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Introducing Mystery Rummy #5: Escape from Alcatraz


Rummy is a classic traditional card game, and although several games have been designed over the last couple of decades that offer thematic Rummy variants, few game designers have done so better than Mike Fitzgerald. His Mystery Rummy series consists of several titles, including #1 Jack the Ripper (1998) [see my review], #2 Murders in the Rue Morgue (1999), #3 Jekyll & Hyde (2001), and #4 Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld (2003). Wyatt Earp (2001) [see my review] is often included along with them, although it had a co-designer and a different publisher.

All these games have been quite successful, and in 2014 they received the benefit of a nice new edition published by US Game Systems in conjunction with Gryphon Games.



Along with the new edition of the existing Mystery Rummy titles came a brand new release, which is considered to be #5 in the series: Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz.

The genesis of this particular game was a rummy themed design contest judged by Mike Fitzgerald. Andrew Korson submitted a contest entry entitled "Escape from Alcatraz" (link), which earned fifth place in the contest. It also received one of several Judge's Choice Awards that were awarded to games that didn't win but deserved some recognition for merit, with Mike making this comment about it: "My favorite concept as far as mystery rummy goes was Escape from Alcatraz. He got the theme and some ideas right but gameplay needs a lot of work."

But the game wasn't dead in the water at this point. In Korson's own words (quoted here): "Escape from Alcatraz did not win, placing fifth overall, but Mike liked it enough to ask me to collaborate with him, with the intent of creating the next Mystery Rummy game. We worked on it in 2010/2011, resulting in U.S. Games agreeing to publish it."

The game was finally published in 2014, and underwent several changes in the process, not least that in Korson's original game, the aim was to get as many escapees off the island using various escape plans, whereas after involvement from the publisher, the final version has players be guards who must foil escape attempts by gathering information on plans and capturing the ringleaders.



NB: Pictured above is designer Mike Fitzgerald, behind bars with a copy of the newly published game.

The theme is certainly a good one. Alcatraz Island is well known for the federal prison that was operating there from 1933-1963. This prison was notoriously known as the toughest prison in America, because it was specifically designed to house prisoners who caused trouble at other prisons. One writer described it as follows: "the great garbage can of San Francisco Bay, into which every federal prison dumped its most rotten apples."

Its claim to fame was that during its 29 years of operation, no prisoner apparently managed to escape alive. Certainly there were many escape attempts: 36 prisoners made 14 unsuccessful escape attempts, and it is these that the game is about.

So let's find out more about it!



COMPONENTS

Game box

The game box has a style and size that matches all the other titles in the Mystery Rummy series.



The back of the box introduces the theme as follows:

"Dozens of infamous criminals like Doc Barker and Bernard Coy attempted to escape from Alcatraz Island. In this exciting Mystery Rummy card game, you are in charge of uncovering prisoners' devious escape plans. On each turn, gather information by melding matching Plan Cards or playing off an existing Plan. When players collect 8 matching Plan Cards and identify the Plan’s mastermind, you can foil the Escape Plan, capture the culprit and score points. The first player to earn 100 points is the winner. Let no prisoner escape from “The Rock”!"



One nice thing about the box is that it's designed to look like a book if placed on a shelf. It also opens like a book, and inside is a nice insert, which shows some of the game characters on the left, and has ribbons to help pull out the cards. Classy all round!



Component list

Here's what you get inside the box:

● Plans deck (84 Escape Plans cards & 14 Escapee cards)
● Action deck (31 cards)
● 4 Foiled! cards
● 1 Playmat (Kickstarter)
● 1 Rulebook



Decks

There are two main decks of cards in the game: the Plans deck (blue-backed) and the Action deck (yellow-backed).



The cards in some of the original editions of Mystery Rummy games were very thick and highly glossy, making them slippery and difficult to shuffle. These cards appear to be slightly thicker than standard playing cards, but they have a nice card stock that has a special lacquer finish, specially designed to make them easier to handle, and ideal for fanning.

