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Michael Carpenter
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West Virginia
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BOX ART



There is a murderer among you and one of you knows who it is. Can you decipher the clues and solve the murder?



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Party
Play Time: 20 minutes
Theme: Murder Mystery
Number of Players: 4-12
Main Mechanics: Partnerships and Storytelling
Components: Nice
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
I can see a theme coming out when I play Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. As with a lot of games though, I believe the theme comes out from the interaction of the players more than the mechanisms make it happen. This may just be from discrediting the intentions of the designer and the way the specific mechanisms in this game promote the theme. I don't think it is a miss at all though. There is definitely a feel that matches up with the theme of the game.



GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
There are five roles in the game: the Forensic Scientist, the Murderer, the Accomplice, the Witness, and 8 Investigators. These role cards will be distributed according to the number of players in the game. Each player will receive one of the roles in the game face-down. Once everyone knows their role, the Forensic Scientist is revealed. The Forensic Scientist will be working in silence to inform the investigators of who is the murderer.

Each of the players will receive 4 clue cards and 4 means cards. These cards will be placed face-up in front of the players. Players should be aware of all the cards on the table.

Before gameplay begins, the Forensic Scientist will ask all other players to close their eyes. Then the murderer will open their eyes and point to one of their Clue Cards and one of their Means Cards. Once this is done the murderer will then close his or her eyes again and then the Forensic Scientist will have all players open their eyes.

As the game begins the Forensic Scientist will be giving clues on 6 scene tiles in the middle of the table. Each scene tile will give a specific form of information (Cause of Death, Location, Corpse Condition, Hint on Corpse). Each of specific type of information also have 6 choices to describe the type of information.

Example:

Title: Cause of Death

Options:
- Suffocation
- Severe Injury
- Loss of Blood
- Illness/Disease
- Poisoning
- Accident


There are three rounds of evidence collection and presentation throughout the investigation. In the first round, the Forensic Scientist will place 6 clue markers, 1 on each of the 6 available scene tiles in the middle of the table. The investigator may place the 6 clue markers as quickly or as slowly as he or she wishes. Once the first clue marker is placed, the investigators may discuss the information. Once a clue marker is placed it may not be re-positioned. Once the Forensic Scientist has placed the last clue marker they wish to place, the evidence collection phase ends and the Presentation phase begins. This is done through a 30 second presentation from each player.

During the second round evidence collection the Forensic Scientist draws a new scene tile and replaces one of the previously used scene tiles (other than the Cause of Death and Location tiles). Again, the investigators will have an opportunity to perform the Presentation phase about the clues.

The third round will be conducted the same way as the second round. Again, allowing for an opportunity to present and discuss the clues.

During the investigation each investigator may make a single accusation. When guessing the player chooses one Clue Card and one Means Card (both in front of a single player). The Forensic Scientist will either say "yes" if both cards are correct, or "no" if a either card is incorrect.

The investigation will continue until one of two things occur. An investigator either correctly guesses the cards or all investigators have incorrectly guessed the cards or have not tried to solve the crime by the end of the third round of presentation. The investigators win in the first case and the murderer wins in the second.




ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy

Party games don't typically aim to be strategical. Instead, they offer opportunities to be engaged by player interaction and fun-factors. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong doesn't stray too far from this perception of party games but it doesn't quite fit in the mold either. Yes, there is a high level of player interaction and yes, there are laugh out loud moments that typically equate to "fun", but I feel like there is also a sense of tension in this game that lasts from beginning to end for all roles. The Forensic Scientist needs to be smart about when he or she reveals clues based on the discussion of the investigators. The investigators need to be careful about how they discuss the clues. Is this strategical? Maybe... I'm not sure I go into Deception with a strategy I want to stick to perfectly but you do have to put thought into your play of the game. If nothing else, maybe it is tactical discussion...


Depth of Strategy:
2.0 = The game offers what looks like strategy but is more tactical.




Replayability

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a party game so it is built for replayability. It would be silly for me to say it has low replayability. As with many party games, you will likely play this game multiple times in one sitting. Players will likely want an opportunity to be the Forensic Scientist and/or the Murderer. If playing with larger player counts players may want to be the Accomplice or the Witness. There are several roles that are enjoyable to play and will entice people to play multiple times.

The game also does a nice job of promoting table talk that is typically not hostile. As with any game of this nature there can be meta-gaming or defensive players that may cause hostility but for the most part people are trying to appear as part of the team and not draw attention to themselves so the discussion is accusatory but revolves more around the items than the people.

Above all else though, I feel the game's best asset for replayability is the low player count necessary to play. It is said that the 4-6 range isn't nearly as enjoyable as the higher player counts but just the fact that if I have four players and want to play a social deduction game this one is available, is a nice option to have available.

