Jan 212022
My map will never look this good.

Umbra is a solo game designed by Anna Blackwell. You are in charge of a base on a distant planet. Your primary mission is to find a powerful alien relic, but your secondary mission is to just stay alive and avoid losing everything you have ever worked for. All you need is paper, a pencil and a deck of playing cards. It is completely my kind of thing.

First all, this is primarily a map-drawing game. You will sketch your little starting base and using a deck of cards, determine what your planet is like. Then every turn, you will go mining for resources. You draw a card and consult the book. Half the cards are resources and money. Yay! The other half are aliens, traps, natural disasters, formations, treasures and terrible blights. Boo!

In between turns, you spend your resources and build onto your base. You hire marines, cyborgs and hackers. You draw everything you build and you also draw every disaster like when a frozen liquid river obliterates level four of your base.

That’s it, yet it is wonderfully compelling. I have been playing the same base off and on for about a year now. Being a writer, I spend more time writing journal entries than I do drawing a map, but that’s okay. It fills my need to make a base and endure problems and it lets me go at my own pace. Most of all, it gives me room to be creative and that is a treasure in itself.

If alien planets are not your thing, then you are in luck! Umbra has two sibling games. In Delve, you are Dwarves in a fantasy setting mining downwards. In Rise, you are monsters underground working your way up. Be sure to check them out as well.

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