All the cards feature artwork as well as historical flavour text. The majority of the cards are the Escape Plan cards in seven different suits/colours, and these will be used for the Rummy style melding and laying off that is at the heart of the gameplay.



Plans deck

The 98 card Plans deck consists of two types of cards: Escape Plans (84 cards) and Escapees (14 cards).

● Escape Plans cards (84)

There are 7 different escape plans, each in a different colour:
● Climb the Fence (Brown)
● Attack the Guards (Orange)
● Battle of Alcatraz (Red)
● Tunnel Through Walls (Green)
● Run From Work Detail (Light Blue)
● Sneak Off In Disguise (Dark Blue)
● Saw Through Bars (Purple)



Each escape plan has a set of 12 matching/identical cards, and corresponds to an actual historical escape attempt, an overview of which is given on the card. Each of these cards is worth 2 points. The Escape Plans cards are marked with an arrow icon.

● Escapee cards (14)

In addition, the Plans deck contains 14 Escapee cards, worth 5 or 10 points each. These cards are marked with a runner icon. They represent the "masterminds" behind the plans.

Infamous Escapees

The 7 Infamous Escapees have a value of 10 points each, and are coloured cards representing 7 different escapees that masterminded to the 7 different Escape Plans. Each card has a historical summary of their crime and their attempted escape.



Generic Escapees

The 7 Generic Escapees have a value of 5 points each, and are grey cards that represent different escapees who made other escape attempts. These cards also have a historical summary of their crime and their attempted escape.



Action deck

The 31 Action cards are marked with a clock icon. These include the following:
● Work Detail: (12x)
● Cell Search: (4x)
● Plan Uncovered: (4x)
● Returning Favors: (4x)
● Ratted On: (4x)
● Guard Help: (1x)
● Change in Plan: (1x)
● Warden: (1x)



Foiled! cards

Each player will get one of these 4 cards at the start of a game, and will place cards underneath it to indicate escapes that were successfully foiled.



Playmat

The playmat is a glossy coloured sheet of large paper that was included with copies of the game that were distributed to Kickstarter backers. If you wish, you can download a printable playmat from the publisher (link), or you can make your own with mousepad material via Artscow (link).



It's certainly not essential, and we typically play our games without it.

Rules

The rulebook can be downloaded from the publisher here (since the file here on BGG is not the final version). It is a folded booklet with ten panels, and includes helpful annotated diagrams and examples.



GAME-PLAY

Set-Up

In the game, we are guards at Alcatraz, trying to make sure nobody escapes. To that, do we're trying to find out about plans that are in progress by would-be escapees, and foiling these plans when we have enough information about a particular plan, along with having identified a `mastermind' who is behind it.

The Plans and Action decks are shuffled separately, with Plans card being turned face-up one at a time as a starting discard pile until an Escapee is revealed, which goes face-up in to the Yard. Each player is dealt 10 cards from the Plans deck to begin the game.

Note that the different areas of the game are designated as follows: the Cell Block is where the Plans deck goes, Solitary represents the face-up discard pile, and The Yard is where Escapee cards will be played.



Flow of Play

In typical Rummy style, you start your turn by drawing two cards from the deck ("Cell Block") or the top card from the face-up discard pile ("Solitary"), and must end your turn by discarding a card to the discard pile. The basic game-play mechanic is like Rummy: if you get a `meld' of three cards of one suit/plan, you can play those cards; on their turn other players can then `lay off' by playing cards from that suit/plan as well.

Whenever you make a meld or lay off, you turn over one of the Action cards (maximum of one per turn), and follow the instructions on that card. The way this works is somewhat new to the Mystery Rummy series, since previously the equivalent cards (Gavel cards) were just part of the main deck. The Action cards are quite varied, and do things like letting you draw more cards, or adding more Escapees to the Yard.

