Review by Leigh
Sometimes a quick game is a good game. Sometimes I don’t have hours upon hours to invest in an intense and complex piece of entertainment. Sometimes I want to be the high priest of a small village and choose sacrifices for the great Chernobog. The Shrouded Isle ticks all of the above boxes.
In this management simulation game with a really dark twist it’s the 1500s and you’re in charge of five influential families upon your isle. Each family holds a specific function to keep your flock from straying. These functions are divided into ignorance, obedience, fervor, penitence and discipline. Although a simple game, it’s a little tricky how it plays out. Skip to the last paragraph if you want a quick summary. We’ve already got your page view. We don’t care what you do from now on. (Jokes!)
The game uses a turn based management system involved with each of these functions, measured with meters. It’s the high priests duty (i.e. yours) to ensure the village displays all of these qualities to the highest level. This is achieved by appointing one family member from each house to council the village every month of the season. You must also ensure that each house is content with your rule, which is achieved when you appoint their house representative to council for a month. Either that, or lose favour and risk rebellion.
You must be very careful who you select for council. Individual council members have their strengths and weaknesses. Some may be filled with fervor but secretly they may be a scholar. This means that the fervor meter will increase and the ignorance meter will drop due to the council members thirst for knowledge.
At the end of the season you will nominate one of your council members for sacrifice. In the above example the scholar sounds like a good choice as they are jeopardizing my villagers’ ignorance. You can make an Inquiry into the personality traits of particular family members qualities prior to their council nomination, but it’s an educated guessing game most of the time. You must have good reason to sacrifice a member of the council to ensure you get the best result or risk a house rebellion. You’re looking for council members who’s sins can not be atoned.
Upon the second season, Chernobog will contact you during the night. The great god will demand you concentrate on increasing, for example, discipline and demand a particular house member for sacrifice, like the rebel, the kleptomaniac or the pervert. In most cases you won’t know the quality of the particular individual you must sacrifice. You can find out by conducting an inquiry or using someone for council with unknown qualities and see if it is revealed when they are selected to work for a month at the risk of jeopardizing your village.
After 3 years it is told the great god will arrive … depending on your performance over the years, and hoping you’ve avoided a ‘game over’ from poor performance or house rebellion, you will reach one of six outcomes.
The interface is easy to use with big buttons and meters clearly labeled. The design is simplistic with one primary colour palette. You can choose one of a few palettes to suit your preference. I chose the ‘cremation ash’ theme, because colours are OBVIOUSLY sinful.
The music is nice, but don’t bother paying for the soundtrack. Not enough musical content to keep you listening. In total you’ll get 5 tracks at under 20 minutes. Unless they’re selling it for under a dollar and you REALLY like the music I’d recommend giving it a miss. It’s a weird balancing act where you’re trying to make sure everyone is happy. Behind it all is numbers. A game that depends on managing positive and negative numbers along with probability and uncertainty. The game feels solid and quick enough to play in under half an hour. The flavour text and theme is what keeps me playing. A nice little reign of terror upon a small village when you’re short on time. Probably better to buy the tablet version so you can play on the go.
Born of a jackal, Leigh decided to devote his life to all things horror at a young age. Now that he’s an adult not much has changed. He enjoys Board Games, Tabletop Role Playing Games and Electronic games, has a loving family that have put up with his crippling addictions, and is an ordained priest of the First United Church of Cthulhu. In his spare time he is a facilitator for a bank.
Leigh is also the creator and moderator of the Call of Cthulhu Melbourne Facebook community, where he goes by the madness-inducing pseudonym of “Leigh Carrthulu”. If you love Old Squidface as much as we do, ask Leigh to join the Facebook community. You can also read the interview with Leigh here on Games vs Play.
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All images from the game sourced from The Shrouded Isle press kit.