Can you guess how the shattered pieces of a timeline lead to the extinguishing of a life?
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
Designer: Michael Palm, Lukas Zach
Artist: Lea Frohlich, Lisa Lenz
Game Type: Adventure, Storytelling, Cooperative, Murder Mystery
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 10+
Expected Playtime: 45-120
Number of Players: 2-6
Theme and What is it?
You are a fate weaver. You have the power, along with your allied fate weavers, to step through time and make small changes. This gives you the opportunity to change things that have happened.
In the Cherry Blossom Festival, an elderly Japanese man is dead. There are a few clues at the present moment. There is a shattered wineglass. You can see a photo of a young woman in a wheelchair. His phone is ringing to the tune of “Moonlight Sonata”. There are no visible injuries except a faint scar above his eye.
As you journey back in time you will be immersed in the events of his timeline. Make that timeline better with your influence! Can you use the clues to make good decisions soon enough? Or will you actually make things worse and ensure he dies.
The undo games have a very simple gameplay style. As a fate weaver, you get the opportunity to step into the past and make small modifications to the timeline. If you can unravel the complex weavings that lead to the fatal ending, you can make the decisions necessary to nudge fate in a better direction.
Players get to make 9 jumps in time to learn more about the story and influence fate. In an ideal world, the players would choose parts of the timeline that give good hints as to why the death occurred right away and have decisions that don’t make much impact. Then they would last visit the critical turning points to make an informed decision.
Alas for the ideal world. At setup, there is no way to know where the critical information and critical hints are hiding. Players will have to try to make the best decisions they can early and hope they get an opportunity to undo their own damage later if they guess incorrectly about what matters.
I was really excited to try these games. I grouped them with the Exit and Unlock series of puzzle solving games. You should know that these are not the same category of puzzles. They are not brain benders where you attempt to find out what information relates and how to use it.
Instead, the Undo games present an emotional puzzle. How do these people interact? What have they done to hurt each other so badly? Can you guess how the shattered pieces of a timeline lead to the extinguishing of a life?
Game Build Quality
Undo Cherry Blossom Festival has a simple set of components. There is a small deck and a large deck. The large deck tells you how to setup and how to play the game in the first few cards. It will tell you how to lay out the timeline cards and how to use your resource cards to track what you are doing during the play.
The components are simple but of great construction. There is actually a wonderful elegance to a game that has no fiddly components and can fit in a reasonably small box.
While there are much more words than there are images in Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival, the art that does exist has an elegance. The Japanese style lanterns and fish on each timeline card is wonderful. The box art captures the opening scene description wonderfully. And the edge of the box side art matches the others in the series perfectly to make a cohesive tableau on the shelf.
The Undo series is all about the story. It has a serious “choose your own adventure” feel to the decisions. Each time the fate weavers jump around in the timeline, they learn more critical information and make an A, B, or C decision and then reveal how their choice has nudged fate. The fun of the game is predicting what is going on and sometimes even jumping to outlandish and wild speculations then finding out how right or wrong you were later.
Age Range & Weight
The thematic elements of the Undo games could be questionable for a younger audience. They revolve around a death and some potentially depressing plot points that have brought things to that point. They are in no way creepy or morbid. But revolving around a death that you might ultimately not be able to stop can be a… uhum… killer. I think they have done well rating it as a 10+.
Overall the complexity of an Undo game is quite low. The game teaches itself right out of the box and only takes as long as your group needs to read 9 cards outloud to everyone and make a joint decision.
Undo: Cherry Blossom is at its core a one time play game. You play the storyline once and see how it went. If you were not able to make the fate better, you could always shelf the game and try again when the story isn’t fresh in your mind. But more likely, you will read the wrap up and see how everything pieced together and which decisions were most influential in nudging things towards a good outcome.
The Undo games can be completely reset. This means any number of people can enjoy the same game. Pass it around to your friends, trade or sell it, or keep it long enough that you forget what you knew and can play with a different group much later on.
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