Scholars still argue over the identity of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets ~ the woman who held him in agonised thrall while also conducting an affair with the Fair Youth. In Black Sonata you’re in Shakespeare’s London, in pursuit of the Dark Lady: see DarkLadypedia.

Why Black Sonata?
Well, having themed the game around Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, John Kean sought a name that would evoke a shadowy pursuit. In the sonnets, Shakespeare repeatedly refers to the Lady as black (both in colouring and deeds): but “Black Sonnet” didn’t seem to sound right. Black Sonata did, especially since in Shakespeare’s time ‘sonata’ could refer to any instrumental music: music that was “sounded” rather than “sung”. Also, sonata and sonnet share the same word origin.

The manner in which the lady’s movements through the city are brought about is amazing – “how did he do it?” (John Kean, that is.) There’s a deck of small cards that have to be sorted into a specified order (all clearly shown in the manual), and these determine her hidden movements from place to place. There are only eleven places she goes to, but the nearly thirty different card-orders, and the fact that there’s always at least one deck-cut means that the chances of her route from start to finish ever being the same twice is minute.

This clever pre-game management of the cards and the order in which the Lady visits different locations takes the place of luck.

The solo player must deduce her location as she moves around town: trying to be in the right place to catch a glimpse, and gain a clue to her identity ~ is she in Cripplegate now, or Blackfriars? Several clues will be needed to work out who she is, and the extent to which you’re lucky enough to get clues that tumble together varies from game to game. Sometimes you might want to take a guess: go for pot luck.

Annoyingly, with each clue gained the Dark Lady runs away ~ and she runs further each time each time you gain a clue!

There are times when you are certain that you know where she is. Then she takes a path that leads back to uncertainty.
What a woman! 😁

Black Sonata clue cards

Can you identify her characteristics and reveal her identity, thereby solving one of literature’s greatest mysteries?
Or will the Dark Lady elude you too?

In a nutshell …

  • takes a few minutes to set up the cards each time
  • do the easy game first, to get used to it – essential
  • the guide makes all pretty clear
    (a good quick summary at its rear)
  • deduction, puzzle solving is paramount
  • minimal luck involved, but it sometimes doesn’t seem that way
  • definitely replayable … quietly exciting
  • having someone nearby to help you is permitted but …..
  • swearing at the Lady is forbidden
  • you don’t take a card at your starting location …. except, perhaps, in very easy mode