Mark van der Upwich
The 4th Episode of my new Game Review project called: The Final Judgement.
Episode 3 features Crypt Monkey Studios' 'Jack the Ripper'
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Game: Jack the Ripper
Year: On Kickstarter Right Now! (http://kck.st/2atEIoE)
Genre: Social Deduction.
Players: 3 to 5 (Best with 5).
Playtime: 2 to 15 minutes.
Publisher: Crypt Monkey Studios
Developer(s): Ty Rucker
Artist(s): Dawn Rucker
It’s 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London and you and your fellow companions are enjoying a pretty successful scavenger hunt. All the signs lead into a dark, deserted warehouse which your company decides to check out. Everyone is looking around for the final items when there’s a sudden scream and you find one of your fellow hunters murdered (and as the story goes abominably mutilated). Running for the exit you find out all the ways out are locked. You’re locked in with the Whitechapel Murderer: Jack the Ripper.
That’s the setting for this social deduction Primer game. You’re stuck in a warehouse with the most famous serial killer of victorian ages and it’s up to you and your fellow players to eliminate the murderer before he gets you and/or your teammates. Now, you just have to find out which of the present company is indeed Jack. Are you Jack?
First Things First! What’s a Primer game? I asked designer Ty in the interview I had with him (and his wife Dawn) and it’s basically a term for a Hors d’oeuvre of the game night. A little game you can play before you get to the ‘Main Course’ of the game night (while waiting for your friend that’s always late, for instance). Now that we got that out of the way… The Game
Jack the Ripper is a social deduction game where at the start each player is dealt a character card (which are up to 4 Victorian Civilians and Jack the Ripper, of course). You can look at your card but you can’t show it to anyone. If you’re not Jack, it’s your job to figure out who IS and if you’re Jack, it’s up to you to keep that a well-hidden secret. You also get dealt 3 face-down item cards as well, items you can use during the game. Most of these items can be used in your turn and take from or give life-points to yourself or a fellow player, but there’s many more mechanics in the deck.
Once everybody has its cards, the first player’s turn begins. The player draws an item card and then plays one of these items cards, trying to diminish the player’s, of who you think is Jack the Ripper, down from 15 to 0. Players can talk to each other to influence the other player’s actions but can never reveal their hidden identity: you can hint who you are (descriptions are on the very well-done playmat) but you can never announce who you are. Based on everyone’s reaction, play goes around the table until everybody has had his/her turn and then the feared ‘Ripper-Event’ takes place. A card is turned over from the special Ripper-Deck and most of the time this ends up with one of the Non-Jack players being eliminated (and sometimes even half of them). If you can eliminate Jack before all the companions die, the remaining players win. If not, the Whitechapel Murderer has gotten away with it once again and will go off into the night.
The first thing you should know when playing Jack the Ripper is ‘PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING!’. If a player who got dealt the Jack card can’t hold his cool when he or she gets the card or has a tell, it will be a very quick game. Is someone sniffling in the corner while another player’s life-points get brutally lowered, you might want to focus your attention elsewhere because you might be murdering the wrong guy / girl. Jack the Ripper is all about subtle details in behavior: Even giving life points to other players can become suspicious in the long run (it is a good cover up for a murderer to play medic at the same time).
There is a little bit of luck involved with the ripper events: Sometimes a close-to-death player is being eliminated by a Ripper event showing the players that they were way off base and sometimes a fully 15-point healthy competitor is wiped from the game while he was in perfect position to deliver the final blow to whomever the players thought was Jack. Tough Luck indeed, but games are fast and short so no one is left to their own devices for long.
Ty was so friendly to send me an actual preview copy of the game (of which you can find a picture below) and everything of this prototype looks very good! I personally love the victorian silhouette portraits on the character-cards and the rest of the artwork is very well done as well (the Artist of the game is Ty’s wife, Dawn who did an incredible job on keeping a nice, grim atmosphere all around). The playmat, made of a very sturdy, though flexible rubber is great-looking and a must-have for newer player, mostly because of the character-descriptions printed on them which you can use to cover yourself (and your identity) up.
Jack the Ripper is a fun little game that perfectly knows his place on a game-night. It’s a light game that takes seconds to set up and is easily playable by anyone in the room. The fast pace of the game and short time of play makes it indeed perfect to grab when you’re waiting for that “casually late” friend every group has or just want something quick and easy to warm everybody up. As said earlier Jack the Ripper is all about subtle behavior details. I often found myself watching over the table with eagle-eyes trying to find any sign on somebody’s face that might give away nefarious schemes. The game is best played with its full 5 players because then it leaves more to guess then with 3, but even with those three it’s still a pretty good little time-killer: A perfect way to start game night, with a few good laughs over mis-judgement and a Killer on the loose!
And that’s my Final Judgement.