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Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper» Forums » Reviews

Subject: You Don’t Know Jack!!! rss

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Mitch Willis
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Kathleen
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Overview
Mystery Rummy Case #1: Jack the Ripper is a rummy variant for 2 to 4 players, set in the Whitechapel district in London at the time of the infamous murders (late 19th Century). It was the first of the Mystery Rummy series designed by Mike Fitzgerald, also known for Wyatt Earp, and it’s published by U.S. Games. Players take on the role of detectives, trying to determine the identity of the Ripper by playing sets of cards, in addition to a few special cards as well, scoring points along the way. The first player to reach 100 points wins the game. Playing time will vary a bit, depending upon the number of players, but we usually average around 45 minutes; with 2 players a little less, with 4 players a little more.

Out of the Box
The game is packaged in a neat book-style box and contains 62 cards. The cards are made from nice, thick stock. They’re very well illustrated and come with some historical background as well. Overall, the cards do an excellent job of conveying the dark theme. The rules aptly explain the game play and include a nice breakdown of the different cards.

The Cards
The cards are broken down into two basic types: evidence cards and gavel cards. The 36 evidence cards are the ones which will be played as sets during the game. The 25 gavel cards are specialty cards that have a variety of uses. The lone remaining card is the Ripper Escapes card which is a card that can only be played in a specific circumstance.

The evidence cards are color-coded and come in the form of either six possible historical suspects, letters written allegedly by Jack, or wild cards. Each evidence card is identified by a magnifying glass symbol on the upper left of the card. The gavel cards are also color coded and have a gavel on the upper left of each card.

Set Up
Randomly select a dealer. Shuffle all cards and deal either 10, 9, or 8 cards to each player respectively, depending upon if there are 2, 3, or 4 players. The rest of the cards will form the Case File (aka the draw deck); the top card from the Case File will be flipped face up to form Scotland Yard (aka the discard pile). Play starts with the person to the left of the dealer.

Game Play
There are four steps to your turn: 1) Vote (optional), 2) Draw (mandatory), 3) Play (optional), and 4) Discard (mandatory). Only one vote may be called per hand. If you choose to vote, the vote must occur at the beginning of your turn, before you draw. To call a vote, you must also have at least one meld in your playing area. Each player will secretly write down the name of one of the 6 suspects. Votes are only allowed once per hand. You must then draw a card; it can be either the top card from the Case File or the top card from Scotland Yard. After drawing, you may then play. You can only play one gavel card per turn. As for evidence cards, you can’t play any until there is a Victim (it’s a gavel card) in play; once a Victim has been played you can play evidence cards in melds (sets of 3 or more). You may also play a single evidence card (called a ‘layoff’) if it matches a meld of the same suspect/color already in play. With your last step, you must discard any one card from your hand to Scotland Yard. Play then passes to the left. Once a person draws the last card from the Case File, the discard pile is shuffled, forming a new Case File.

A hand will usually end when a player discards the last card from his hand. However, a hand can also end if the ‘Ripper Escapes’ card is played, if a player is forced to play his last card through the use of the ‘Commissioner Resigns’ card, or if you go through the draw deck (aka Case File) twice. The hand will then be scored and, if there’s no winner declared, then another hand is played.

Scoring and Endgame
There are two forms of scoring in the game and which one you use depends upon whether the Ripper is caught. The Ripper is caught whenever a player goes out by discarding his/her last card and there is at least one suspect meld in play without an Alibi card. All melds in play are totaled. Each suspect evidence card in a meld is worth 2 points, while certain gavel cards for that suspect can also add to the meld. The suspect who has the most valuable meld is the Ripper; if that suspect meld also has its Alibi card in play, then the suspect with the next highest value is the Ripper. To get your score for that hand, add up the value of all melds and layoffs in your playing area. If you have any cards left in your hand, set aside any cards that could’ve been played but weren’t; these cards don’t figure into the scoring. Scene, Victim, and Ripper Escapes cards left in your hand will be subtracted from your score. Finally, if a vote was held during that round, all players will reveal their vote; if you have correctly predicted the identity of the Ripper then ten points will be added to your score. The score will then be recorded and the next hand will begin.

The other form of scoring is used when the Ripper Escapes. This scoring is used under each of the three following conditions: 1) The Ripper Escapes card is played, 2) There is an Alibi card in play for the only possible suspect, and 3) The Case File is gone through twice without the hand ending. Of these three conditions, the first is the most common. The Ripper Escapes card can only be played when all five Victim cards are in play. If the Ripper Escapes card is played, then that player will receive 35 points. The only other points scored are for Victims and Scenes that are in play. All other cards and melds in play are ignored; no points are subtracted for cards that are left in your hand. The score is recorded and the next hand will begin.

The game ends whenever a player scores 100 or more cumulative points. If more than one player does this, the winner is the one with the highest score. In case of a tie, another hand is played.