To get an idea of the flow of play, you can also check out two short instructional videos from the publisher here and here.



Foiled Escapes

Unlike many other Rummy games, you don't get points subtracted for what's in your hand, or for cards played on meld, but only score points for foiling an escape. Foiling an escape requires 8 cards in total of any suit/plan to be in play among all the players, and then playing an Escapee (representing a plan mastermind) either from your hand or from the Yard along with your previously played plans of that suit. These cards are then placed under your Foiled card, and will score at game-end.

Other players may immediately put cards from that suit/plan under their Foiled card for scoring as well, adding an eligible Escapee (representing a plan co-conspirator) from their hand if they have one.



Escapees hang out in the Yard during the game, and during the game you can only start a new meld/plan if there's there's more Escapees than the melds/plans already in play. You can play an Escapee into the Yard once per turn. Some of the Action cards also help get more Escapees into the Yard.

When foiling a plan, Infamous Escapees (10 points) must be matched with the right coloured plan, while Generic Escapees (5 points) can escape with any plan.



Final Scoring

The round ends if someone manages to go out by discarding their last card, or when there are no remaining cards in the Plans deck. If you go out, you get a three point bonus for every remaining Escapee in the yard. If you manage to go out before any plan has been foiled (difficult to achieve!), you get the full point value of all the Escapees in the Yard, and nobody else scores anything.

The main way you earn points are from the cards under your Foiled card, which represents your score-pile, so when the game ends, players score points for all these cards. Normal Plans cards here are worth 2 points each, while Escapee cards are worth 5 points (generic) or 10 points (infamous).



Multiple rounds are played, with the first person reaching 100 points being the winner. Most of our games last about four rounds altogether, and each round plays fairly quickly.

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Familiar Rummy mechanic: The basic mechanic here is going to be very familiar to most people. It employs the traditional rummy style of play, with players drawing cards, making melds with at least three cards and then laying off on existing melds, discarding a card, and trying to be the first to go out to earn bonus points. This makes the game easy to teach, even to non-gamers.

New Rummy mechanics: While the core of the game-play is familiar, that's where the similarities with traditional Rummy stop. There's a number of new and interesting mechanics that really change the way the game works, such as the action cards, as well as the way you are combining melds with escapees, and also a changed approach to the scoring.

New Rummy theme: The addition of a theme is not just window dressing in this game. As can be said for all the titles in the Mystery Rummy, Mike Fitzgerald (and his co-designer) has worked hard to try to incorporate elements of the theme into how the game works, and woven aspects of the game mechanics and theme together. The theme is enhanced by making reference to real historical figures and including details about them and their escape plans on the cards. While the theme is still somewhat pasted on, there's enough there to make it a meaningful part of the game, and help this game distinguish from other Mystery Rummy titles, while adding add a charm and flavour that plain rummy games lack. My children especially liked the historical theme a lot, and for them it was a big part of the appeal of the game, and generated an interest in the story and legends behind Alcatraz.

Worthy member of a popular series: The fact that this is a Rummy variant isn't reason to scorn this game. In fact, the first title in the Mystery Rummy series, Jack the Ripper, is the #1 ranked modern rummy game on BGG, Wyatt Earp is in second place, and other titles in the series aren't far behind. These are excellent games, and there's good reason they are so popular. They take something familiar, but add enough interesting mechanics and a novel theme to turn them into something fresh and fun. Like its predecessors, Escape from Alcatraz continues this fine tradition.

