*NOTE* This post will not include any spoilers for the Black Letter Game, just vague descriptions of situations for the purpose of analysis and storytelling.
Last Wednesday, we heard a knock at the door downstairs. We don’t get unexpected visitors, so we’re always a little wary of who it might be. Luckily we have a window that looks down over the sidewalk, so we can check out the situation. This time, we saw the mailman walking back towards his truck. I looked at Nick in a flash of realization. “The box!” I shouted, and quickly ran downstairs.
A few weeks ago we had gone in 50/50 with a friend for a subscription to the Black Letter Game, a type of puzzle game which mails five “artifacts” to you over the course of five months. The concept sounded so mysterious and wonderful and tapped into the realm of real-world puzzles and mysteries which I adore so much.
We had no idea what to expect, and that was half the fun. I opened the door and saw this little box, maybe 1 foot cubed, sitting on the front step.
I grabbed my camera and documented everything before asking Nick to bring it inside. I shut the door behind me, and he asked me to guess how heavy the box was. I had been imagining something wooden and metal every time I heard the phrase “artifact”, and the box appeared to be weighing on Nick’s arms. “Super heavy?!” I guessed excitedly. Nick handed the box over to me.
It weighed about as much as a 1 foot cubed cardboard box. “Super light!” I corrected myself, laughing. Baffled, we inspected the box for more information. Just two stamps, one that said “BLACK LETTER LABS”, and another instructing us not to open the box until March 02. I turned the box over and heard the sound of a piece of paper fluttering around inside. Suddenly, Friday felt like an eternity away.
But Friday did eventually arrive. The game was scheduled to “start” at 3:00pm EST. 3:00 came and went, and nothing happened. Were they just running late? Did we miss something? Later that day, we were told we should already have had everything we needed to begin. Uh-oh. The game was already testing our resourcefulness.
Once we received that instruction, we flew excitedly through the process of “getting started” (I can’t say much more than that), finding all sorts of curious clues, some of which were highly entertaining. And finally, we were ready to play the game for reals.
The box was open, its contents documented and relayed to our teammate, and we found ourselves confronted with five puzzles to solve. Our strange little artifact… On the one hand, it seemed like we could glean an infinite number of puzzles from the data it presented. On the other hand, how could we possibly extract five whole, logical answers from so much hot nonsense?
Delightfully, we found ourselves solving our first puzzle relatively early on. We discovered a pattern, did some research, and made the connections. The answer was clear, and we were right. It felt great.
Our next two puzzles were similarly elegant. Once we figured out what the artifact was encouraging us to do, things became simple and clear. There was never any question whether what we were doing was right. How do you know when you’re in love? You’ll know. How do you know when you’re on the right track in a Black Letter Game puzzle? You’ll know.
The elegance of these puzzles really demonstrate the abilities of the designers and their respect for players. The FAQ expresses the creators’ distaste for red herrings and their efforts to make sure their puzzles had as few as possible. Compare this to last year’s Post Hunt where we were literally handed a bag full of red herrings (ultimately useless items). Between that and the Final Six at The Stone, it feels so good to work on some well-designed puzzles for a change.
That being said, these puzzles aren’t easy. In fact, my team is stuck at 3/5. Day 1, we were on fire. Day 2-3, we managed to eliminate some extraneous pieces and confirm one suspicion. We feel so close on one puzzle, but at the same time we feel so far away from the right path. We’re missing something. The game has taught us that the answers will make sense, that we’ll know it when we see it. And we just don’t see it.
But each day brings a fresh perspective. Each night, our brains wash over the data of the day and form new connections. This game has rather put us in our place as far as our assessment of our own puzzle-solving abilities, but we’re having a lot of fun. And it’s lovely having something to look forward to each month for the next four months!
Although the game has already started, it’s not too late to join in! Go sign up and join us for this fun journey!