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The Abyss of the Psyche

I first saw images of Waclaw Traier's solitaire PnP game Metempsychosis: Abyss of Horrors on Facebook, and was immediately drawn to their painterly quality. I have written before about how I long for games with non-mainstream, intricate visual presence. In my eyes, the artwork in Traier's game dives into the dark depths of the subconscious, and is therefore a rare treat.

Metempsychosis is, as the title suggests, a game about reincarnation. Your soul will find peace only if you manage to overcome all the trials along the way and complete a full circle. In gameplay terms, this means that you have to play your cards so that they form an octave of letters in alphabetical order, e.g. ABCDEFGA, or, BCDEFGAB, or CDEFGABC etc.

You start the game with a hand of 6 cards. Most of the cards have letters and symbols in the upper left corner, and a cost when you play them: they either deduct from your willpower, or deplete the draw pile, or force you to discard cards from the sequence you are so painstakingly trying to arrange. Among the cards you will also find the Keepers: malevolent guardians who stand in your way and make your life even harder. They can be difficult to get rid of, unless you have a matching symbol in your hand. Metempsychosis is very easy to learn (despite the somewhat wordy rulebook) but very hard to win.

There are 4 helpful cards at your disposal which you can exhaust during the game to gain a one-time benefit, but even that may come at a cost. Almost every turn is agonizing, as each card you play is devouring your resources. You may manage to make a sequence with just the last letter missing, only to see it disintegrate and crumble because that letter doesn't want to show up. The most common way of losing is to have the draw pile run out. In my experience so far, it is important to use the help cards at the right time to prolong the duration of the game and have a chance at success. In my case, I was just prolonging the inevitable. My soul remained trapped forever in these hellish landscapes in the company of grotesque and sinister figures.

Assuming that you win, I'm not sure if there is a way to regularly do so, since you are more or less dependent on the luck of the draw. There are tactical decisions to be made but you are never in full control of the cards. Still, the designer offers a Level 2 difficulty in which your sequence has to have the same letter at the beginning, the middle, and the end (e.g ABCDEFGABCDEFGA). Good luck with that. If you lose, which is more likely, you can reset and retry immediately, and the game is very portable: just a pack of cards. If the art style speaks to you, I would recommend taking the time to closely look at the images. You will find that some of them can be combined to form a whole painting (I located 3 pairs, there may be more).

If the idea of a hard-to-beat card game with high quality artwork appeals to you, I would encourage you to print out the files (it costs 3$ and includes a soundtrack) and see if you can release your soul from the shackles of existence.

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