stuffing out of it. I even converted a non-gamer to a almost-gamer by introducing her to this game. The production copy was all that my preview copy was and so much more. It was beautiful. It was engaging. It was hard! it also kept me coming back for more, and always wishing for more.
Well, my wish has been granted (now if only my lottery wishes worked this way…). Side Room Games has just started a brand new Kickstarter for Black Sonata: the Fair Youth, a small box expansion, that offers five, yes five, new expansions that can be mixed and matched, or played individually, to bring a fresh new outlook to this game. The Fair Youth was designed, much like the original, by John Kean, plays in approximately 20-30 minutes, and as I mentioned is for a single player.
The expansion itself is a small box, and if you pack it right, can fit into the base game box. Overall it includes 13 standard cards, 20 mini Euro cards, 24 tokens, and a pawn. Please note, all photos of The Fair Youth content is part of a preview edition, and is not final content or design. As I go through the expansions included in The Fair Youth, I will assume that the rules of the base game are known. If not, please feel free to pause here and read about them here. All caught up? Good. Here we go!
The first expansion, The Fair Youth, focuses on another mysterious figure from Shakespeare’s Sonnets. A young man, who seems to hold a very special place in the bards heart. In this expansion we are trying to find where in the city he may be hiding, and meet up with him. To play this expansion the board is set up for a normal game. One of the new Fair Youth cards will be chosen at random and placed next to the game board. The other cards will not be used in this game, making for a different gaming experience later on. This new mode will now add a new action available to the player each turn. you may now ask a bystander which way the Youth has gone. To do this you will place the Fair Youth card over the card of the city you are currently in. Then flipping it over you will see a symbol. That symbol will indicate where the Youth was headed. There are arrow tokens included that will help to track the young man. There are a few rules when determining where he may have gone. He will always travel the shortest route, and unfortunately, if you are in his current location the bystanders will tell you where he went when he left the last time. Oops. They get a bit confused. Once you have deduced his location you may confront him by turning over the Youth card and checking the location printed there. If you are correct, you may add 20 points to your score. If your are incorrect, he has gotten away, and cost you 20 points, subtract this total from your score.
The next option available to you is The Rendezvous, cuz, really, who doesn’t love a good rendezvous? In this mode, you are trying to located the spot where Will and the Dark lady would get together. Which spot was special to them? First, set up the game as normal, then chose one random rendezvous card. Much like the previous expansion, you now have an additional action now available to you, a “seek the rendezvous” action. If you chose this option as your action, place the rendezvous card on top of your current location. Flip the cards over and find the number through the key hole. This number will tell you how many steps away that location will be. The game includes optional token to help track this information. There is only one rule to counting steps, you cannot double back on yourself. When you think you have deduced the location (symbol) of the secret hideaway, and are about to confront the Dark Lady, you may turn the Rendezvous card over. If the symbol matches to symbol of your current location AND you have correctly identified the Dark Lady, then you win. If you have the wrong location, or the wrong suspect, then you lose. It’s all or nothing here.
The third offer is The Rival Poet. Let’s face it, Shakespeare wrote during the Renaissance, there had to be a bunch of competition at the time. In this mode you are dealing with that competition, and this can either hamper, or help you. You may chose to play against an Aggressive Poet, making the game harder or an Elusive Poet, making the game a bit easier. First, set up the game as normal, chose which poet you will be including, and then place their pawn (included in the expansion) in a location that matches the color of your starting location. A new step is now added to the turn order, updating the Poet’s location. This will occur after updating the Dark Lady’s location. Both Poets have two rules they will follow, they will never move into a space that has the same symbol as the one on the current Stealth Card, and they will not move if a Fog Card is next on the deck.
The Elusive Poet will only move when you move into an adjoining location. If he can, he will move one step away from the player. If there is more than one option, he will always choose the right-most option. If you move into the same location as the Elusive Poet he will give you an additional clue about the Dark Lady. This allows you to discard a card from the Fog Deck while drawing a new clue card, and moving the Poet to a location with the matching color. At the end of the game subtract 10 points from your total if you played against the Elusive Poet, help has it’s disadvantages.
The Aggressive poet will always try to move one step closer to the player. He always takes the shortest route, also choosing the right-most if more than one option is available. Unlike the Elusive Poet, the player may not move into a space with the Aggressive Poet. if you happen into the same space, your entire turn must be used to move away. No other actions may be taken. In this way he, effectively, blocks your progress. At the end of the game score 10 additional points if you played against the Aggressive Poet.
The Darker Ladies, offers a set of replacement cards for the Dark lady cards included in the base game. These cards contain four symbols, suits, as opposed to the six symbols, flowers, that were on the base cards. This makes the game much harder than before as it will now require more clues to narrow down your suspects. The game plays as normal with these new cards.
Lastly, Waypoints and Traces allows a way for the player to mark the map using two new tokes, a footprint and an exclamation point, as well as two cards to help mark the deck with the respective cards. To mark the Waypoint, you may put the exclamation card on the bottom of the Stealth Deck and the token on the corresponding space on the board. The next time through the deck you may remove, and reuse this marker. This is helpful if you think you know the location of the Dark Lady and want to make sure that you are in position to confront her the next time through the deck. Traces allows you to place a card warning you of either 3 or 5 steps (found on either side of the card) to the Dark Lady. To do so, remove the number of cards from the bottom of the deck that matches the number you chose (3 or 5) and place the Footprint Card on top, replacing the removed cards in the same order. The Footprint token is then added to the board in the appropriate spot. As with the Waypoint you may chose to reuse the Trace card and token once they are revealed from the deck again.
Each one of these expansions offers new and different ways to play the game alone, but when combined they are amazing. I loved trying different expansions together to see how well they meshed. I really enjoyed how the continued the theme of an already immersive and thematic game. I am continually surprised by how much theme is squeezed into one small box, and how Side Room Games was able to add even more. If you are a fan of Black Sonata, and you want more challenge, less challenge, or even a way to mix things up a bit, it’s all there in one box! I love how they have done so much more without overcrowding and overcomplicating things. Simply astounding.
The Kickstarter, which offers the base game, in case you missed it, runs until January 26, 2020. If this sounds like something that interests you, I highly recommend taking a look at it.