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Subject: A Bloody Good Time with 'Murder at Blood Mansion' rss

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Aaron Sturgill
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You've gathered your friends and family, sat down to await a delightful meal when suddenly the lights go out--screams are heard! A THUMP! The lights flicker once. Twice. They fade back in. Zona, the mansion's cook, exits the kitchen, sees the scene before her and seemingly sinks into shock. The silver platters slip from her hands unsettlingly clanging and clattering upon the tile floor. Your eyes survey the area in which Zona stares standing silently. A body lies amidst the evening's supper. Murder is served.

You quickly gather your wits and glance up at those gathered at the table. A peaceful dinner with friends has become a standoff! Everyone is pointing fingers! Accusations fly wildly! The cards are out, the murder dealt--find the suspect, find the weapon, and find the reasons why! But wait... is that Guilt that riddles your face? A slight grin plays at the corner of your mouth whilst you gather your keys and peer around for the weapon of which you wielded to so devilishly dispatch of your dinner guest. Perhaps you will escape before anyone notices, or are there too many crumbs upon that floor that lead straight back to you?

"Murder at Blood Mansion" is a deduction based card game for 2-6 players where you must identify and collect certain cards to solve the murder or make your escape. In the beginning, everyone selects who they will play as from an ensemble of quirky and questionable characters, illustrated amazingly by the talented Parker Jacobs (Yo Gabba Gabba!, The Aquabats). There is Lady Blood, the mistress of the manor; Meriwether, a veteran with a mechanical arm; Tabitha, Lady Blood's actual or at least anxiously aspiring friend; Luscious, the groundskeeper and fix-it-man; Demetrius, the inventor and alchemist; and Zona, the short tempered cook. Each character comes with their own special ability or "Scheme" symbolized upon their character token which lies face up in front of the player who selected them until used. Lady Blood can steal a suspect card from someone's hand, Meriwether can steal a weapon, Tabitha can cancel an action or another character's scheme with her "Slam the Door!" scheme, Zona can shuffle or stack the deck, Luscious can trade hands with another player, and Demetrius can steal 2 Guilt Cards through which to accuse or escape with.

Once chosen, each character's Suspect card is placed face down and mixed around and one is randomly selected and inserted into the main deck of cards. The other Suspect cards are set to the side as well as the Murder cards. The deck is then shuffled and five cards are dealt facedown to each player. The player with the most Suspect and/or Weapon cards in their hand goes first and draws one of the Murder cards from its stack laying it face up upon the table. This card shows the crime scene and what weapon was used to commit the murder. Leave it in the center of the table, and don't get your fingerprints all over it! Now that you know what weapon committed the crime, it's up to you and the other players to find that weapon, find the identity of the murderer, and find enough guilt cards and clues to either make an accusation or escape the mansion.

The cards consist of several different types. There are Weapon cards for each weapon featured in the individual crime scenes, but with only one crime scene drawn, every other weapon simply serves as a card in your hand to throw others off the trail. There are Action cards which allow players to do numerous things like steal a card from someone else, skip their turn, and even make them discard all false weapons in their hand. There are the Guilt cards which contain a number, a symbol, and a clue. The numbers must add up to a certain amount of guilt before an accusation can be made. The symbols must match to escape if you are the murderer. And the clues come into play when making an accusation to explain exactly what happened. Lastly, there are the Suspect cards. Having only slipped one into the deck, you'd think it would be easy to see when someone had the Suspect in hand, but the deck, like any good mystery, is riddled with Red Herrings--false leads, dead ends, distractions.

On your turn, you can play a card or discard a card, and you may draw a card. You can never have more than five cards in your hand at once. If you have taken your turn, drew your cards, and you are over five in hand, any extra is considered dead weight and must be discarded without action. You can never discard the real weapon, but you can discard the suspect if forced to or if you feel it is best to make the crime public knowledge... although that puts everyone on a race to solve the case with the weapon and guilt points and the suspect in the right situation to make their escape and get off scot-free. The discard pile is always public knowledge and can be looked through at will.

In a 2-4 player game, a player must amass a total of 40 Guilt points, know the identity of the Suspect, and have the Weapon card in their hand to make an accusation. In a 5-6 player game, only 30 points are needed. The player who holds the winning cards will lay them on the table, state who the murderer was, show the weapon used, and read the clues off of the guilt cards to explain to everyone how they solved the murder. If you are the murderer, you only need two guilt cards with matching symbols and the murder weapon to make your escape. Perhaps you have a set of keys, you've procured an escape via a horse carriage, plan to sail out upon a ship or board a train, or maybe even wheel it out on a bicycle. Whatever your means of escape, find it fast before someone else takes the weapon from your murdering, bloody, filthy hands.

Murder at Blood Mansion is a delightfully fun game. It harkens back to a Clue-like feel with a bit more interaction between players. In testing the game, I played several rounds with new individuals who promised to sit down for one game and ended up playing around ten. It simply has that addictive and endearing quality that makes you want to play it on repeat. The components, although part of an early copy, are phenomenal! The cards are Tarot sized and feel and look fantastic! The player tokens, which are slated for change already as part of the first drafter Kickstarter stretch goal, are fantastically designed and of thick quality. And the art is simply charming!

There are a few minor things of mention. For one, this game can occasionally have an interesting effect where several people find out about the murderer and decide to do away with competition and rally against them. I guess it has to do with an overwhelming sense of justice and keeping that despicable murderer from escaping, but people will sometimes forget that they are against each other in an attempt to solve the murder first and gain fame and glory (and a boost to their ego). Of technical note, when shuffling in the suspect card, you have to take precautions that you don't shuffle as you normally would right there on the table with the faces of the cards flashing up towards... well, the faces of the people playing. If someone just so happens to see the suspect in the initial setup and doesn't let you know, then the overall fun would suffer. For that same reason, a blind accusation should not be made by a player who is simply choosing to take a stab at it. Pun intended. Accusations can also only be made during your turn. And you can never ask someone for a specific card beyond the general categories (Action, Suspect, Weapon, Guilt) or ask to see the faces of their cards. You can only see the backs and judge what they might be by one of the identifying letters. Great care should be taken by the way you hold your cards so that you don't flash the faces to any of your neighbors and so that the backs have all the card types in your hand revealed and identifiable. Also, don't forget that a scheme can only be played once during the game, and Tabitha's Scheme is the only "Slam!" in the game that can cancel another Scheme. There are several "Slam!" cards in the deck, but they can only be used to cancel out other action cards.

After a good amount of plays in the couple of weeks I've had to grip my hands around the neck of this captivating caper, I have to say I and my family and gaming group are fans of this game. Braden Barty has made something refreshingly new while also somewhat nostalgic and familiar. It is family friendly, very easy to learn, fast paced, and a lot of fun. WYLD Gaming gives it a Hooves Up as a great casual card game to add to your collection, especially if playing with a family or light gaming group. Murder at Blood Mansion makes it debut on Kickstarter on 7.7.17. You can view the early draft of their campaign and get notified when they launch by going to:

Please note, this is a review of a game that is in pre-production meaning some mechanics, appearances, rules, and other components may change. WYLD Gaming was provided this copy for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated in any manner, nor were their words, results, or review scores influenced in any way by anyone outside of the author's own opinions and perspective. If you've enjoyed this review, we encourage you to share it with others to help WYLD Gaming get similar opportunities in the future while also helping the game being reviewed get more attention for their Kickstarter campaign. Thank you!
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