Monday, March 8, 2021
Home Gaming The joy of figuring it all out in Saturnalia

The joy of figuring it all out in Saturnalia

Talking about Saturnalia is hard. Every time the town reshuffles itself I think of another way I should say.

Saturnalia is the latest game from the Italian micro-studio Santa Ragione, the people behind some of the most vibrant and fascinating and engrossing games I have ever played. These people make games that create obsessions in their players, and, actually, now I mention it, you can see that a little as the town reshuffles. Saturnalia is a game about exploring a small Sardinian town after dark, hurriedly pursuing your own tangle of agendas while being stalked by something awful and unstoppable and single-minded. You play one member of your gang after another, and when they’re all captured by the stalker, the town, well, reshuffles.

This reshuffling is brilliant to watch. And again it makes me think: honestly, how should I begin when I’m telling someone about this game? Sometimes the houses and streets move around as if they’re brass fixtures set into grooves. It’s a puzzle box, an orrery. I want to talk about how the game has been made with help from a physical board game company, and how the shuffling makes you see some of that physicality, the way that it’s all legit, no cheating, the way that it’s a mechanism, and the way that this allows the player to understand that the pieces of the town haven’t been added to or subtracted from – they’re just in different places.

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Talking about Saturnalia is hard. Every time the town reshuffles itself I think of another way I should say.

Saturnalia is the latest game from the Italian micro-studio Santa Ragione, the people behind some of the most vibrant and fascinating and engrossing games I have ever played. These people make games that create obsessions in their players, and, actually, now I mention it, you can see that a little as the town reshuffles. Saturnalia is a game about exploring a small Sardinian town after dark, hurriedly pursuing your own tangle of agendas while being stalked by something awful and unstoppable and single-minded. You play one member of your gang after another, and when they’re all captured by the stalker, the town, well, reshuffles.

This reshuffling is brilliant to watch. And again it makes me think: honestly, how should I begin when I’m telling someone about this game? Sometimes the houses and streets move around as if they’re brass fixtures set into grooves. It’s a puzzle box, an orrery. I want to talk about how the game has been made with help from a physical board game company, and how the shuffling makes you see some of that physicality, the way that it’s all legit, no cheating, the way that it’s a mechanism, and the way that this allows the player to understand that the pieces of the town haven’t been added to or subtracted from – they’re just in different places.

Read more

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