Unique member of a popular series: While continuing in the mould of the other Mystery Rummy titles, this game does enough to make it stand out from the previous games. Aside from the obvious difference in theme (which is something unique for all the games), the most noticeable differences in mechanics from other games in the series are the following:

Simplified scoring: Not all melds score, nor do you lose points for cards in hand; the only scoring cards are those of melds for which there is a total of 8 cards played between all players, and for which an Escapee can be played. This also keeps scoring simple and easy to manage. Unlike some of the others in the series, it does mean that you don't have opportunity to have opponents get minus points for cards remaining in hand, although you do still get a reward for going out in the form of bonus points depending on the number of Escapees in the yard. Often this is what you should focus on trying to achieve in order to win, rather than just relying on points from Foiled plans. Because other players have a chance to play an Escapee for a set that is Foiled, there's not a huge advantage for being the player that starts Foiling a plan, and points scored this way tend to even out, so there's usually a strong incentive to be the first player to go out.

Separate Action deck: Perhaps the most notable thing of interest in this game is having the Action cards as a separate deck, unlike the "Gavel" cards which were part of a single deck in the other games of the series. In other Mystery Rummy games, Gavel cards are part of the regular deck and part of your hand, and a higher degree of hand management is required to use them. Making the Action cards into a separate deck means that the only cards in hand are Plan and Escapee cards, again simplifying the game. More importantly, these Action cards add some degree of unpredictability (which not everyone will like), since you don't know what Action you'll get to perform, and you can't totally plan to go out on a turn because it may depend on what Action you have to perform. On the other hand, this does inject a greater level of excitement, because you are hoping to get a good Action card yourself, while it can be quite satisfying to see an Action card thwart your opponent and prevent him from going out at a critical moment, giving you an extra chance to go out yourself.

Separate area for Escapees: The bonus cards (Escapees) are played to a separate area (The Yard), making them more accessible to all players, which helps ensure a good game balance, rather than depending as much on the luck-of-the-draw to get them. This gives extra flexibility in starting new melds, and also adds tension for foiling plans: playing an Escapee to the Yard can let you start a new meld, but will that be the Escapee another player needs to foil a plan? Additionally, there's the rare opportunity of getting big points and shutting out the other players by going out before any plans have been foiled. On one of our games, the player that was in last place managed to do this and score a massive 50 points!

Solid game-play: Like the other games in the Mystery Rummy series, the gameplay isn't cheesy, but satisfying and fun. There's an inbuilt element of tension - when should you play cards, or hold back? Can you play enough cards to try to earn more points than your opponent, or will starting a new meld actually help rather than hurt your opponents? The real way to get ahead is by going out first, and getting bonus points from Escapees in the Yard. Playing melds will help you do that, but on the other hand this also helps your opponents by giving them opportunity to lay off cards, and that's where the tension and fun comes in. The first few times I played I thought that the game was mostly luck of the draw, but over time I came to realize that there are important and subtle decisions to be made about when to play cards. These subtleties typically won't reveal themselves until you've played a few times, but once you clue into them, the game becomes even more fun. The obvious move of playing all your legal cards is often not the best move, because it can help set up your opponents to score by foiling a plan or by going out, and so it's often better to hold back cards to prevent this, and to ensure you have something to play on your next turn as well. My family really enjoyed the game-play of this a lot, and keen to play it over and over, and the game is holding up well to repeated plays.

Simpler than others in the series: The big question for a lot of people is going to be how this game compares with others in the Mystery Rummy series. My main point of comparison is Jack the Ripper and Wyatt Earp, both of which I've played quite a bit. The biggest difference with this game is the separate Action deck, which makes the game much simpler, and also adds a greater element of unpredictability and randomness. It means that in your hand you'll only have Plans cards and Escapees. As a result, your decisions are mostly about which Plans to collect and when to play them, whereas in the other games you have to think harder about which Gavel cards to use, when to play Gavel cards, and there's extra tension in decisions to discard them. Here that's all turned into an Action deck, and you don't know what to expect when you turn over an Action card, nor will they ever be in your hand, so there's an element of pushing your luck, and hoping you'll get an Action that fits with your plans. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and while some will miss the harder decisions about hand management that having Gavel/Action cards in the main deck and in your hand creates, and the ability to plan more carefully, others will appreciate that Escape From Alcatraz has a more casual feel, with more luck and easier decisions, but also an extra element of fun that the other games lack.

