Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Jack, your body

Over the last few days (or nights) Andrew, Ian and I have been exploring the delights - I use the word hesitantly - of Letters From Whitechapel, a deduction game where one player plays Jack the Ripper and his opponents - it's a two-player really, but you can have up to five opponents - play the detectives on his trail.

Unlike the similarly bleak Mr Jack, Jack's job is not simply to escape, but to actually commit five murders over four nights; the nights making up the rounds of the game. Having done so he has to successfully return to his secret hideout (chosen by the player) to end the round.

And the detectives' task isn't to work out who Jack is, but where he is. The large board is a map of Whitechapel, dotted with numbers for Jack to move around on, and a separate grid of black squares for the detectives. After committing a murder the detectives know Jack's current position - there's a dead body - but they don't know where he's off to. Jack has a basic move of one number to an adjacent number, but he also has a couple of special moves - carriages to take him faster, or alleyways to sneak through a 'block' of buildings.

The detectives have no such special abilities but they do outnumber Jack five to one. Now aware of where the murder took place (there is some preamble at the start of each round where Jack and Detectives place both potential victims/detectives and red herrings) the detectives start moving in and looking for clues. If they find a trace of Jack he plonks a marker on the board, and the detectives get an idea of the direction he's going and where his hideout is - and instead of searching for clues they can choose to 'make an arrest' on a particular location they suspect Jack to be in.

Over four rounds the detectives will know more and more about Jack's hideout and it will be harder for him to reach it... in theory, anyway. In the four games we've played, Jack has been caught on the second night every time!

There are a couple of optional extra rules that give both Jack and detectives special moves (the aforementioned letters that bamboozle the police for Jack, some movement and arrest options for police) but certainly as yet I don't think any of us felt the game was crying out for more. As detectives it's an intriguing, shifting puzzle. As Jack it's incredibly tense - and as I think our results display, no mean feat to win. I know we don't do a lot of 2-players at GNN but I think most of us will enjoy this... though I say that with the caveat we have yet to experience a four-round game, which could be rather long.

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