'Kill Doctor Lucky' is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the Cheapass Games library. Like most Cheapass Games, it features a unique and amusing concept. Unlike most Cheapass Games, it actually has some fairly intriguing gameplay as well. 'Kill Doctor Lucky' is not likely to dominate your gaming nights for very long, but as an inexpensive little sidekick game, it fits the bill nicely. Think of it as the equivalent of a utility infielder in baseball: you don't want Doctor Lucky out there on a nightly basis, but he's nice to have once in a while when your superstar games need a rest. (Or you need a rest from them.)
The concept is basically a parody (or an homage, perhaps?) of the legendary 'Clue,' a staple of family board game cabinets. However, instead of trying to solve a murder, you and the other players are vying to be the first person to commit one. Poor Doctor Lucky is trudging around his mansion, and the players (for whatever reason) want him dead. The first person to successfully pull off a murder attempt is the winner. Of course, killing the old guy is trickier than you might think, as the other players will foil your schemes at every opportunity.
Just about everything the players do is handled using cards. While there are various types of cards - weapons, movement cards, the infamous Failure cards, etc. - to use, they're all mixed up in the same deck, so you can't really predict what fate will bestow upon you when you opt to draw a card. Constantly gaining cards and managing them wisely is one of the keys to victory. Players also get one 'free move' on any turn in which they don't make a murder attempt, which they can use to move through one doorway into an adjoining room or hallway.
The mansion itself is just a big jumble of named rooms and hallways, with each room numbered in sequential order. At the end of each turn, Doctor Lucky moves to the room with the next consecutive number, and that's about all he does. He has no way to defend himself personally, nor will he ever veer from his movement routine unless a player uses a movement card, or a 'warp' card that can send the player or Doctor Lucky to a specific room.
One of the key quirks in the rules is that a player gets a free turn if Doctor Lucky 'lands' on them. This happens when Doctor Lucky takes his automatic move at the end of a turn, and ends up in a room with a player already in there. (For example, a player might see Doctor Lucky in Room 4, and move into Room 5, knowing Doctor Lucky will land on him/her as his move and give them another turn.) This can lead to the infamous 'Ride The Doctor' strategy, where a player will take three or four extra turns in a row. Here's how that works:
- Player X is in Room 2. Doctor Lucky lands on him as his move, and Player 2 gets a free turn.
- Player X then moves to Room 3 and draws a card, thus ending his turn. Doctor Lucky, of course, has to go to the next numbered room, giving Player X ANOTHER free turn.
- Player X, who is no fool, moves to Room 4 and draws... etc., etc.
Thankfully, there are numberless hallways periodically placed throughout the mansion, so a player can't 'ride' the Doctor forever. Still, it's a very useful tactic that generates a lot of cards, so don't be bashful about using it.
Of course, the most fun comes from those delightful murder attempts. To make a try at murder, you need to be alone in a room with Doctor Lucky, and out of the visual range of all the other players. (Players can see each other through doorways and such, provided it's a straight line of sight.) You can use your bare hands, but that'll only be worth one 'murder point.' Weapons are worth more, and some of them are extremely potent if used in a specific room. This leads to the popular 'mugging' strategy where a player lurks about in a room where one of his weapons is super-powerful, waiting for the Doctor to wander in. Of course, the other players often spot this obvious scheme, and will thwart it through various means.
Once a murder attempt is made, the other players have to play Failure cards equal to the value of the weapon score. (Failure cards come in values of 1, 2, and 3.) This is where the real nastiness begins. Every other player gets one and only one chance to play Failure cards, going in a clockwise direction from the would-be killer. Needless to say, the first player might (and usually does) decide to preserve his own Failure cards for use down the road, and says 'pass,' forcing the other players to come up with the goods. Since they have no choice - they'll lose the game otherwise - they'll grudgingly do so. Of course, there's the occasional twist of fate when the other players get bad draws and don't have any Failure cards, thus ending the game prematurely and making the first cheapskate player the goat of the evening. Deciding whether or not to use your Failure cards, or how many, is the heart of 'Kill Doctor Lucky.' With this in mind, I highly advise that you use a house rule where it is forbidden for players to hint (or outright announce) that they have no Failure cards left, as a warning for the other players to use theirs. That goes against the spirit of the game, in my opinion.
Another house rule that my friends and I enjoyed was forcing players to come up with a compelling reason to murder Doctor Lucky before their first attempt. This encouraged a bit of humor and creativity, and made the game more fun. Some of our favorites were:
"He was stealing my newspaper!"
"He does the 'quotation mark' gesture with his fingers!"
"When he buys a dozen doughnuts, he gets 3 good ones and 9 weird ones that nobody ever eats!"
"He watches Entertainment Tonight!"
"He leaves his car running when he goes into a store, which as we all know, causes unnecessary pollution and increases our dependence on foreign oil, which is the heart of so many domestic and international problems that we face today!"
And, of course, the all-time favorite:
"He did my sister!"
That last one is considerably enhanced with a special substance known as 'beer.'
Needless to say, 'Kill Doctor Lucky' has the production value you'd expect from a Cheapass Game. The game board and cards are pretty drab and flimsy, and the board itself comes in multiple pieces that need to be taped together if you want to keep them from coming apart during the game. As always, no pieces are provided, but all you need is a piece for each player and one for Doctor Lucky. You can use spare change, shiny stones, or heck, Starburst candies if you feel like it. (My friends and I enjoy using the player pieces from 'Clue.' It's like writing a prequel.)
'Kill Doctor Lucky' also has the sense of humor you come to expect from a Cheapass product. The Failure cards all have different slapsticky comical reasons for you to have screwed up a simple murder. The weapons are also pretty neat, ranging from the deadly shoehorn to a Civil War cannon.
You probably won't play this game more than a handful of times, but considering the price, it's still a good deal. 'Clue' fans will especially get a kick out of it. It also takes up almost zero space, making it a good game to stuff in a bookbag. While many of the Cheapass Games miss the mark, 'Kill Doctor Lucky' proves that you CAN have decent gameplay at a budget price. Recommended.
Players also get one 'free move' on any turn in which they don't make a murder attempt, which they can use to move through one doorway into an adjoining room or hallway.
You can move on a turn that you make a murder attempt, but you have to do it before you make the attempt, if I remember correctly.