‘The Broken Cask’ Review: A Cozy Solitary Role Playing Game Made for Our Time

Cozy gaming is becoming more and more popular these days. In the middle of a global health crisis, people are looking for comfort anywhere it can be found. One of those places is in immersive role playing games (RPGs) that allow for escapism and enjoyment. Most RPGs involve groups of players, The Broken Cask is designed for solitary gameplay.

Inns themselves are fixtures in the world of RPGs. Author Derek A. Kamal stated on the game’s Kickstarter page that although there are already many games involving the managing of medieval-themed inns, he never found one with the right “vibe”. Thus, The Broken Cask was born. Solitary RPGs are rare, and so this was a unique challenge to present a game specifically designed to be played solo. Rather than focusing on action and adventure, The Broken Cask is meant to be calm in spite of the game’s fantasy elements. 

The premise of The Broken Cask is simple enough. The player role plays as an innkeeper and focuses on its operation. All that is needed to play the game is a pencil, paper, and at least one six-sided die. The player begins by setting up the world itself, and setting the context for the world in which the inn is situated. The focus, however, is not on the outside fantasy world. Details like the specific location of the inn as well as what type of inn it is and what clientele it services are all important aspects of setting the scene. Players can also develop a signature menu, entertainment and unique amenities. The player then develops their innkeeper persona, including the character’s backstory, appearance and other details.

There is a very clear description in the gamebook of what The Broken Cask is not. It is not a tycoon based game, and the focus is limited to the inn itself. It is decidedly non-competitive, and gaining stats is not the objective. It is not about developing new powers or skills. Instead, it is meant to be relaxing and cozy. There is even a stipulation that if copious note-keeping is a stressful experience, the player can forego this action. There is no book or leger keeping to distract players from the comfort this game is meant to inspire.

To play the game itself relies entirely upon the player’s imagination, and the possibilities built into the game are nearly limitless. The focus can be on hiring and training new staff, expanding the inn, or dealing with unscrupulous inn patrons. Each action is preceded by a roll of the die, and the game book very comprehensively details the mechanics of each action, and is understandable even to the first-time RPGer. Even though it is a solo game, the player can interact with many other characters depending on where their individual story takes them.

The real strength of The Broken Cask is in its potential expansiveness, and encouragement of creativity. The game may inspire an epic tale that takes on a life of its own. Players may be inspired to codify it as a series that they return to again and again. There’s also the potential that It could lead to players developing their own off-shoot story, based on the elements of this game. Finally, it could simply be a series of enthralling one-shot stories players pick up when they need a break, and need an escapist fantasy with low stakes but an engaging storyline that aids in relaxation.

Playing The Broken Cask is indeed a very cozy and comforting experience. It’s perfect for those looking for a stress and drama free role playing experience, and those that are less confident in playing a high stakes role playing game as part of a group. It’s perfect for all gaming levels from absolute beginners to experienced RPGer’s looking for a change of pace.

The Broken Cask is available now.


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