I don't know if I know how to explain this, but I must try.
You are buying a game. The game is disguised as a particular sort of regionally produced archaeology journal which I used to see for sale in state parks when I was a youth.
In this solo game you are creating the results of an excavation of a cave mouth which has been a frequently used campsite for a thousand or more years. You do this backwards, building up history from the bedrock up.
You will roll a die and add dirt, building the cave floor upwards over time. At some points there will be archaeological finds 'uncovered'; you will operate a flowchart to learn about that find and how it came to be there. I am very proud of these flowcharts–some of them are, maybe, the best art I've ever made.
What are you actually buying?
• A soft-cover, digest-sized game booklet with 72 black and white pages. There's a flip through video in the thumbnails at the bottom of this page
• Digital PDFs of the rulebook and two varieties of play sheet.
So what do you need to play?
* The game rules, of course
* a play sheet
* a six-sided die
* a pencil or pen
* a blue ballpoint pen (optional, really)
* 2-3 hours to spare, maybe more depending on how you play games
So what do you do?
* Roll a die to add layers to your strata chart, bottom to top
*Navigate flowcharts using that six-sided die
* Draw in the strata layers and the archaeological finds buried within
Drawing? Do I need to be an artist?
• Absolutely not.
Just to be clear: Is this a journaling game?
• Not in the 'write a page of text' sense. In fact, you'll write no words at all unless you count the signature you add at the end. You DO accrete and record information over time, but it is the form of the strata chart.
What do you feel?
• Each flowchart is a snapshot of something that happened in the past. These might feel purely utilitarian, frustrating, charming, melancholy, wistful...
Are there tricks?
• Yes. There is a layer of metatextuality on top of this that sweetens the game experience I think. It isn't vital to the play of the game.
Is it replayable?
• I think so! I'd guess there are at least three good plays in it. The random progression will give a reasonably different experience each time.
Do I have to do anything extreme?
• No? You don't have to mark in the book if you don't want to. You aren't expected to go out into the woods and hide your finished work in a hollow tree. I guess you can if you want to, though.
Is there really an Old Morris Cave?
• No, the cave is fictitious though some of the material in the game is true. There really is a Mammoth Cave State Park and the land the cave is imagined to be on really was once owned by a man named Valentine Simons. There is such a thing as processual archaeology and I did (mostly by accident) engage with it in a way that one of my reviewers thought interesting.
There are things in game that are real in other ways.