Black Letter Game – Second Artifact

Some activity in the comments indicated that it might be worth writing another BLG post to help players connect and feel some camaraderie in the collective solving of the second artifact.  As always, I’ll do my best to stay far away from spoilers and speak only in the most vague of terms.  Non-BLG players, this post might be a little boring!

At the time of writing this, team Clavis Cryptica is in 57th place for Artifact #2, with 100 points.  It took us 6 days and 00 hours to complete.  I’ll try to tell our story here, and maybe my ramblings will help those of you who are struggling.

We’re a team of three, my husband and I plus our friend “Claustrum”.  Claustrum lives in another city, so we’ve been working together via speakerphone.  It was his turn to get the artifact, so on Friday night we set up the call and he opened the package, describing its contents as we entered the code online and saw the digital version ourselves.

It was obvious from the moment he described the packaging that Artifact #2 would be pretty similar to #1.  A little disappointing at first (maybe very disappointing/underwhelming for some teams), but completely understandable given the constraints of the game.  If this pattern continues, which it probably will, it will still be fun to see all the different creative ways they choose to execute the idea, and the nature of Artifact #2 was still a pleasant surprise.  According to Claustrum’s description, the artifact, like the one before it, looked quite authentic, a detail which certainly makes the game more compelling.

It’s funny to think back on my approach when we first started looking at the new artifact.  You’d think it would be best to give the whole thing a nice once-over, and scan each part of the puzzle somewhat carefully.  Instead, I seemed to zero in on one element pretty much immediately and neglect the rest.  While I was trying to work some (unnecessary) Photoshop magic, my other two teammates worked together to focus on another area.

Finally, after a while, I managed to look over the darn thing long enough to notice one familiar detail.  And then another.  I got that feeling in my stomach that you get when you’re pretty sure you’re on the right track and everything is about to reveal itself.  It was so obvious, and had been staring me in the face the whole time!  And it was fun and exciting and relevant to my interests!  No puzzles solved yet, but Artifact #2 was off to a good start!

From there, we managed to make it to step 2 on the section I had been working on, but couldn’t make any more progress so I moved on to a different section.  The path wasn’t clear at first, but a little creative thinking and research within the context of the artifact helped me find the way.  It also took some time to connect the two parts, but once I did I was rewarded with our first answer.  That one seemed a little too easy since it didn’t involve beating our heads against our desks.

While I was working on that puzzle, the method and application for the section my other two teammates were working on revealed itself.  There was a scary/funny moment when we actually almost threw out an answer, thinking it was just nonsense.  Luckily, Nick thought it was too clean, too nice-looking to be just random, so he worked it out a little bit and got a very clever answer, which was correct.

Something was off about the response we got, but we didn’t notice it until we followed another lead and got a similar response.  I really can’t say much more about this process without spoiling, but I though this was one of the highlights of the artifact.  It was a great way to use the theme of the artifact to add value and depth to the puzzles.

At this point, we got totally stuck.  It was another situation, like in Artifact #1, where there just seemed to be so much data and so many different ways to interpret that data.  And again like last time, it was Claustrum’s lead that eventually got us on the right track.  (To those struggling, don’t be shy with your guesses, try to eliminate possibilities and find patterns between the ones that check out.  And follow the instructions.)  Actually, I didn’t play much of a role in this puzzle at all.  It was my husband who picked up that lead and harassed it until it miraculously produced answers.  I was pretty skeptical all the way up until we got the confirmation response back.  What was clear, however, was that we had to have missed some huge chunks of this puzzle.  Our method had been so not elegant, and weird elements seemed to match up while others didn’t, totally inconsistent.  Then, almost like magic, we received an unusual e-mail that relieved us of wondering how we had gone so wrong.  From that e-mail, I can tell you that it was a fine puzzle, we just didn’t manage to see the big picture.

We got quite stuck again on our last puzzle.  I think the answer-readers got a little tired of our many guesses!  I also really dropped the communication ball here, as Claustrum was sending me ideas and hunches that I was both failing to respond to and failing to send on to Nick.  We had essentially worked out the method of the puzzle without realizing it or making the connections at least a few days before we solved it.  Tabstop recommended we “Do things first, rationalize them later,” which didn’t really help at the time but makes perfect sense in hindsight, and is basically what I ended up doing.  Staring at it while on the phone, my eyes suddenly saw it.  That feeling in the pit of your stomach again when you know it’s right.  It’s funny when you do all these complicated things trying to work it out, and you think it must be some complicated method you’re just not familiar with, and in the end it really couldn’t be more simple.

And then we were done!  We still had one element left that was unaccounted for, kind of frustrating.  In general, though, I felt like the puzzles were good and elegant.  And although the data-overload one seemed like it was going to be a repeat of you-know-which Artifact #1 puzzle, I think it turned out that we were just no being very elegant solvers in that case.  I did have one beef with the puzzle element I was most excited about, because if you weren’t already familiar it kind of required you to spoil yourself on something really great.  Not cool, puzzle!