Unfortunately, I do see two obstacles, one common to all games, and one common to social deduction games. Social deduction games require players to interact. If players don't like to interact in this kind of discussion, the game doesn't do a whole lot to offer a different experience. It isn't as hostile as the Resistance for example, but it still requires players to participate in discussion that requires an ability to lie, accuse, and think of things to say. The other thing, common to all games, is that it is in a very competitive board game world. I don't see Deception: Murder in Hong Kong being my go-to social deduction game when I have larger numbers but as I said it is nice to have in that 4 player situation.

The replayability of this game would likely be high for several people but for me, I don't play it that often. So I struggled to give this game a fair rating for those reading to gather information about the game and yet correctly represent my feelings about the game. I enjoyed the game the first time we got it out... I enjoyed the game the second time we got it out, but far lass than the first time. This continued each time we played the game... to the point where I will only play this game in the right situation now.


Replayability:
3.0 = Short-term replayability will likely be high but may fade quickly with time.




Quality of Design


Partnerships: The partnership mechanism in this game is good but you obviously need the accomplice for it to shine and the witness really makes the accomplice/murder partnership even more enjoyable. With less than 6 players though, the partnership mechanism is limited to the Forensic Scientist giving clues in silence. Not exactly the most exciting implementation of a partnership but it is there.

Storytelling: This game offers a unique mesh of two elements of storytelling. The game itself gives you a broad story and some not-too-specific details about the story and lets you run with it if you so choose. However, you don't have to create a story to play the game effectively. I like this because my group will tell stories but we don't go into a deep, descriptive story. That flexibility makes this game's storytelling mechanism as good (for us) as it gets.


Quality of Design:
3.5 = A good design that engages the player for more than a few plays.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
A part of me wants to say I like Deception: Murder of Hong Kong a lot. It has the making of a game that I should like. I love social deduction games. I like the theme. There is just something missing in this one for me. I don't know that I can even explain it. I think I could even say that I did really like it at first. The game just didn't hold my interest. I think if I had to give a reason it is because I enjoy The Resistance so much that it is a "Gold Standard" for me with Social Deduction games and it is difficult for me to suggest Deception over The Resistance, unless I only have four players. Unfortunately, four player Deception just isn't that good so I will steer away from Social deduction and go toward a different style of Party Game when I have four players.

I think the reason I like The Resistance more and it tarnishes Deception is because when I am the murderer in Deception there is a player actively working against me and the other players KNOW his or her information is truthful. I know the games requires different approaches to masking your identity but I just prefer the way The Resistance implements it WAY more.

That one difference does it for me. I just don't really like that all players know that one player is providing truthful information. It isn't even a game breaker (AT ALL). I just prefer the idea of how The Resistance allows all players to appear honest or dishonest.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong could be great for a lot of groups. I am not saying the game is bad. I just do not like it quite enough to consider it something I want to play more than other games in the genre. Plus. it isn't accessible enough for my group at higher player counts and at lower player counts it isn't that good at all.

So, the game misses for me but I would take my opinions with a grain of salt on this one because I seem to be in the minority on this game.


Overall Rating -
Not a bad game but it just doesn't quite get over the hump for me in the genre.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple

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Nick Stables
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Thank you for the fresh perspective as to why Deception comes up short regarding honesty/dishonesty perception compared to Resistance.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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No problem at all. I want to stress that it is a personal preference thing. What Deception does isn't bad or broken. I simply prefer the completely uninformed feel of The Resistance. Have you played both games? If so, do you have a preference?
 
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Nick Stables
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I have played neither, though did own Avalon. I sold it because of the assumption I might experience the bad vibe of heated accusations of lying and discomfort of lying sometimes mentioned in comments/reviews/sessions, especially amongst family/friends.

I thought Deception may be a less confrontational social deduction experience: the 'traitor' is more of a 'chameleon' exercising misdirection rather than lying, but seemingly the story arc of deduction is missing and reduced means of covering your deceit.

 
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Michael Carpenter
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pusboyau wrote:
I have played neither, though did own Avalon. I sold it because of the assumption I might experience the bad vibe of heated accusations of lying and discomfort of lying sometimes mentioned in comments/reviews/sessions, especially amongst family/friends.

I thought Deception may be a less confrontational social deduction experience: the 'traitor' is more of a 'chameleon' exercising misdirection rather than lying, but seemingly the story arc of deduction is missing and reduced means of covering your deceit.


f you have a large number of people you could play with regularly it may be something you could try out. With smaller player counts your assessment is spot on because sometimes a particular clue given by the FS can absolutely peg the killer... something I did not mention and tend to not like that much is you can sometimes easily determine who the killer is based on one of the clues and yet you can still lose the game as the detectives because the second card is so difficult to determine (again mainly an issue in smaller player counts). I just never quite feel like I am playing a fun game when I play Deception but you don't get the hostility you are are talking about so maybe you could borrow a friend's copy and give it a try sometime. It isn't bad. Just not my speed.
 
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