They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but upcoming tabletop RPG The Slow Knife would add calculating to that idiom, as well. The card-based game spends part of its time weaving a tale of betrayal and woe for an unsuspecting individual who then spends the rest of the game plotting and executing a gradual revenge - even if it costs them everything.
Played by flipping through a deck of cards, The Slow Knife allows two to four players to collaboratively build a comeuppance decades in the making by putting them in the shoes of the wrongdoers as their lives begin to unravel piece by bloody piece. The hero of the story will be working from the shadows to bleed their adversaries dry, and every cut will reveal a betrayal, sin or gross violence perpetrated in the past.
As these details surface, players will mark them on a board (or table, wall, etc.) with a brief note, detail or image. As play continues, these villainous anecdotes will be interwoven into a genuine conspiracy board that shows the true motive that ruined the Knife’s life all those years ago. The game even recommends using red string to connect facts and clues for maximum flavour. Eventually, the Knife will exact their revenge to its bitter conclusion, and the group will decide exactly what toll it takes. Whether the Knife attempts to cobble some new existence from the rubble or lies broken alongside their defeated archenemies.
Mousehole Press, the one-person design outfit behind solo RPGs Artefact, Orbital and Bucket of Bolts, isn’t shy about all of their mechanical inspirations. The Slow Knife’s sequential deck of cards, split across four distinct acts, plays like a combination of Alex Roberts’ For the Queen and Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year. This allows new players and those a little less comfortable with roleplay to learn as the game progresses, first creating characters and then surfacing their complicated interpersonal histories. The conspiracy board is a central component of many RPGs but Evan Rowland’s Noirlandia gets a specific shoutout in the press release as cementing the process by which players will construct a grand web of duplicity.
Thematically, Mousehole Press says The Slow Knife is directly inspired by stories such as The Count of Monte Cristo, which centres a young man wholly transformed by his quest for vengeance and whether the person who emerges from the other side is worth the blood spilled. One of the game’s three themed playsets leans directly into the setting of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel for those who want to tell their own stories set against the French countryside and full of dapper, passionate men sticking thin swords into everyone’s guts.
Two other pre-built settings will be included - the sci-fi Arcadia Prime takes place on an orbital space station home to the elite who can pay to escape the irradiated, toxic landscape earth has become, while the Court of Arandil centres an ostensibly idyllic elven paradise whose underbelly is a barely concealed churn of backstabbing politics and constant scandal. In both cases, the Knife will infiltrate these worlds outside their own to seek a vengeance their prey will never see coming until it’s far too late.
The Slow Knife is currently funding on Kickstarter through March 21st and has already surpassed its funding goal of £8,000. The physical game will contain 52 tarot-sized prompt cards, four cards each for setup and rules reminders and a separate booklet containing all information needed to learn and play. The cards will come stored in a box with illustrations by Rafael Nobre. Backers can secure a digital or physical edition for £10 and £30, respectively. Fulfilment is currently expected to begin in November of this year.