Good for non-gamers: While there's still enough here to make this game interesting for me as a gamer, especially the additions beyond standard rummy, the game is still basic enough for non-gamers to enjoy. Particularly since the core mechanics are derived from standard rummy, it's quite easy to explain. This combination will be a real boon for anyone who has a significant other who is not a gamer - they'll happily be able to enjoy this game, while there's enough going on for you to have a fun time as well. In fact, compared with some of the others in the Mystery Rummy series, this is probably one of the "easier" and more fun games, and arguably the best place to start for someone who is a hardcore traditional card gamer and reluctant to play anything outside of that. So of all the games in the series, this one might be best suited for non-gamers, while gamers might find other titles in the series more rewarding; Jack the Ripper is still my personal favourite for this reason, although the more I play Escape From Alcatraz with my family, the more I have come to enjoy it as well.

Good for two players: This game certainly works fine at all player counts, but the fact that it plays well with just two players is a real bonus. Hands in two player games are typically over much more quickly, and it's more common to see shutouts where a player goes out before any plans are foiled. This does make games a little more luck dependent, but this also generates quite a bit of tension in seeing who will go out first, making games quite exciting; fortunes can swing quite quickly, and it's possible to see big comebacks from behind in scoring. Many people are looking for a relaxing game to play with their significant other, and this fits the bill nicely. The fact that this will also be the case with non-gamers is an additional advantage, because it means gamers looking to find something that their non-gaming spouse can enjoy will find that this game hits the mark well. My wife and I have enjoyed many casual games of Mystery Rummy in the past, and this title also proved to be an ideal choice for us.

Great with three players: While I quite enjoy the game with two players, I like the fact that with three players, a `shutout' is more rare, and there's a little less dependence on luck. With at least three players, the game really shines, and there's a little more strategy involved in deciding whether or not to play cards to melds or hold them back. Rounds tend to last a little longer, with foiling plans playing more of a role in scoring, although the player who goes out typically will earn the most points. With four players, down-time can start becoming an issue, and plans quickly become foiled since there are so many contributors, so holding back cards becomes less viable. I played quite a few three player games with my children and these worked really great, and were perhaps the most fun way to play.

Stylish components: The graphic design of the cards is very striking, but I think the "typed" font used on the cards helps evoke an atmosphere that is true to the period of history depicted by the game, which is strengthened by including flavour text on the cards that documents this history. The cards themselves are of a high quality, and I like the quality touch of having ribbon strips to help pull the cards out the box insert too.



What do others think?

The criticism

The game-play in this game is somewhat different from the other Mystery Rummy games, and there was a relatively small minority of players who prefer the other titles in the series. But while some didn't care for the separate action cards or found the game-play too straight-forward, most people found the game-play satisfying and rewarding; overall the critics have not been all that many.

The praise

Generally speaking this game has been well received, both by those who are playing a themed rummy game for the first time, as well as by those who are familiar with other titles in the Mystery Rummy series:

"Very fun rummy style game. The theme fits into the game very well." - Guido Van Horn
"This is my favorite of the Mystery Rummy titles, alongside Jack the Ripper." - Scott Waldie
"Another rummy style game with a good theme." - Robb Williams
"Another solid mystery rummy game. I like the escape/shutout mechanic, especially since it feels easier to play yourself into than in other MR games." - Mike Haverty
"It’s a great little card game with a very good production value." - Jonathan Nelson
"This is a good game, but really different from the other Mystery Rummy games." - F Fabrizi
"Solid rummy game that I've been able to play with my non-gamer parents and wife." - Josh Olson
"Fun twist to rummy. Clever game play, but very light." - Dean Rogers
"An interesting take on the Mystery Rummy games." - David Kahnt
"Fifth and best of the series so far ... Quite enjoyable." - Joe Canuck
"A nice rummy variant. I love the theme!" - Eric Herman
"I like set collection/rummy style games. This one has great theme and the cards are from historical events that happened at Alcatraz." - E Talley
"One of the better mystery rummies." - Mark Coomey
"This is a nice addition to the Mystery Rummy series ... The game returns some decision making to the game, and gives you a number of tactics to use when making melds." - Isaäc Bickërstaff
"My wife and I both consider this to be better than Jack the Ripper." - Steve Mugford
"This one though turns rummy from a sort of boring, theme-less card collection game into something with a little meat on its bones. Add to that the action cards along with how sets are scored, you've got a winner." - Joseph Peterson
"The Mystery Rummy games are a lot of fun. This one is different than the previous ones, but we still like it." - Beth Unger



