Review: i'm sorry did you say street magic?
Updated: Nov 14
It has been a little while since I've reviewed a game I've enjoyed playing, and when I thought about which one I'd want to review next this was my FIRST choice.
To understand exactly what you'll get from Caro Asercion's i'm sorry did you say street magic, check out it's synopsis:
"An archipelago-based fishing town, separated by its various islands, gathers annually to celebrate the turn of the harvest.
A collective of magical artists embarks on an ambitious project: a guerrilla public transit system powered by enchanted street art.
In a sprawling metropolis decades from now, breakthroughs in biotechnology offer citizens superpowers far beyond mortal ability.
This city that we call home has a magic all its own. It is wonder, and joy, and spirit — and with that spirit, we breathe life into our city together."
Honestly as soon as I saw that art and read the synopsis I knew this would be a game that I would get on with! It has a really beautiful premise, and I am a huge fan of anything that I can play that will also serve as a world-building tool. The whole vibe of it is incredibly relaxed and really lends itself to almost any theme, mood, or context that you. want to play within. Are you wanting to immerse yourself in a gritty, cyberpunk setting? Or something more eerie and tranquil, filled with mist? Whether it's dark fantasy you're after, or historical realism, this game can offer you the chance to get lost for a while! The premise is exciting, but low-stakes, and I loved that! Also, if you love the art as much as I do then check out Shannon Kao's work!
CONCEPT: So let's deep-dive a little into the concept shall we? The blurb sums up the mood and imaginative scope of the game perfectly - a city-building game that takes it's players on a journey through the streets and allows them to collaborate and imagine something unique to their experience! There's a little bit of everything to be found in the rules - mechanical structure, collaboration, role-playing, and imagination! Not only that, but it achieves these things in a very calm, pressure-free way. I would definitely advise listening to some very chilled out music while playing - I'll link a Spotify playlist that was recommended to me purely for this game!
SET-UP: This game comfortably accommodates two to six players and is designed to be played in single sessions, though of course as with most things it can be played over multiple sessions! As I said, the game is very versatile! It requires a few things for set up - writing tools, index cards, and a flat playing area. It does not require any kind of dice or cards to play! If you wanted to play digitally rather than physically then may I humbly suggest Kurt Refling's digital template? It beautifully lays out the structure of the game and provides a handy reference to the basic rules! We did have to keep going back to the rulebook to check up on each stage of the round, but ultimately we found that everything was explained clearly and easy to follow. To start with, the players collaboratively decide on the general vibe and theme of the city to ensure that they are on the same page, and tools are provided to aid in this. Then every round a different player declares a COMPASS which acts as the guiding theme for the round. I shall describe in more detail below what a round looks like.
To begin, we SET THE TONE and decided that the city would be lush, dynamic, and have elements of neon within it. Inspired by these words, we really enjoyed 'Solarpunk' as an overriding feel for the city! We could choose the kinds of residents we might find there and make sure that we were on the same page before we began the game. The NAME of the city is something that does not need to be rushed but should be chosen before the game ends. A turn order was then chosen, as well as the COMPASS for the round. The player going first decided that this would be 'culture'. We were then ready to start!
GAMEPLAY: After deciding upon the round's COMPASS, each player creates a new portion of the city following that theme! To begin, the first player creates a NEIGHBOURHOOD that speaks to the round's COMPASS. The next player can then choose to create another NEIGHBOURHOOD, or a LANDMARK in the one that has just been created. If a LANDMARK exists, the next player may want to choose a RESIDENT to inhabit this portion of the city, or they may want to create a new NEIGHBOURHOOD or LANDMARK. After everyone has had a go, the player that decided the COMPASS for that round will then decide upon an event for the round. Each player then chooses a perspective and voices how this event has created change within the city.
The first player created our first NEIGHBOURHOOD known as Waterside - a geo-thermal hot springs which was the cultural hub of the city as well as the source of the energy that powers it. The next player could then chose to delve deeper into Waterside with a LANDMARK. After creating the LANDMARK Dawnlight Bathhouse, it was my turn. I made an eccentric, cranky RESIDENT for that LANDMARK, whom I named Auntie. After each player added a new section to the city, we then decided to go round again in order to flesh things out a little more before deciding upon an EVENT. The first player decided that in one of our NEIGHBOURHOODS known as Bottlebank, one of the restaurant LANDMARKS called Stained Glass Noodles was celebrating an important anniversary. It attracted a lot of attention to the area, but resulted in some resentment from workers there who felt that their quiet little lunch spot was now too popular and crowded. After each round, players were invited to have a small break and check in with each other before continuing.
This order of play is repeated until players wish to stop or take a break. After a few hours of gameplay, players should have a very well fleshed out city that they can imagine themselves exploring or slot into their next project!
CONCLUSION: I adored this game, and in particular I was impressed by its versatility! Aside from using the framework above for collaborative world-building, there is an additional rule that allows players to act out and describe a scene that focuses on a particular RESIDENT or LANDMARK. While the rules don't specifically state or encourage this, I can also imagine this game to be a very relaxing solo experience, allowing a player to really take the time to flesh out a town or city that they want to get to grips with.
So you want to dive into this game now, right? Well you can find i'm sorry did you say street magic on Caro Asercion's itch.io page alongside a bunch of their other gorgeous looking games! These include The Long Shift (set at an interstellar truck stop), Squeakeasy (in which rodents are also rum runners), and Dwindle (a cyberpunk experience). You can also find them on their Twitter page! They also have a sister game to i'm sorry did you say street magic which is called there are names here more powerful than our own and I am so excited to get my hands on it and give it a go!
Would you ever want to play i'm sorry did you say street magic? Let me know!