Observations
As with most card games, Mystery Rummy Case #1: Jack the Ripper has its share of randomness. However, I feel this is somewhat counterbalanced by the introduction of the vote and the Ripper Escapes facets to what would otherwise be a fairly traditional rummy variant. These aspects bring a tactical element to the game and give you more scoring options/strategies. These by no means eliminate the inherent luck, but it does give you a bit more control as opposed to your basic rummy games.

Calling a vote is all about timing. You’ll usually want to call a vote when you have the best chance to mislead your opponents. You don’t want to call a vote when the identity of the Ripper is fairly apparent, as when the end of the hand is drawing nigh and one suspect’s value is much higher than the others. For what it’s worth, I’ve had a bit of success in calling votes by hoarding either certain Suspect and/or Alibi cards in my hand, calling a vote, and then playing the Suspect and Alibi cards; this usually ensures that I’m the only one voting on that particular suspect. There are a couple of issues to be aware of when trying this. First, if you wait too long, some one else may either call a vote or end the hand before you. Second, if the hand doesn’t end soon after you call a vote, your opponents may have the time to promote a different Suspect to Ripper status. To repeat, timing is key.

If you don’t have a very good hand for producing melds, you may want to consider a Ripper Escapes strategy. Of course, having/acquiring the Ripper Escapes card is mandatory and dependent strictly upon the luck of the draw. Other cards you’re interested in here are gavel cards, specifically the Victim cards, Ripper Strikes cards, and Commissioner Resigns cards. Once you have the Ripper Escapes, you want to get all the Victim cards in play as quickly as possible. While you can play Victims directly from your hand, the Commissioner Strikes card is your most useful card in getting this accomplished. When you play and discard a Commissioner Resigns, all players must put any Victim cards in their hands into play. The Ripper Strikes is helpful to a smaller degree; when played, you keep revealing the top card of the Case File until you either draw a Victim card or until you’ve drawn five cards. If a Victim card is drawn, it is immediately put into play. Once all Victims are out, you may play the Ripper Escapes card even if it's not your turn. If you’re far behind in scoring, this is a good strategy, when given the chance, as you’ll score lots of points while your opponents will score few or none at all.

On the flip side, when you’ve got the potential for several melds, as well as having a good chance of influencing the identity of the Ripper, you want to prevent the Ripper Escapes from ending the hand. You don’t want to discard any gavel cards that might help in Jack’s escape, especially the Ripper Escapes card itself, since the opponent to your left could pick it up. Be particularly aware of another player frantically trying to get Victim cards in play; chances are that player probably has the Ripper Escapes card. If you see this happening, it’ll be in your best interests to try to end the hand quickly.

On the box and in the rules, it states the game is recommended for ages 8 to adult. While I think many 8-year olds would be able to grasp the game play, some parents might not want to expose them to the game’s background. While the historical theme is wonderfully intertwined into the game play, the theme is rather dark (a homicidal maniac butchering ladies of the evening). My kids were a few years older when I bought the game and they actually learned some of its history by playing. Parents know their children best and should know whether or not they can handle it. It’s just something you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about playing it with youngsters.

Conclusions
While my preference in card games tends to lean more toward trick taking, I think Mystery Rummy: Case #1: Jack the Ripper is a very unique rummy variant and fun to boot. The voting mechanism along with the different ways to score adds some spice to traditional rummy, allowing you to plan, bluff, and outwit your opponents. I also find the theme relevant to the game play, which is unusual when compared to other set collection games I’ve played. The game scales fairly well; I’d say it’s okay with 4 players, good with 3, and best with 2. And, with the historical tidbits on each card, you can actually learn while you play. I like all the games currently in the Mystery Rummy series but I feel this is the best of the bunch. I currently rate Mystery Rummy Case #1: Jack the Ripper a slashing 7.
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Warren Davis
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Jacksonville
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I *DO* know Jack!!!
devil & he's a great guy. I have to agree with you on the fact that this is the best one, probably due to the fact that it has historical basis. One question: do you know where I can get Mystery Rummy Case #4 (Al Capone)?
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Mitch Willis
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Kathleen
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hermeticmage wrote:
devil & he's a great guy. I have to agree with you on the fact that this is the best one, probably due to the fact that it has historical basis. One question: do you know where I can get Mystery Rummy Case #4 (Al Capone)?


Yes...the 5 on-line stores below have it listed as in stock at this time:

Fairplay Games currently has it listed as in stock. The link is:
http://www.fairplaygames.com/gamedisplay.asp?gameid=596

Boards and Bits has 2 left in stock:
http://mustbuygames.com/product_info.php?products_id=12365&o...

Games Surplus has it listed as in stock as well:
https://www.gamesurplus.com/site/product.cfm?id=AE7118D6-304...

Time Well Spent has 4 left in stock:
http://www.timewellspent.org/html/gamepage.php?id=330

Gamefest lists it in stock as well:
http://www.gamefest.com/display.asp?item=596
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