Recommendation

So is Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz for you? There's good reason that the Mystery Rummy games are as popular as they are, and this title is as good as the others in the series. It has a more casual and lighter feel due to the separate Action deck, which adds an additional element of unpredictability, but at the same time makes decisions about hand management easier. The scoring system here is also simpler and more forgiving than the other games in the series. Many consider Escape From Alcatraz to be one of their favourites, along with Jack the Ripper. At present, these two games easily have the highest average ratings of all the games in the series, with Escape from Alcatraz (6.99) currently just nudging slightly ahead of Jack the Ripper (6.98). It's very suitable as a light and casual family game, and both my children and wife enjoyed it a lot, as did I.

Despite the familiar rummy engine underlying the gameplay, this game still feels fresh and somewhat original, with mechanics that help create fun and tense decisions. And the theme has been incorporated into the game enough to feel that it has some meaning. The components are also excellent quality, particularly the incorporation of flavour text recounting the historical setting of the game. People looking for a fun and relaxing card game that still offers a challenge need look no further than the superlative Mystery Rummy series, and this title is certainly perhaps one of the easiest and lightest ones, and one I can recommend.



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Mike Ricotta
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I own all of the mystery rummy games and I think this is one of my favorites. The strategy is really different I think and I like it! I feel that there is a lot of scheming and trickery in this version and it makes it fun to pull off a good play.
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Patrick C.
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Love your reviews Ender, but I gotta offer a dissenting voice on this one.

After Al Capone this is my least favorite of the Rummy variant games I've played. I like Wyatt Earp, Bonny & Clyde and Jekyl & Hyde a hundred times more than Escape from Alcatraz.

I don't have much time to play deeper games with a three year old in the house and two step kids who drive me insane. While I do play light games a lot, I need to know I have at least some level of control. In this version you cannot control when you go out with the action deck. I see some have said this adds excitement. Well, maybe it does, but that excitement comes from uncertainty - luck. Rummy is already full of luck and I don't see a need to add more.

My distaste for this version was so immediate and strong that we didn't even finish the game. The next night we played Jekyl and Hyde and both my wife and I agreed we preferred it over Alcatraz. Haven't played Jack the Ripper yet, but will soon.
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Thanks for the feedback Patrick. I don't think what you're saying is totally at odds with what I wrote in the review, namely that this is one of the more casual games in the series, and that many gamers will prefer the other titles due to how the Action deck works here. On the other hand this same factor will be the reason why some casual players will actually prefer Escape from Alcatraz.

You mention that you didn't even finish your first game, so I wonder if your judgment is somewhat hasty. My initial reaction was similar to yours, and I thought it was far too luck based. But after a few more 3 player games, some subtleties about game-play decisions began to reveal themselves, and I came to a more favourable assessment.

I also think your concerns apply more to a 2 player game, so if that's what you were playing, you may find yourself enjoying it more with 3 players, which I think is the optimal player count.

