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Donner Dinner Party» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Looks good, tastes not so good rss

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Duncan McKay
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Bought this game as it looked good from Zee's review, and we are always on the lookout for entertaining new social deduction games for our lunchtimes to provide some variety from the usual Secret Hitler/Resistance/Salem/Mafia fare.

However our first experience of Donner Dinner Party was not good. Is it unfair to post a review after so few plays? Maybe. Did we play it all wrong? Probably. But because of the poor first experience, it's hard to persuade people to play it again, so this review is more of a 'don't make the same mistakes as us' warning than me bashing the game.

Just a quick word on the game components, they are excellent quality. The cards and instruction booklet have a lovely fabric feel to them which I really like.

So, first let's look at the mechanics of the game without the Mr Tasty card, as that's how most people will initially play it.

Numbers

As with most social deduction games, the game will be a bit skewed to either side depending on the exact number of players. We played with ten players, and the rules state that there are three cannibals for 8-10 players... on reflection, I can't help but feel this is wrong and the ten player setup should be 4 vs 6, so it's a two-player deficit like the 8 player game. A four-player deficit to make up before the turns run out felt virtually impossible.

Limit discussion to failed hunts only

The rulebook is not clear on this, only explicitly mentioning a two-minute discussion after a failed hunt to decide who to eat. However I strongly recommend NO DISCUSSION after a successful hunt and just move straight onto the next round. At most just go "Oh, three poisons! Really?" and move on. On our first game we got into a whole "lets leave the cards out and claim who played what" thing, which I think ruins the game. It immediately forces contradiction not just between cannibal and pioneer, but cannibal and cannibal! Especially in the ten player setup, the cannibals cannot afford this. Really, don't do this. Just move on, and make the pioneers have to try and remember what came out in previous successful hunts if they want to trap a cannibal in a lie after a failed hunt.

Playing out a loss

So you've had a cannibal exposed early and killed. What does this mean? Unfortunately, it means the game is probably already totally lost for the cannibals, but nobody knows for sure, so you have to keep playing. This is not good. Depending on the rounds remaining, it means the pioneers can only lose if one of them kills their own with the rifle or hatchet - but why would they when they know by not using them they've already won? I don't like the "beat the clock" aspect for the cannibals and think it makes things hopeless with an early setback (and why 3 vs 7 just doesn't work), but it's such an integral part of the game design. It feels like Mafia, except the Mafia can't kill anyone, the townsfolk mostly don't have to kill anyone, and you've only got a few rounds to do it in. Impossible.

Mr Tasty

So the poor cannibals have a tough time and we need Mr Tasty to even up the game. Does it?

Cannibal draws Mr Tasty - happy days! Massive advantage for the cannibals. Just do your cannibal thing and you'll probably get eaten... (unless the pioneers do the final tactic mentioned below)

Cannibals don't have Mr Tasty - OK, what do you do? Well, can you tell if a pioneer has him? Firstly, I hope you have the rifle, so you can shoot Mr Tasty if you get the chance. If you don't, then hopefully you have the hook, so you can retrieve the rifle if a pioneer is stupid enough to use it. Or maybe the hatchet, just in case Mr Tasty is ever the leader and you get the kill chance, but that's pretty unlikely.

Now just to make the pioneers reveal who the real Mr Tasty is. I know, I'll claim to be Mr Tasty, and the real Mr Tasty will contradict me! Except obviously, he won't. Cos that would be stupid, especially if he didn't know where the rifle was.

If the pioneers want to work together to win, one will just play their Supply card, proving they aren't Mr Tasty, and providing someone safe to kill any time hunting fails. Similarly, this makes it very difficult for a cannibal to play their card, if most other people are holding theirs back.

Mechanically I'm just not sure this game works - I'm pretty sure it doesn't in the ten-player setup. Maybe small group numbers work better with it? Be interested to hear how your experience compares.

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Marco Grubert
United States
San Diego
CA
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Thank you for the review!

We played two rounds with 5 players (3 pioneers vs 2 cannibals) and in both cases it was an easy win for cannibals by getting rid of two pioneers. Because there is almost no public knowledge I do not understand what you are supposed to "discuss" in the discussion phase. "Oh I think you are the cannibal!" - "No, you are!" - "Let's vote!".

This is in contrast to a game like Bang where you can deduce allegiances based on public actions.
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Ziggy Zigo
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I played several games of DDP over the weekend with a crew of very experienced social deduction gamers (we play Werewolves, Secret Hitler, Deception, and Don't Mess With Cthulu frequently). Our games were for 8 players, which theoretically has a good ratio for cannibals. In all cases, the pioneers won. The thing that made a big difference was players stating up front what Supply card they had face down in front of them. That made it much more challenging for the cannibals to bluff, because on the reveal, even taking into account the random card the camp leader has. If the distribution is too skewed, suspicions come up. For example, if 4 players say "I put in a squirrel," and only 3 come up, players would immediately say, "Okay, I know one of you is a cannibal." Previously, the cannibals had tried to hold of on declaring what they had put down until after the reveal (so their claim could better match the Hunting card distribution). That was immediately met by, "You didn't declare up front - you must be a cannibal."

Adding Ol' Tasty didn't help much. As was pointed out earlier, the players would always vote to take out someone who had already played a Supply card.

I also don't like the statement in the instructions that the cannibals automatically win if there are the same number of cannibals as pioneers. That is not a guaranteed victory if you were to play it out. For example, if there are 6 players left, 3 pioneers and 3 cannibals, and a vote needs to be taken, you could have a tie - 3 votes each - between one pioneer and one cannibal. If the camp leader is a pioneer, the cannibal is killed and the pioneers once again have a majority.

The game could be tweaked to improve its balance. For example, providing more Supply cards and letting each player start with 2 would increase the riskiness of the game when Ol' Tasty is in play.
 
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