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Subject: Games that handle anarchy well rss

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Chris Engle
United States
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I've been working a long time on Engle Matrix Games. One of their virtues is that they simulate highly fluid situations very well but they also adapt well to anarchy in game play.


In the "Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Dead Duke" murder mystery game I just put out, players make an argument each turn to say what clues are found next. Generally the clues begin to zero in on one of the characters so the game play gets into a scramble to get out of the way of the clues while also trying to nail one of your friends. No one knows who did it at the start of the game and really at the end you don't know either. You know who the clues point to but everyone maintains their innocence - Just like OJ. The game ends with a trial so you know if you have convicted anyone - but does that mean they really did it? Just like in real life, we don't really know.

The heart of the game is one player's argument getting judged by a referee and being rolled on. That gives the game a lot of flexibility in play.


We are doing a "Jack the Ripper: The game you play beofre the game" game as a PBEM on the MatrixGame2 yahoo group. In the face to face version of the game, play goes around the table with each player making an argument (with potentail counter-arguemnts from the other players) and dice rolls made. I thought of setting up an order of play in the PBEM but had not done that on the day the game started. Sooooo... I had a player just jump in with his first argument.

My group of on line players have been doing these games for nearly ten years so they are good at taking the initiative. Paul jumping in made me think. "Do I really need an order of play?" The answer was "No". I decided I would roll for resolution one time a day and that every player had to get an argument before anyone got a second argument but aside from that it didn't matter what order they came in in. Players jumped in with arguments and also counter-argued many primary arguments (No that's not what happened! This is what really happened...) I was able to embrace the anarchy because the bare bones of the game didn't rest on any one order.

Personally I found this very cool (and completely unexpected). I realize it would shock a lot of gamers but that is because so many games don't handle change well.


I bought this game around Christmas after playing it at a club. Boy is it a fun game. It is beautifully made. It plays a lot like horror Matrix Games. I was saddened to hear it had been pulled from the market. I heard people said that it had too much erata. As more details were added to the game by the MANY scenarios, unexpected questions arose which killed play. Given that is it a standard board game (where you can only do what the rules allow) this made the game die. If a Matrix Game were tacked onto it - by say, allowing players to make an argument to resolve unexpected questions in a way of their choosing when they popped up. The game would sail over the pot hole and keep on going.

What I'm wondering about is which other games handle the unexpected well. Are there other systems that do it. I'm very pleased with how Matrix Games do it but there have to be other ways as well.

Chris Engle
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