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I’d wanted to play one of these hosted mysteries for quite some time. We decided to do one for my birthday this year, and Star Trek is something several of my friends enjoy, so I grabbed a complete copy off of eBay and played through it on February 12, 2010. This review will be spoiler free, as I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. It will be written so that people who have never played a game like this will get an idea how it plays out.

In this game, you play through an original mystery set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. For those that it matters, the story would take place sometime between episode 5.14, "Conundrum," when the crew suffers amnesia, and (probably) 7.11, "Parallels," when Worf and Troi develop a romantic relationship.

The game is easy to set up, fun to play, and if you took the time to read this, it will probably go over well in your group.

[Sections you can skip to: BASIC OVERVIEW, WHAT YOU GET IN THE BOX, SET-UP, GAMEPLAY, THE WRITING, WAS IT FUN?, FINAL THOUGHTS]

BASIC OVERVIEW (Number of Players; Playing Time; Age Level)

The game is for 8 players, and only for 8 players. Not seven, not nine, not twenty-three, but eight. Each person can choose or is assigned one of the eight characters in the game, four male and four female: William Riker, Worf, Beveryly Crusher, Ro Laren, Data, Geordi La Forge, Deanna Troi, and Guinan. (The game claims that if more people show up, they can just be unnamed crew members and still take part--I would imagine that wouldn’t be much fun for them, but what the hey.)

This was our first time to ever play a game like this, and the game itself took us about 2 hours from introduction to solution (it went by quickly). The majority of the game is talking, and we were a talkative group, if that helps. We also chose to have dinner and then play, but you could probably play as you enjoyed your food. The game entry claims it take 360 minutes, which is outlandish.

As for the age level, I would say this would be appropriate for teens and up. I’ve heard that this game is much tamer than other games of its ilk, but bear in mind that it discusses Riker’s romantic liaisons with two of the other players, and it insinuates that several characters had romantic liaisons during the course of the mystery. In fact, this game has more romantic liaisons than an entire of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The game’s mystery deal with theft, not murder, but minor violence does occur.

WHAT YOU GET IN THE BOX:



(Thanks for the image, jeffjwatts)
-An audio cassette tape with details of the mystery
-A diagram of the Enterprise and the crime scene
-Host’s Guide/Instruction booklet (also includes dinner and costume suggestions)
-8 guest invitations with envelopes
-8 player clue manuals
-9 secret clues and 1 investigation report (these are single pages included in a large, thin book, and are to be torn out and folded)
-Name tags with the character name and the a little Star Trek insignia/communicator/logo

SET-UP (Game set-up, The Tricky Part, and A Word on Costumes)

The makers of this game did an exceptional job making it easy to prepare. The set-up for this game is extremely simple: think Monopoly, not Power Grid. Before the game I: (1) filled out the provided invitations, (2) passed out the invitations, (3) skimmed the host manual, (4) set up the audio tape, (5) tore out and folded the Secret Clues, and (6) cut out and put a pin on the nametags. (Okay, okay, a friend helped do 5 and 6 right before we ate took no time at all.)

The trickiest part of getting ready for this game is getting the group of players together. You have to have exactly eight, and it has to be composed of four males and four females, or at least enough people willing to play those gendered characters. You might check with those guys playing Citadels:



I let my friends choose their characters, which was a bit of a pain, but that meant at least some of them go to be who they wanted to be.

This brings us to the topic of costumes. The group pictured below went absolutely all out on costumes, and you can read about their experience here: http://www.britta.com/mystery/Trek/.



We however, were a lot more laid back about our costumes--most just wore regular clothing, and a few of us wore t-shirts with drawn-on communicators or plastic communicator pins. The person playing Ro Laren probably went to the most trouble, as she drew her Bajoran t-zone bumps on with an eyebrow pencil. (nerd joke) Our Klingon had a smooth forhead--he was apparently a victim of the Augment virus * http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Klingon_augment_virus*. (/nerd joke). We still had fun. Going all out looks like great fun, but we had a great time without worrying too much about costumes.

