Review: Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas – evil is hidden in the library

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From the outside, it looks like an ordinary library. Building full of shelves, that are aligned from top to bottom with books. But this is all just a coverup. If you know, where to look in the cellars, you can find another, different library. There’s much less of books and casual visitor could think, a tornado ran through here recently. There are strange books cluttered arround in apparent disarray. But it is their position together, which are part of ritual and are the only thing holding lost souls at a safe distance. Out there, where they can not dominate our world.

Players also become such librarians or perhaps guardians, who know mysterious ceremony of . It stands for the seal spell created by duo and under umbrella of company and . Really unique game saw light of the world for the first time in 2008 and fans finally got to see second edition in with subtitle (name suggests an expansion).

Entire content is hidden in the dark box, that looks a bit like a book. Its sealed, but still a howling can be heard. We quietly open it, not to open anything dangerous, because we have no needed training. We will get that only by using a multilingual guide – rulebook. Basis of the whole experience is on the game board, that is folded into four parts and once spread out, its divided into a series of square boxes with several trapdoor. But when you look at it better, you’ll see a pit, which occupies most of the board and its only overlapped by white edged squares.

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At the beginning, players have to select primarily their color and get one piece of acolyte, who is then placed on his starting box on the map. Additionally, everyone receives also a gargoyle, set of plastic books, eight cards of Liber Fidei prayers (shuffle it and lay in front of him) and free event token, all in the selected color. Color set is finished by mentioning complementary cards of lost books positions, which now their owners take and use it to create random layout of books on the map. After that, these cards are not used in the game any further.

Second phase of preparation starts by players, that select one or two bridges (depending on the number of players) in geometric shapes and gradually place them on a common board. These plates create paths for heroes, so they can move over the seemingly bottomless pit. Bridges can be deployed freely and need not to be connected to each other in any way. The goal, however, is that after the completion of setup, all the lost books are not hovering in thin air, but are laying on some tile. As conclusion of setup, each player gets several cards from shuffled deck of spells Incertus Movet in Aere Sospeso. Rest create a common drawing deck.

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In each round, players get a chance to gradually use six action points and divide them between two activities. Less important is chance to replace cards. It costs one action point, which allows discarding two cards and drawing two random new from the deck. Or player can spend two points, discard two cards to get opportunity to search one of the packages (even his Liber Fidei deck) for a specific card.

Main point, however, is the moment, when players want to use these cards. They may have two types in their hand. First one allows change of bridge layout, while second offers various enhancing spells. Card Incertus Movet allows bridge pieces to be moved or rotated. Pictures on the card restrict type of bridge, that can be affected. Each playing card is worth a different number of points and price depends on what exactly the player wants to do and what level of action he chooses. Liber Fidei card price also varies from piece to piece and different are their effects.

But back to movement. This can only be done with pieces, where no acolytes are located. Well, this is not quite true, but shifting tile occupied by standing figure costs one further action point for every apprentice, who is standing on it. Most bridges are conversely wearing books, which does not limit shifting in any way. Even rotation is not as easy as it looks at first glance. Player selects one box before each rotation. This point will act as the center and tile will rotate around it. Players then far more rotating options, than it would seem by saying „rotation“. While turning, bridges even can temporarily overlap each other, while standard shifting is limited by things around and therefore can not jump over other pieces. This makes rotation an amazing action to do.

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Only after applying all six actions, player can take his apprentice’s miniature and move it in any direction. Distance is determined by the number of movement cards, that were played this turn. Characters can move only on bridges and can not jump. At the end of the round, player draws cards so he is holding six again in his hand. By doing this, he may choose deck, to draw from.

Each player has a clearly defined mission: pick up books of his color. He gradually gets one by one and once he picks up a book of his color, he can not lose it anymore. Once someone manages to collect whole set of four lost books in his color, he immediately becomes winner of the game.

Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas is an absolutely unique game. This impression starts from the first point, when you set your eyes on the box and is not spoiled even during setup, reading rules or even gaming. Although it all works out extremely atmospheric, in fact it is rather abstract fight with a focus on spatial perception.

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Although it does not seem like it, this hunt for books is really backstabbing and mean. Players will get a pile of opportunities to tripping opponent’s legs. Moving pieces is not done just for benefit of your acolytes, but at the same time with an idea, how to make the most miserable situation for your rivals.

Location of books is different in every game. Players must then always move their pieces differently and respond to different situations. This makes the game really interesting even after repeated gaming. Pieces have different types and their usage is limited to action cards. And here comes into effect game of luck. However, author thought about this and added a chance to spend more points and select any card from the deck (which then has to be shuffled). So players themselves decide, how much they want to rely on luck.

Entertainment of new box is also increased by the new expansion. Fresh equipment will bring not only new types of bridges and associated cards, but above all a set of miniature and books for black monk. That is name of spirit, that flies around the planet and does not take into account positions of bridges and tries to pick up his dark books distributed throughout the board. Whenever he gains a new book, he gives player a curse and this reduces their number of action points. But the game also has new action cards, that allow players to get rid of some curses.

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Game time is excellent and classic game will take maximum of one hour. Players must strategize and importance of each turn increases with end approaching. Experience then works on all opponent counts, while multi-player experience is more chaotic (you can easily thwart others almost every round), while with two, there is more control over your chances.

But movement over pit is not simple. Rotation and shifting tiles has clear rules, that properly test imagination of players. Six action points are always enough to allow a player to at least move and get somewhere with his hero. Collect enemy book is forbidden, so target spot remains unchanged, only location of the whole bridge moves.

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Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas deserves a lot of bonus points for originality. This game definitely deserves a place in your collection, if you have a weakness for puzzle game with thoughtful theme. Sator is great game, that deserves only praise.

DesignerEnrico Pesce, Federica Rinaldi
ArtistPaolo Vallerga
PublisherHeidelberger Spieleverlag, Ludofy Creative, Post Scriptum, Scribabs
Year Published2015
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 3 players
Recommended with 3, 4 players
(3 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(2 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(2 voters)
CategoryFantasy, Maze, Miniatures, Racing
MechanicAction Points, Grid Movement, Hand Management
FamilyReligious: Monks/Abbots & Monasteries/Abbeys
Primary NameSator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas: Malleus Maleficarum

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas – evil is hidden in the library
Final word
Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas is a totally unique experience, which uses spatial imagination and logical thinking of players. But through it, all opponents interfere with each other significantly. They can really do harm to each other. Game is funny, smart and offers enough options. Additionally, players will find in the box a comprehensive expansion with next level of conflict. Sator offers a nice theme and experience properly hanging over a pit.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
dark theme
smart and abstract
playing time just right
expansion right in the box
pieces of puzzle game
chance to exchange cards
Cons
random cards draw
chaotic with more players
too conflicted for some players
4.5
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