Verdigris Tales, a game by Joao Geada and Andy Kirschbaum, leads us to the city of Railhead, in a steampunk world where magic and science get together, much in the same vein as the city of New Crobuzon in China Mieville‘s “Perdido Street Station“.
One of the reasons that made me review this game was the little relevance it’s had since its appearance in 2011. Four years later, the number of downloads of the Android version is between 1000 and 5000, and the number of commentaries of the iOS version doesn’t make us hope for a bigger success. The reasons for this are obvious; lack of interest from their makers to promote the product they had made. Except for an article in a local newspaper of the city of Chelmsford, I haven’t been able to find a single commentary or review of this game, and the website of this product is so poor in content that gives by itself an idea of the scant media campaign that has been done for this work. And it’s a pity since, as we’ll see, Verdigris Tales is a gamebook with some very interesting features.
Airships fly over the great cities, mechanical workers known as automatons are a growing source of labor, and the Great War that looms on the horizon will be fought with war walkers and death rays.
That’s how Verdigris Tales gets started, a gamebook where we take the role of the son/daughter (we can select the gender) of a nobleman from the First World and an entrepreneur from the Second World. Thirsty of adventures, we decide to travel to another continent in order to visit other lands. And there we settle in the city of Railhead, where our business as a private investigator gets started. As we can see, the setting is a great city in a Steampunk world, where the great steam machines and the analytical engines get mixed with the world of magic and occult.
There isn’t a story as such, but the description of a setting – the city – tremendously rich and full of nuances. The “story”, in the form of several missions that we’ll keep solving in our work as an investigator, is just an excuse to show all the many aspects of this world. We will find corporate conspiracies, machines that reach self-consciousness, zombies, an underground city and many other small stories, wonderfully narrated. And that is another of the virtues in Verdigris; the prose of Andy Kirschbaum, a writer with other two novels published, is agile and full of irony, capable of describing a complex world in just a few strokes, and make us laugh at the same time with the adventures of our foppish protagonist.
Structurally, this is also an atypical gamebook. We can solve the missions in any order, and move with complete freedom all over the city. And, at the same time, mission after mission, we will discover an overarching plot about the conspiracy of a powerful organization, the New Order, that will only be fully revealed at the end of this adventure.
To sum up, Verdigris Tales is a good story. Or even better, a good heap of stories, that will give us a taste of a rich and complex world that deserves to be explored even more. A game, Verdigris Tales, that deserves much more attention than it’s got.