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Joshua Noe
United States
Wauwatosa
Wisconsin
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Love live the Empress!
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Overview: As guests at Dr. Lucky’s Mansion, you will each have your hand at attempting to off the old man. But it’s not so easy. You have to do it without being seen (think of Clue before the game actually starts). And even if your alone with the old Doc, he’s aptly named.

Components: There’s a reason the company is called Cheap Ass Games. Their motto is that you can find 90% of what you need for a game (e.g. dice and pawns) with games you already own. So why provide them? The games comes in a cheap, but sturdy, cardboard box known to veterans of Cheap Ass. The board is made of cardstock, but is still quite functional. It has 2 sides, one for 3-7 players, and the other for up to 12 players. The card stock board is actually made of 6 separate cards, and so they can shift during the course of the game; this honestly isn’t that big a deal, since there’s not much on the board except pawns and the “spaces” (rooms) are large…easy to adjust the board without the problem of “Now, where was my pawn?” The cards are a bit flimsy, made of thinner cardstock than the board, and you have to shuffle them. The company has taken to making their cards sturdier, but they haven’t done so with this game. This is probably the biggest downfall in that the cards are easy to get bent corners when shuffled. The art is quite simple, black and white, and is meant to be simply utilitarian. Craftily done, but no fanfare here. You must provide your own pawns (break out Monopoly or even those Warmachine figures), including one for the doctor. Nothing else is required, unless you play with the optional Spite rule (this author strongly recommends it), and then you will need something like pennies, glass beads, severed digits…whatever.

Pros: Fully functional components. No need to spend more money than is absolutely needed, as you likely have the needed components around the house.
Cons: Little art (i.e. boring to look at). Need to provide your own components.

Mechanics: The rules are quite simple and take about 5 minutes to teach them. You pick one of the sides of the board to use for the game, depending on the number of players.. The board is Dr. Lucky’s Mansion. Each player starts in the Foyer, and Dr. Lucky starts in a random room. Each player’s turn consists of 4 parts.
1. Move – You always get 1 free step. There are also movement cards with numbers to increase the number of steps, as well as room cards that let you “teleport” to that room. You can play any combination of these cards to do this. You can also move Dr. Lucky with these cards. Example: you could play a Move-3 card to make Dr. Lucky move 3 spaces, then play a Patio card to move your pawn to the patio.
2. Make a Kill Attempt – To kill Dr. Lucky, you much obey these 2 rules. First, you must be in the same room as him. Second, no one can “draw line of sight” to you. This is done thusly: if you can draw a straight line thru ANY door in your room and that line passes through a room that has another player’s pawn they can “see you.” It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. Imagine you are in your kitchen looking across the hall into the bathroom. So, any player standing in the kitchen, hallway, or bathroom can see you. Thus, you cannot make a kill attempt. When you try to kill Dr. Lucky, you can use a weapon card. These cards are assigned number, sometime worth more in a specific room (e.g. Kitchen Shears: worth 3, but worth 6 in the kitchen). You can also “poke him in the eye” if you don’t want to play a weapon card. That’s worth 1. Now comes the “Lucky” part. Starting with the player to the would-be-murderers left, players play Failure card worth 1, 2, or 3. That player plays as many failure cards as he wishes. He then passes (if needed) to the next player on the left. Repeat. This continues until the Failure card total equals (or exceeds) the value of the weapon. If that happens, the doctor escapes. If everyone passes (either because they cannot or choose not to play enough failure cards), the doctor dies, and that murderer wins the game. The trick is there is NO TABLE TALK. You cannot say how many failure cards you have. And once you pass, that’s it! {Optional rule that author recommends using – SPITE – After every failed murder attempt, that player gain 1 SPITE token. Each token adds +1 to subsequent murder attempts. It encourages kill early and kill often.}
3. Loot the Room – If the ONLY thing you did is take your free step, AND you are in room with a name (i.e. Patio), you can draw a card.
4. The Doctor Moves – The doctor takes 1 step the next highest numbers room (the rooms are numbered as well as named).
***An important rule. Normally the next player is…well…next. But if the doctor lands in a room with another player, it immediately becomes that player’s turn and subsequent turn-order continues from him. So you could have your turn skipped entirely.

Pros: Easy unique rule system, such that most anybody can play. Only randomness is card drawing.
Cons: Without SPITE token rule, it usually boils down to: once Failure cards run out of the entire deck, will the doctor die.

Strategy: The idea is to use your movement/room cards to draw the doctor into the room that is going to be (1) away from other players and (2) gives you the best weapon for that room. It’s also a good idea to use a few Failure cards a needed; making bluffs, etc. an essential part of the game. The other trick is to let the doctor “walk into you” so you can play your turn earlier. There are actually places on the board where you can go multiple times in a row to draw cards. That is, you walk away from the doctor to the adjacent room, Loot the Room (i.e. draw a card), then the doctor walks into your room. Rinse & Repeat. Gets you like 2-3 cards. It all seems very simple, but it all revolves around using cards to place yourself with relation to the doctor and other players, and knowing when you use those precious Failure cards.

Pros: While simple, there’s a fair amount of cunning and a LOT of planning to get you and the doctor where they need to be in relation to other players. Using sightlines is almost a game in and of itself.
Cons: Without the SPITE rules, there is less strategy, in that the best way to win, is just to wait until the deck runs out of Failure cards.

Will it work with few (i.e. 3-5) players as well as many (i.e. 6-12) players?: Mostly, yes, because the game comes with 2 mansions designed for different sized games. The kill attempts by each player will be more frequent with less player games, but overall kill attempts will be more frequent in multiple player games (due to sightlines). More players: Failure cards run out very fast.

Will my non-gaming spouse/friends like it?: It will remind them of Clue. Not to mention the game is quite tongue-in-cheek and doesn’t take itself too seriously (which is typical of Cheap Ass). I would say Yes.

Good for kids?: The idea of murdering someone, no matter how funny it is supposed to be, can make some parents hesitate. Whereas in Clue, the murder already happened, in this game you are trying to do it. And it is funny in the process. However, because the game is so light-hearted, most kids that can play the game (probably over 10) will have no problems with its morals.

Should I buy it?: At $7.50, I cannot see how this would be a bad buy. The downside is if you like games that have excellent artwork and refuse to purchase anything else, then this game is definitely not for you. But for anybody else, this is bar none Cheap Ass’ best game to date and will provide hours of entertainment with plenty of replay value. As I’ve said twice now, I would strongly recommend using the SPITE optional rules. I would highly recommend this game sits on your shelf.
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Stephen Michael Hickey
New Zealand
Auckland
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schuwa wrote:
Overview: I would highly recommend this game sits on your shelf.


Nice review, but this last comment usually means the exact opposite of what you are suggesting.
 
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