The Sealed Library (2020)

Matt Sanders’ The Sealed Library (2020) is a very brief solo game for Chris Bissette’s The Wretched rules. I am not familiar with those, but if this zine is any indication, they’re lightweight and excel at presenting weighty topics in a thoughtful way.

The concept is straightforward. You’re a librarian in the greatest library ever known. The city is under siege. Everyone but you is dead. You have a barricade (represented by a Jenga tower) protecting you from the invaders . You need to save as much of the accumulated knowledge as you can before the barricade fails, or you starve to death. Lighthearted!

Play is a combination of journaling and drawing cards, then resolving the corresponding actions. Befitting a game bearing the logo “Wretched & Alone,” it is pretty agonizing. Progress on moving books to the vault is slow. Constant distractions divert your attention and waste your time. There is very little indication that you have any hope of success. You do! There is a single potential path to a victory. You can even survive, maybe. But that isn’t really the point. Rather, the player is meant to ponder the idea of preserving knowledge in the face of its destruction, the meaning of it all and their place in all of this, among other similar existential questions.

A thoughtful, if unrelentingly heavy, experience.

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