GAMEPLAY

Here’s how the game works. The host’s guide lists the order of events, so one person should use it to keep track of where you are. The game is played in character, with each player pretending to be their character. You start out by listening to an audio clip (1/3) which sets the stage. You pass out the personal clue manuals and go over the rules and the scene. Another audio clip is played (2/3) which introduces the mystery and a paper with a report of the investigation becomes public knowledge. After that, each player reads their profile in the manuals, and introduces themselves to the group in character.

Now begins the game proper. The game is divided into four rounds, each played the same way. At the beginning of the round, each player reads their facts for that round from their clue manual. There are two types of facts: facts concerning yourself and facts known about others. You must bring up the facts concerning others, and only volunteer the facts about yourself when someone else brings it up. Something about all of your personal facts is noted in someone else’s book, so all of them will come up eventually—but you are allowed to be evasive about what you say, but you are not allowed to lie about anything in the book. The round proceeds as people bring up the various suspicious things they noticed about others, and the group talking about them, accusing each other of the theft, etc.

Here’s an example of such a discussion given in the host’s guide (this has nothing to do with the game):
Deanna: "Yesterday at 1600 hours I came out of the turbolift onto the bridge and saw Ro sitting at Data’s computer terminal. When she saw me, she quickly returned to her own station."

Ro: "What’s wrong with that? We all work with the same computer. If you are so worried about someone with computer knowledge, how about asking Geordi why he spent four hours at his terminal in engineering—in the middle of the night."

Then Geordi could ask where Deanna was coming from at 1600 hours.

Each round, there are also folded pieces of evidence that are given to specific characters. These must be presented, but those players can choose when in the conversation to present them. These clues remain public knowledge for the rest of the game. When everyone has said all of their facts about other characters and all pieces of evidence have been presented, the round ends and people begin reading the facts for the next round.

At the end of the fourth round, each player says who they suspect the culprit to be. Then, everyone turns to the end of their player manuals, which contain a numbered solution. Each player reads their solution in the numbered order, which finally reveals what happened. Then the final audio clip (3/3) is played and the game is over.

THE WRITING (The quality of the background and mystery)

This game was well-written. They did their homework on this one, and as a Star Trek: TNG fan, I had no major problems. The show’s characters generally act as you would expect them to act, the background information recalls a few past plots and makes mention of alien races, technology, and the culture you’d find in Star Trek. My only complaint: some of the original characters for the game have extremely cheesy names (Admiral Cyrus Phi, for one).

The mystery itself is full of fun twists and turns, and was obviously written with Star Trek in mind--you couldn’t just take the same plot and use it in the Old West or Ancient Egypt. All the characters act with understandable motives, and the story succeeds in keeping you guessing until the very end.

WAS IT FUN? (Was the game fun and why; Would non-Star Trek fans enjoy it?)

This game was fun. It was easy to get going, the discussions were lively, and I’m sure it will be a memorable event.

Would non-Star Trek fans enjoy it? Three of us, myself included, are fans of Star Trek and could hold our own in a Trek Trivia contest. The other five have either never seen an episode, seen an occasional episode, or watched it sometimes when they were a kid. Everyone still had fun. The manuals include a glossary of Star Trek terms, but I think you should probably have at least one person in your group that enjoys Star Trek who can quickly explain what a hypospray is. You don’t have to know anything that isn’t included in your player manual to enjoy and take part in the mystery.

I have a minor complaint: the game slowed down a bit at the very end, where players read their solutions. Each player read almost 500 words, meaning that all eight of us read a total of nearly 4,000 words. That’s more than Stephen King tries to write in a day. It was exciting to hear the solution and what had actually been going on, but this was the only part of the game where anyone seemed to be running out of steam (it was also getting a little late, which might’ve been responsible).

FINAL THOUGHTS

I rated this game a 7. By its nature, you can only really play the mystery once, but I would usually love to play other games of similar type and quality. It’s a fun type of gaming experience, and one I think most people would like to at least try.

I would recommend this game to anyone who is a Star Trek fan and wants to play one of these hosted mysteries. Despite the slight slow-down at the end and the occasional cheesy character names, this game was a hoot. It was an easy way to plan a party, and it got everyone talking.

It was a good introduction to the genre, and I’m looking forward to playing another hosted mystery--maybe I’ll make it my own birthday tradition.

