Original Review in Polish available here: http://powermilk.pl/2016/07/komisarz-wiktor-sprawa-zaginione...
It was your typical rainy morning when I was called to the crime scene. There was a breaking and entering at the local museum and an extremely valuable painting has been stolen! Quick questioning of the witnesses and… I knew it won’t be an easy case. The statements pointed different people, one sleek man with bushy eyebrows and lumberjack beard, the other one pointed at curly, clean-shaved young man in binoculars and some of them told us that a gentleman with quite distinct hair, monocle and sheriff moustache did this. I tried to combine these descriptions, which proved harder than I initially thought. Luckily, I have my trusty assistants which will help me catch the thief…
Commissioner Victor on the case
The cover shows eponymous commissioner, who inquisitively examines something through magnifying glass, in the background we can see interconnected portraits. Graphic style is very cartoony and shows characters sketch rather than all of the character. Game contains mostly tiles (other than them there are also counters), which sport this same distinct style as the cover. Tiles show only face, and each of them has 4 variants of each feature: hairdo, eyes and facial hair. After the first game player appreciates its ingenuity. Here we can see a typical game, so you could approach the theme in a standard way, using contours, colors or size – but no, we have some kind of plot behind the game which justifies the use of faces. When it comes to the production I don’t have any major complaints, well, besides maybe one. In Squirrel Rush I told that the box holds too much air in it. This one has even more. I understand that this is because of standardization of box sizes, but the game would surely fit into smaller box, and I am sure that there are smaller standard boxes.
We put one character on the middle of the table, each player gets three tiles to their hand and according to the number of players we remove some number of tiles from the stack. At the beginning or at the end of the turn we can move a tile so it touches at least one border of any tile and at this time you cannot disrupt the grid (similar to the Hive). Additionally, we cannot move a blocked tile. Adding a tile to the suspect grid is a mandatory action, we put it next to any other tile on the game field. At the end of player’s turn, they put an Innocence counter on any tile (two if playing a two-player game) – that means that this tile can’t be moved. This counter disappears at the beginning of your turn. You draw a card from the top of the tile and pass the turn to the next player. Moving and placing, why do this? At the end of the game we will be left with one tile on hand – it’s our suspect. IF in a row or column there are three people with the same feature (ex. the same hairdo) we get 1 point, for four – 3 and for five – 5 points. Player with the most points wins.
Special, two-player variant looks a bit like Guess who? combined with Mastermind. Each player has a suspect. In their turn players play a tile and opponent marks how many features match their suspect. Then, we can attempt to guess what suspect looks like based on the hints. The player who guessed correctly wins. There is one “but”, after playing fourth hint tile we must remove one of our tiles already in front of us.
Catch the thief!
Dry abstract games like Hive, Unikato or Qwirkle don’t appeal to my taste. We place some patterns without real understanding of what’s going on. I mentioned that this game could be based on figures with three features, but I’m glad that designers pulled up the trick with faces. Thanks to this there is some sort of plot and distinct atmosphere. Maybe it’s difficult to see building of the crime network in putting and moving tiles, but I appreciate the try to build atmosphere.
The mechanics are really simple and similar to the majority of logic games. Nevertheless, it gives a lot of fun and forces players to think. Games doesn’t last long, it consists of 3 quick actions, one of them optional. It sometimes happens than the player must think about next move, but it doesn’t take much time and there is not a lot of down-time.
Important feature of the game is freedom to choose the suspect. We know what the last tile on hand will be, so if playing for the current suspect stops to be profitable, we can always start to play for a different one.
Two-player variant is an interesting mini-game. It is less repeatable and random Guess who? Sometimes this variant require a lot of focus and strong deduction. The most common mistake is assuming that if two characters got the same counter, then they have a shared feature. I cut myself on this not once and not twice, because it was hard for me to acknowledge that one suspect had matching facial hair and the second one had a matching hairdo, even if in both cases there were shared features.
There is some random factor involved, it can happen that we have too few shared features that we are looking for. We always have the opportunity to change tactics and move tiles. But opponent’s malice or mercilessly nearing end of the game can hinder even the back-up plan. Replay value is quite high. Thanks to the changing grid and different suspect’s on hand you will find that it’s very hard for two games to be similar. Scaling is well balanced. There are no differences in game’s fluency with differing number of players – only with maximum number of players you wait slightly longer for your turn and you can see that situation on the board changes more rapidly.
In nearly all test games I was accompanied by Aga, who works in Centrum Gier Pegaz (Pegaz Game Centre). Agnieszka, after the first game said that it’s fun and was astounded by two-player variant. What are her thoughts?
Really interesting game concept. Mechanics force players to make decisions on the go and at the same time doesn’t suffer from some game’s downside that last turns count the most. Fun, light game for abstract games fans.
You are going to jail
Commissioner Victor: the lost painting case is seemingly typical abstract game. But nicely fitted theme differentiate this title from typical logic games. Aside from that the game mechanic gives a lot of fun, space to think and stimulates brain cells. Maybe it’s abstract, but very light and pleasant, without the need of using too much brain power. Works good as a family game or a filler for geek groups.
• Interesting use of faces instead of figures
• Simple mechanics, easy to learn
• Let’s you change strategy mid-game
• Forces to think
• Player’s turn is rather dynamic
• Good scaling ad replayabulity
• Although random factor is scarce, it can annoy from time to time
• A lot of air in the box
This got left in view after my editing of the Spiel Preview, due to its price.
I have only just now checked the rules and your review translation. Thanks for now ensuring it goes on my own Spiel geeklist.