But notwithstanding the above, this title won't be for everyone, and you are probably in the category of those that I described as not enjoying this game, and some of the other Mystery Rummy titles are probably a better option for you. Definitely do try Jack the Ripper, which I'm very confident you'll enjoy - especially as a two player game, it is terrific, and still my own personal favourite of the games in the series that I've played!
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Mike Ricotta
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I agree, you really don't get the strategy of it all until the second or third game. I think there is a lot here to like and while not Jack the Ripper it is certainly very good with 2. The action deck isn't a big deal to me, the cards aren't super game changing most of the time. The main idea is managing the escapees so you can always play one no matter who melds. Limiting the number in the yard, squirreling the colored ones away in your hand trying to get your opponent to help you finish the meld, all fun stuff.

I personally can't stand Jekyll and Hyde, I think the shut out is far to easy to pull off. Murders in the Rue Morgue is dull. Capone is best with 4. Bonnie and Clyde scores way to high every hand...
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Nat Li
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Hi ender. amazing review series.

Question about two players for alcatraz....if i think jack ripper is awesome with two but unenjoyable at ever other count and wyatt earp is amazing with 3 but really bad with 4 and 2 players.....(wyatt earp at two feels wide open, at 4 players card hoarding and impossible shots become issue)....

Will i think alcatraz is a good game with 2? Is it tight enough at 2?
 
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alafter wrote:
Hi ender. amazing review series.

Question about two players for alcatraz....if i think jack ripper is awesome with two but unenjoyable at ever other count and wyatt earp is amazing with 3 but really bad with 4 and 2 players.....(wyatt earp at two feels wide open, at 4 players card hoarding and impossible shots become issue)....

Will i think alcatraz is a good game with 2? Is it tight enough at 2?

If you're just playing with two players, I'd stick with Jack the Ripper, which is definitely better at that count.

Escape from Alcatraz does work okay with two players, but it is more dependent on luck of the draw. In my experience, it tends to see wilder point scoring swings, and this especially occurs when a player goes out without the opponent having contributed to Foiling any plans (which tends to happen much more often in a two player game than in games with more players). Games with more players tend to be tighter and more even.

I wouldn't say that Escape from Alcatraz is bad with two players (or with four players), but it just seems to be most enjoyable with three players. So if you play any three player games, you may find games with 2 or 4 players a slightly lesser experience. Of course if you don't know any better, you might happily enjoy it just as a two player game, if you don't mind the amount of luck.

For reference, we've easily played Escape from Alcatraz over 20 times altogether, mostly with 3 players because we enjoy it most at that number.
 
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Craig Duncan
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Hi Ender,

Suppose I was to buy just one Mystery Rummy game, and that 50% of my plays of this will be 2 players, and 50% will be 3 players.

Which one would you recommend?

It seems Jack the Ripper is great for 2p, but just so-so for 3p, while Wyatt Earp (I'm counting this as an unofficial Mystery Rummy title) and Alcatraz are great for 3p, so-so for 2p.

I guess the question is whether 3p Jack the Ripper is less bad than the 2p games of the other titles, or vice versa.

Any advice?
 
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cdunc123 wrote:
Suppose I was to buy just one Mystery Rummy game, and that 50% of my plays of this will be 2 players, and 50% will be 3 players. Which one would you recommend?

It seems Jack the Ripper is great for 2p, but just so-so for 3p, while Wyatt Earp (I'm counting this as an unofficial Mystery Rummy title) and Alcatraz are great for 3p, so-so for 2p.

I guess the question is whether 3p Jack the Ripper is less bad than the 2p games of the other titles, or vice versa. Any advice?

Quite honestly, I think if you get Jack the Ripper, you won't play 50% of your games with 3 players; because you'll like it so much at 2 players that when you have 3 players you may just pick a different 3 player game from your collection instead.

Similarly, if you get Wyatt Earp (or Escape from Alcatraz), you won't play 50% of your games with 2 players; because you'll like it so much at 3 players that when you have 2 players you may just pick a different 2 player game from your collection instead.