Other than that, overall I’d say it was a very successful artifact with an interesting twist!  I also got to learn a lot about a subject I’m not really familiar with.  I can’t really say whether I liked Artifact #1 or #2 better, I think they were both entertaining in their own ways.

I apologize if this post was totally boring, maybe even boring to the people playing BLG since it was so vague!  We’re definitely looking forward to #3 and might even schedule an all-day get-together to solve more efficiently!

How are all of you out there doing?  Are you feeling stumped?  I can give you some hope in the knowledge that there is sort of a watershed moment in this artifact where you get to figure out a number of things all at once!

 

9 comments on Black Letter Game – Second Artifact

  • Jeremy

    I’m still stumped on a good half of the Artifact, but I’m sure I’m not even close to exhausting all the weird things to try….

  • tabstop

    I’m pretty sure we solved the same artifact, but I don’t recognize/understand half of what you’re talking about! I think we may have just had quite different solving paths (I had the back done quite quickly — ninety minutes to two hours, or so — admittedly there’s one part that I “knew” was right and didn’t bother figuring out if/where it was clued on the card — I suspect that that was the unusual e-mail that I don’t think I got.)

    I had considered writing a live-ish blog (obviously spoiler ridden and therefore unpublishable) but I got carried away with just solving and didn’t do it. I might do a retrospective, although publishing is still a sticky issue.

    As to the advice, that’s the one question-and-answer that always falls the flattest when I’m trying to explain puzzles to people: “How did you know to do that?” “I didn’t, until I got the answer and realized that it fit the flavortext/realized what the clue was/whatever.” In this case, I knew I needed to [verb] a [noun], but I didn’t know what the [noun] was supposed to be, so I just [verb]ed everything until something made sense as an answer (and then that told me what the [noun] ended up being).

    • clavicarius (author)

      Apparently, my write-up was so vague that even my husband had trouble following most of it, and he was there!

      We’re amazed at all the teams who can solve so quickly, I do recall seeing you at 60 and 80 points pretty early on!

      Maybe instead of publishing a live blog, you could submit it to the Black Letter Labs as feedback? Then at least someone would see it =) Or maybe you could publish it password-protected, and the password is something only people who solved would know? (maybe the first letters of each answer?)

      Hahaha, puzzle mad-libs! I haven’t had the opportunity to explain the game to anyone really, but I imagine it would be difficult. I wonder if one’s relative familiarity with different types of puzzles enhances their ability to sort of sense or infer what needs to be done? I’m at least hoping that the more puzzles I do, the better I will get at them!

  • Jude

    I definitely felt like I over-thought a lot of the artifact. And when I finally got it, I felt a little silly. I was proud of myself for solving the signature quickly though 🙂

    Familiarity with different types of puzzles definitely makes a difference. You just have more tools in your toolbox. I show these artifacts to intelligent friends who like challenges and they just look at me quizzically. It takes awhile to figure out how to even start. We forget how far we’ve come sometimes 🙂

    As for your write-up, I agree. Your obfuscation worked and trust me, I was even looking for clues #confession.

    • clavicarius (author)

      Signature was what took us the longest! We felt EXTREMELY silly after, haha. I have a little checklist for things to try when I’m stuck on a puzzle, I definitely need to add “Keep it simple, stupid!” to the list!

      I like the idea of tools in the toolbox! =) Right now I feel like I really like puzzles, but I’m not very good at them. I might not ever necessarily become “good” at them, but I can certainly be more exposed to/aware of different kinds than I was before (and maybe that’s all being “good” really entails).

  • Scott

    For some reason this artifact has frustrated me to no end. I have one section solved, and feel totally out of touch with the rest. I even got a “we are concerned about you approach” response… LOL. And FYI… sending an answer consisting of “selective” language does get you a “We know how you feel and are sorry”!

  • Welk

    “When” took me forever and I didn’t like how it was constructed. I can’t even count the number of wrong paths I took, and eventually I just gave up and waited for their hints. Even after solving it, the transformation from the “… ….” to the “…” seemed too much of a leap for me. Or maybe it’s because I’m unfamiliar with the subject matter….

    • O.P.

      We were in the exact same situation – and of course, the hints had absolutely nothing to say about that transformation step until the final, most explicit hint. “When” was the weak link in the first artifact too. I hope it’s not a pattern.

    • clavicarius (author)

      That was actually the one we managed to solve first, and we got there in a pretty straightforward manner. Although, we never used the left half of that puzzle element (and still don’t know what it means), so I’m not sure if we actually solved it as intended. I’m not even really sure what you both mean by “transformation”! Sounds like we had very different solving experiences here, which is interesting!

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