Designed by Jono Naito | Published by Story Machine Games
2-5 Players | 25 Minutes
In Rosetta: The Lost Language, a cooperative game where players take on the roll of experts attempting to understand a written language lost long ago. Another player, the author (lost long to history), works to define meaning to a set of symbols found in a specific location. Over the course of the game, the experts will attempt to translate the symbols, determining the author’s message, in hopes of rediscovering insight into an individual, community or culture lost long ago.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
To begin, one player will take on the roll of the author while the rest are chosen to work cooperatively as language experts.
The author will select a location card and inscription card. The location card will determine the geographic location where the discovery of the symbols were found. Each location card features a unique and often exotic location with a variety of unique artifacts, tools and buildings. The experts will count on the location to provide clues and hints.
One of the 20 inscription cards will be chosen by the author. Each inscription card features a unique set of symbols. The author will then ascribe meaning to the symbols taking into account the location and perhaps the shape of the symbols themselves. For example, the author may select an inscription that looks to possible communicate a weapon and person. The location card may give the impression it was the setting of a great battle. The author might then choose the inscription to mean “Warrior.”
Once the meaning of the inscription is determined, the author writes it on a guess card and it is hidden from the experts. The experts are then presented with the inscription, the location and a series of 9 guess cards where they will attempt to correctly translate the inscription.
On each card (or turn), the experts will make a written guess as to the meaning of the inscription. The author will then respond through symbols to help guide the experts in the right direction. For instance, in our example, the experts might guess “weapon.” The author will then draw the portion of the inscription that represents “weapon”. It will then be up to the experts to determine how that symbol fits into the larger message. Experts will often be way off course with their initial guess. In those cases, the author can mark out the expert’s guess charging them to go in a different direction on their next turn.
As the experts continue to guess, they will eventually run into opportunities to receive additional help. After 3 guesses, the experts will choose an ability card. The ability will allow the author to do one of a variety helpful tasks. For example the ability card might allow the author to describe where in the location image the inscription was found or present 2 categories that do not include the meaning.
After 6 guesses, the experts will be given the meaning of a fragment of the inscription. The experts will then be able to consider this new evidence and hopefully use it to better form their solution.
Players will be given 10 total guesses over the course of the game to determine the inscription’s meaning. If they are unable to figure it out, the inscription and the rich history surrounding its meaning will be lost forever.
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
Rosetta: The Lost Language is a small box game a little larger than a deck of cards. The box features a nice magnetic lip and the construction is solid. The game features 10 location cards, 20 inscription cards, 5 ability card, 10 guess cards and 2 dry erase markers. The location cards each feature a beautiful illustrated scene full of interesting tools, objects, and geography giving you plenty of clues to work with when determining the inscription. Each inscription card displays unique, creative symbols to engage you in the game. The dry erase makers are pretty standard and work well on the guess cards. While the artwork on the box isn’t terribly promising, the games components, specifically the illustrations, are really well done.
I was immediately drawn into the game by the premise. In a weird way, it seems like a reverse game of Dixit. Instead of attributing an illustration to a random meaning, you’re attempting to solve the meaning with a couple illustrations. I was really attracted to the game’s balance of analytical and artistic/abstract thinking. The process of the gameplay gives you the freedom (or placing you at the mercy) of your own mental means to solve the puzzle.
I think it’s important to say this game can be a real challenge. The player taking on the roll of the author must formulate a meaning to the inscription with only an illustration to aid them. The rulebook encourages the author to try to choose something that can easily be determined by the experts. After all, the author and experts are essentially working together – everyone wants the inscription solved.
While the author can’t choose a specific object from the location card (such as a tree or boat), the experts are encouraged to begin guessing those specific things in hopes the author can provide extra insight. For example, the expert might guess “man”, but the author wants the experts to understand it’s about multiple men. So they might take the symbol representing “man” and draw it out multiple times. Of course, it’s then back in the lap of the experts to translate the authors new message.
The game is so abstract that players might be a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the game. You can basically guess anything in the whole world and with each wrong guess, that’s one less opportunity to solve the puzzle.
As the game progresses it does come into focus a bit more. How much it comes into focus really depends on the players involved. While I wouldn’t consider this a game where you’re required to have artistic skill, the majority of players I played with felt otherwise. That seemed to deter a number of participants.
The success of the game really seemed to depend on the players involved. If the author was able to come up with a great clue that tied into the image AND the experts were on the same page, the game was a winner. When I played with players who made the guess too hard or far out there the solution felt miles away and more often than not remained unsolved. In those latter games Rosetta fell flat.
- The abstract thought allows for plenty of replayability
- The games artwork is great
- This is a challenge for the deepest thinkers
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT?
- In certain circumstances the game often felt unsolvable
- Fun factor is really based on the players
I think Rosetta: The Lost Language is a brilliant concept and well executed game… for some people. In some ways, like Dixit, the need for communicating abstract ideas will only appeal to certain audiences. The difficultly of the game can be overwhelming leaving some players shrugging their shoulders. Some people just won’t get it. But for the right audience, this is an exercise in deep thought and challenging deduction where victory has a sweet, satisfying taste. If the concept appeals to you, this is an inexpensive game that provides a good value and unique experience.