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Last night my group and I decided we'd play our very first game of Fury of Dracula. But as the days went by, more and more members of the group canceled due to travel plans for the three-day weekend. In the end it was just three of us so we decided to play our first game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu and we had a great session of that.
Once that game wrapped up, I brought out Letters from Whitechapel, yet another game I recently obtained but had yet to play. We had never played a hidden movement game before so we weren't sure exactly how successful it would be but we wanted to give it a shot. Or, that is to say, I wanted to give it a shot and my gaming companions were kind enough to humor me. So we decided to try out the game and learn how it's played and to see if we would enjoy it.
Jack the Ripper - (me)
Frederich Abberline - (Lolai)
Sir Charles Warren - (Lolai)
Donald Swanson - (Lolai)
George Lusk - (Dandelion)
Edmund Reid - (Dandelion)
As the owner of the game and the only one who has read the rules, I took the role of Jack. I explained the rules of the game, mentioning that it is a very simple rule set and, perhaps it was just my imagination but, I thought I could see expressions of "Is that all?" make their way onto my friends' faces. I was worried that they weren't really into the game as it must have seemed extremely basic especially when compared to the rules heavy games that we usually play. As I explained the rules we acted out all of the steps so they could see exactly how a turn would flow and in short order we were ready to start the game.
As it is my habit to keep games as fair as possible, I chose my hideout via an RNG app on my phone. I figured that the real Jack the Ripper, too, did not choose his home based on the idea that he would murder 5 (or so) women but was already living/staying in some location when he decided to start these ghastly crimes.
Hideout: Location 36
Night One: Hell
Head of the Investigation: Frederich Abberline
A Corpse on the Sidewalk: Location 158
Time of the Crime: Space I
We placed our tokens and during the Blood on the Streets phase I decided to just make the kill and start us off. Most of the investigators happened to be grouped up in the center of the board. Sir Charles Warren was the closest to the crime scene by starting to the right of Location 145.
Night One: Hunting
I decided to escape up north, a bit direct, to 143 knowing that if I tried to take a wide berth I was likely going to get cut off or detected early by either
Frederich Abberline or Sir Charles Warren coming in from either side. I was fortunate in the beginning that for quite a while I remained undiscovered.
The other three investigators began closing in but they started to block in the area I was planning on fleeing to. I took a coach to 127 and 69. From there I used an alley to escape to 73. By this point Sir Charles Warren started up towards where I was so I felt that I needed to loop around in hopes of not pointing directly to my hideout. I went to 58 but by this point my trail had already been discovered at 69 and 73.
I would bounce a couple more times through 73, using that as a safe resting spot to make my trail go cold and believing that they wouldn't think about making an arrest on a previously discovered clue. I backed off to 58 trying to lead them off my northerly trail as they were certain I was heading north but Lolai was also convinced I was going to go to the eastern edge of the map. Their discussions convinced them to move to the area of my hideout as they believed that's where I fled to.
If only they knew that I WANTED to go there so bad, but had yet to do so! The two investigator players began a long discussion about where I could possibly be, pointing out the number of turns and where I could have landed by that point. They all wholeheartedly believed I was in the area where my hideout was or had passed though it. However, a very fortunate discovery worked in my favor. During that search an investigator found a clue at 89, completely in the opposite direction of where they believed I headed directly. Finally my hopes of throwing them off my trail was having some effect.
Because of this Sir Charles Warren moved back down South so I made a move for 40. Unfortunately the two investigators in the north began heading towards me and surrounding Location 36 as they looked for a hint of my whereabouts. I decided I would go around the long way and moved to 57. By now Sir Charles Warren was coming back up north, after he and Edmund Reid had found that my trail to have gone cold in the south.
Here is where the game took a nerve-wracking turn for me. Donald Swanson spent most of the game thus far just making his way down Whitechapel Road and on that turn he decided to just randomly call for an arrest on 68. My next move I was planning on moving to either 56 or spending my final alley to go to 69. But Donald Swanson was the biggest wild card. If he continued heading down Whitechapel Road, he would be next to me if I went to 56 and if he continued his habit of random arrests the game could end for me then and there in the street.
If I took the alley to 69 and then he moved around the block to the space next to me, I'd be trapped. Having only 5 spaces left on the Movement Track, that, too, would be game over as I'd have not time to make it to my hideout. I debated long and hard over what my next move would be and I decided to go to 56. Much to my relief, Donald Swanson moved to the spot next to 85 and 86, heading away from me.
Unfortunately at this point, my trail was discovered on 57. Now they knew for certain where I was heading because I hadn't been there just a couple of turns before. I moved to 55 when George Lusk moved to the spot just below it. I swallowed hard as I waited to see what he'd do but he only searched for a clue and, yes, there was one there. A big clue. Me standing in the middle of the street holding a knife. Thank goodness it wasn't an arrest attempt. At this point, with Lolai analyzing the board and thinking about movement, he told Dandelion that I might be standing on 55 right now or just be one move away from it. Oh, how right he was.
Now with all the investigators rushing north to the neighborhood of my hideout, I had to decide on moving to either 34 or 35, both one space away from my hideout. I started rationalizing that if I moved to 35 and my trail was discovered they would know that my hideout was very, very close because I was a desperate man who needed to get to his hideout soon with so many police around. So I couldn't go to 35. However, only a great fool would move so close to his hideout with that many police around and, knowing I'm not a great fool, I'd only move to 35 if I were trying to throw them off my trail. So I must go to 35! But moving to 35 would be too big of a clue where my hideout was, so I couldn't go to 35! But moving to 35 would be the best way to convince them my hideout wasn't there! So I must move to 35... The internal dialogue I had was similar to the Vizzini scene from The Princess Bride.
In the end, I decided to go to 35. George Lusk moved to the space between 15, 33 and 34 while Sir Charles Warren came around to the space between 37, 38 and 39. None of them found a clue and for my next turn I walked into 36 and declared I was home safe.
By this point the game had gone on longer than we expected, it was late and we had to call it a night.
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME!
We had so much fun playing this game. It was only a test run to learn the rules and see what the game was like (hence this being session 00) but WOW, we had such a great experience. It was so tense, especially for me. All three of us were really getting into it and everyone said that they'd love to play again.
As Jack I felt like no matter where I went the investigators surely knew what I was up to, even when they weren't finding clues. I tried so hard to study the board and noting where and what the investigators were doing without (hopefully) giving away my position but it was a challenge. The last half of the first night my heart was racing with every decision. I know I played very poorly but that's due to lack of experience. Looking back on it, I know a lot of things I would have done differently but what a GREAT experience.
Lolai really enjoyed the game saying that it was so simple but required so much concentration that it felt like chess to him. That was a great way of describing it. There is so much strategy and trying to out-think and out-maneuver your opponent(s) while looking multiple turns ahead.
I'm definitely looking forward to trying this game again and the next time we're going to finish it. I'm also looking forward to playing as one of the investigators, too.
What an amazing game!