I'd make your decision based on how you'd answer this question: "What do you want more right now, a 2 player game or a 3 player game?"
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EndersGame wrote:
cdunc123 wrote:
Suppose I was to buy just one Mystery Rummy game, and that 50% of my plays of this will be 2 players, and 50% will be 3 players. Which one would you recommend?

It seems Jack the Ripper is great for 2p, but just so-so for 3p, while Wyatt Earp (I'm counting this as an unofficial Mystery Rummy title) and Alcatraz are great for 3p, so-so for 2p.

I guess the question is whether 3p Jack the Ripper is less bad than the 2p games of the other titles, or vice versa. Any advice?

Quite honestly, I think if you get Jack the Ripper, you won't play 50% of your games with 3 players; because you'll like it so much at 2 players that when you have 3 players you may just pick a different 3 player game from your collection instead.

Similarly, if you get Wyatt Earp (or Escape from Alcatraz), you won't play 50% of your games with 2 players; because you'll like it so much at 3 players that when you have 2 players you may just pick a different 2 player game from your collection instead.

I'd make your decision based on how you'd answer this question: "What do you want more right now, a 2 player game or a 3 player game?"


The problem for me is that my family HATES learning new games. (I suppose I've been too pushy over the years, and now face a backlash!) They will tolerate about learning one new game a year. So I seek out games that can be played at different player counts, so we can get more plays of it in, whatever it is. Both my wife and daughter enjoy Rummy with regular cards, so that is why I'm looking into acquiring a Mystery Rummy title.
 
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cdunc123 wrote:
The problem for me is that my family HATES learning new games. (I suppose I've been too pushy over the years, and now face a backlash!) They will tolerate about learning one new game a year. So I seek out games that can be played at different player counts, so we can get more plays of it in, whatever it is. Both my wife and daughter enjoy Rummy with regular cards, so that is why I'm looking into acquiring a Mystery Rummy title.

Fair enough Craig! Then I don't think you'll make a bad choice whichever one you decide on.

Perhaps in your situation it's better to make a decision based on either:
a) what complexity you prefer (Escape to Alcatraz is the "lightest" of the three); or
b) which theme you think your family will enjoy the most (Jack the Ripper's theme is somewhat macabre, Escape from Alcatraz has lots of interesting historical details about the prison escape attempts, while Wyatt Earp's Western theme is arguably the most "fun").
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EndersGame wrote:
cdunc123 wrote:
The problem for me is that my family HATES learning new games. (I suppose I've been too pushy over the years, and now face a backlash!) They will tolerate about learning one new game a year. So I seek out games that can be played at different player counts, so we can get more plays of it in, whatever it is. Both my wife and daughter enjoy Rummy with regular cards, so that is why I'm looking into acquiring a Mystery Rummy title.

Fair enough Craig! Then I don't think you'll make a bad choice whichever one you decide on.

Perhaps in your situation it's better to make a decision based on either:
a) what complexity you prefer (Escape to Alcatraz is the "lightest" of the three); or
b) which theme you think your family will enjoy the most (Jack the Ripper's theme is somewhat macabre, Escape from Alcatraz has lots of interesting historical details about the prison escape attempts, while Wyatt Earp's Western theme is arguably the most "fun").


Thanks again, Ender. One quick follow-up question: between JtR and WE, which is the more complex (i.e. more difficult to learn and play)?
 
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cdunc123 wrote:
Thanks again, Ender. One quick follow-up question: between JtR and WE, which is the more complex (i.e. more difficult to learn and play)?

They're pretty similar. Personally I think Jack the Ripper is slightly more complex because there's a few tricky things about the rules that people easily get wrong (see thread).

Interestingly BGG's current weight (based on user polls) lists them just the other way around , with the current weight for Jack the Ripper as 1.73 and Wyatt Earp as 1.84. It's much of a muchness.

In contrast, the current weight for Escape from Alcatraz is 1.41. Admittedly that poll doesn't have as many responses as yet, so it wouldn't be quite as accurate. But clearly it is a considerably lighter game.
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