Sanguine Masquerade succeeds in delivering a memorable and delightfully horrifying solo experience.
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Imagine a world where the darkest reflections of human nature and desire flow in excess, where gods demand deliberate and violent sacrifice to the soundtrack of orchestral strings. Grab your mask, and embark on a quest to steal four relics during the city’s most dangerous celebration: Sanguine Masquerade
“Whatever this place is, it was built on bodies.”
Sanguine Masquerade is a solo journaling RPG by kay w. that follows players through the twisted corridors of an ominous party. You can find it on Itch.io for $7.00. The layout is stunning and flavor oozes from prompt to prompt. This game is for anyone drawn to the worlds and moods of Crimson Peak, Penny Dreadful, Dracula, and other gothic horror tales.
Do note, Sanguine Masquerade is full of subject matter that may be difficult for some readers. The content warnings include gore, body horror, violence, paranoia, and ritualistic self-harm.
Rolling out the Sanguine Carpet
Like most games I come across these days, I discovered Sanguine Masquerade on Twitter. The layout previews and character creation system were immediately intriguing – more on that later. The setting is mysterious, allowing the player to build in elements, and the mechanics are simple to understand, making the game easy to set up. It uses the fabulous Carta system by Peach Garden Games.
“Her mask shifts between the likeness of fangs and fire.”
To play, you’ll simply need:
- Deck of cards, jokers removed
- Marker token
After creating a character, you’ll shuffle the cards and create a grid. The grid represents the different locations of the mansion you’re exploring. Some contain treasure and secrets, others contain torture and distractions. Using your guile, you’ll move throughout the mansion. If you run out of guile before acquiring four relics, your heist comes to an overwhelming end.
To set the scene, I played When Darkness Spoke (Dark Classical) by Peter Gundry on repeat. It captures the troubling air of the game easily, conjuring visions of delicate steps as one sneaks through the forbidden lavish halls. To take my experience a step further, I burned Delve Candles’ Threads of Fate scent.
The Heist… or Playing the Game
I think one of my favorite parts of this game is character creation. Players first choose a special ability that allows for some sort of mechanical advantage before diving into visual characteristics. In addition to a fantastic list of thought starters, there’s a word search, and a belief flow chart, adding a mystical texture.
Playing the game is simple. You spend guile to move your token from card to card, exploring rooms and encountering the entities, objects, and events. Finding a relic – your goal – isn’t enough. In order to leave the party with it, you have to pass a test. When I played, I managed to snag three relics before escaping. I failed at acquiring two, which added drama and interest to the narrative.
“Blood spills down his mouth, staining his neck and collar. In his hands he carries a tongue.”
A Note on Layout
This is a gorgeous and attractive PDF, but I did run into a couple of navigation issues. When I had a question about the rules, I had to flip back through the character creation pages to find what I needed. The PDF doesn’t have bookmarks, so navigating it on the fly on my iPad was a bit clunky. On that note, there is not a printer friendly version or single-page viewing option. Most of the important pages are primarily white, so printing in grayscale wouldn’t be too difficult.
Closing out the Evening
Sanguine Masquerade is a tangled web of danger and aesthetic. I deeply enjoyed donning my mask and meeting the people waiting within. No matter what motivates you to visit the masquerade, it’s sure to leave a lasting mark.
Review at a Glance
|Content||With 52 prompts, a unique character creation system, and ambience spread throughout 11 pages, this masquerade is easily worth the entry fee.|
|Rules difficulty||Simple and easy to understand. You only have to track two things, guile and relics.|
|Accessibility||The PDF cannot be searched and the text cannot be selected or copy and pasted. It may prove difficult for screen readers.|
|Time commitment||I think you’re looking at an hour at least. Depending on how much you explore the prompts, you play longer. My playthrough lasted a little over three hours. It’s a one-session game.|
|Price||A fair $7.|
|Final thoughts||If you enjoy horror and solo journaling RPGs, check out this game!|