How to Host a Mystery: Star Trek: The Next Generation was made in 1992, but complete copies are currently (as of 02-13-2010) available off of eBay for $10-$20 shipped. If you’re planning to play and are missing the cassette or it is damaged, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
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Daniel Ottey
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Thanks for the write-up. I think I had bought this for my dad a long time ago as a birthday or christmas present. I'm not sure if he ever played it.

I have a question. Is the mystery the same every time? So, does the same character "do it" each time, or can you get multiple plays out of it?

I doubt I could find enough friends who would be interested in playing it though - and I'm sure they wouldn't dress up for it, LOL.
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~Ryan McSwain
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otteydw wrote:
I have a question. Is the mystery the same every time? So, does the same character "do it" each time, or can you get multiple plays out of it?


The game follows a set script, and the mystery and culprit are exactly the same every time. The clues, plot, and outcome are completely set in stone.

The interaction between the characters and each person's guess as to whodunit are really the only variables when you play. You could play this more than once, but the fun would be in hosting the party, not in trying to figure out the game again.

You also use certain non-renewable parts of the game--name tags, invitations, envelopes--so once you use the game, it's not even worth selling, in my opinion, especially with so many new copies going for cheap on eBay.

otteydw wrote:
I doubt I could find enough friends who would be interested in playing it though - and I'm sure they wouldn't dress up for it, LOL.


I thought the same thing. I wouldn't say no for your friends, I'd give them a chance to jump in. I thought finding enough people would be difficult, but everyone that I asked who was free that evening came and had a great time.

We had to explain to several people in my group who Data was, if that tells you the level of familiarity they had with The Next Generation, and dressing up really isn't necessary. But if you think this isn't a great game for the first time, grab one of the others available and then hit 'em with this one later on.

(Edited for clarity.)
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dan milano
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Well I bought the game on Ebay, got the missing cassette from a friend on facebook who sent it to me, which I converted to .mp3

Friends dressed up, we put food coloring in every dish we served so it all looked alien, my ipod had the mystery content plus plenty of STTNG score to play while we ate dinner....

...And I gotta say, as much fun as these games can be by nature of the social experience - the mystery itself was such a terrible letdown.

I won't ruin the 'twist' ending but suffice to say not only the game is the same every time (I won't begrudge it that, most of these games work off a script) but NONE OF THE PLAYERS' BACKSTORIES, INTERVIEWS OR CONVERSATIONS had any impact on the ending.

There was no way anyone could deduce the clues, which was a major disappointment for all those who really got into the roleplay, tried to figure out the mystery, etc.

In the end nothing matters. At the end of dinner (once everyone is good and fed and tipsy, btw) everyone has to read an unbearably long, endless paragraph of text that essentially tells a very ridiculous (even for sci fi) story that steals the excitement of a real ending from everyone.

Our guests ranged from die hard fans to total newbies. Everyone agreed the game really left us wanting. So know that there are better games out there (I think someone online made their own script) and really any mystery game can be converted to star trek with some creative tweaking.

As for this specific version, there is nothing here to make this worth even the cheapest garage sale purchase. The badges are flimsy paper, the cassette has brief narration that's already included in the host's book, and as I say, all the character backgrounds and story booklets are nonsense.

Trek deserved better treatment with this - it was still a fun night, but the dissapointment in our guests was unanimous and that's just not how a party should end.

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Jay Kogan
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Quote:
I won't ruin the 'twist' ending but suffice to say not only the game is the same every time (I won't begrudge it that, most of these games work off a script) but NONE OF THE PLAYERS' BACKSTORIES, INTERVIEWS OR CONVERSATIONS had any impact on the ending.

There was no way anyone could deduce the clues, which was a major disappointment for all those who really got into the roleplay, tried to figure out the mystery, etc.

In the end nothing matters. At the end of dinner (once everyone is good and fed and tipsy, btw) everyone has to read an unbearably long, endless paragraph of text that essentially tells a very ridiculous (even for sci fi) story that steals the excitement of a real ending from everyone.

Our guests ranged from die hard fans to total newbies. Everyone agreed the game really left us wanting.


I would entirely agree with all of this. If we hadn't of dressed up and dined on alien style foods (Dragon Fruit, yum!) the night would have been a complete waste of time. The tape was fun and the premise was fine, but the execution was terrible. Definitely the worst murder mystery I've played.
 
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