The Dance and the Dawn combines two of my favorite things in gaming: roleplaying and chess. By using chess pieces to simulate the movements of an eerie, magical dance, the game uses miniatures in a new way, not to simulate tactical movement, but instead to create a narrative structure.
The premise of the game is that three women (this is a game for three players and a narrator) have come to a mysterious ball in order to court and be courted by several suitors. There are some pairings that will end happily - the woman's desires match the man's ambitions and vice versa. There are others that are just mismatched. There is one suitor who is soulless and the fate of his woman, if any pick him, is horrible.
The group creates the details and tone of the dance together at the beginning - character creation is as simple as completing a few sentences...and then writing a couplet of poetry! By altering the details from being comforting and warm to being terrifying and harsh, the tone of the game can shift from romance to horror. The narrator also has several tools which can address this tone - the Queen of the dance will decide who gains her favor or not by the use of secret criteria, which might include how cruelly the women treat each other or how cleverly they interact with their suitors. The Duke can compel characters to duel and the ladies then reveal who they support in the duel.
The game is well-stocked with examples and the illustrations of the board and proper means for movement are very well done. The game is on square paper, so can be adapted for on-screen use relatively easily (though it does have a lot of blank marginal space.)
The game does have bookmarks, and includes character sheets, a chessboard and paper chesspieces if you are a plebian fool who owns no chess set of your own.
All in all, this is a phenomenal game and well worth not just a look, but a playthrough or two.
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