Now, straight off, I’m a fan of this game.
Like others have mentioned throughout these posts, the theme is very nicely done. Despite the slight grumbles over card design and misspelling, the game grabbed me by the cyber-goolies from the first try-out…
However, despite my love of the game, it does come with a lot of ambiguous and unclear game-play…
So, for the benefit of all of you who might care, I wanted to try and really ‘work’ whatever skills or strategies might be involved in the game, to try and unravel why the game seems to work for me and my amigos, and why perhaps it hasn’t worked for so many others…
First things first.
I am convinced the game’s main objective isn’t the storytelling/ guesswork angle it first seems to be. This aspect is clearly part of the game, but the true bluffing begins with the actual movement of the cards and where your opponents’ place these cards on their dataslates. The stories we tell are, I think, only a side-line to the main bulk of the game, especially as there’s no real way of knowing if the stories are true or not, just by listening to them - (unless you can read your opponents micro-body language, that is!)
Additionally, the way to win the game is through acquiring as many credits as possible within the 6 turns allotted and so my main objective will be to make as much cash as possible, all the while trying to keep my opponents bank balances as low as possible.
Now clearly, one way of doing this is by getting as many convictions as possible, whilst ensuring my opponents - or at least my auditee - does not. But this isn’t the only way to play the game. The Hardship Cards play a big part here, and I think those players who willingly bring down Hardships upon their characters may well gain more credits throughout the game…
Anyway, to the game….
(Advice: I've written my thoughts at the time of the game in Italics. It's probably best just to breeze through the Card drawing and placing descriptions and read the Italics... Then again, for a cure for Insomnia, read everything!)
Our group of three (3) decided to implement two rules variants offered by KAND AFFAR in his post in the ‘Rules Variants’ section of the ‘Murder City’ Forums.
++Auditor draws a Hardship Card if he makes a false accusation as to the validity of a Joven’s murder case. (The penalisation for falsely challenging a Joven’s case…).
++5-10 Evidence cards are taken out of each evidence deck as pre-discards before the game begins. (We chose to remove 5 evidence cards from each deck as pre-discards)
We also implemented (by mistake!);
++A player may take a Hardship Card in the Investigation Phase and in the Court Phase.(ie a player may choose to take up to two Hardship Cards a turn, one in each phase)
We select our characters randomly;
Xerxes - Analytical Alien Investigator (AAI): He would be my Auditor
Matt (Me) - Corporate Liaison (CL)
Ms. Viper - Altered Human Data Processor (AHDP): I would be her Auditor
My strengths: Professional Opinion (I can sift through the Proffesional Opoinion discard deck)
My weaknesses: Murder Weapon (I must pay 1 Credit per MW evidence I draw)
My starting Evidence: (Prof.Op.)/Org, (Interrogation)/Blu, (Forensics)/Grn
I also make a close note of AHDP’s strengths and weaknesses as she would be the character I would be auditing the most throughout the game.
And her starting Evidence;
(Forensics), (Interrorgation) and (Eyewitness).
We next all drew our Murder Cards;
Slot # 1: Blu
Slot # 2: Org
Slot # 3: Red
Again, I pay close attention to my auditee.
Slot # 1: Yel
Slot # 2: Grn
Slot # 3: Blu
Finally, we take our 3 starting Creds and the game begins with AAI on my left and the first turn’s Investigation Phase…
++ Turn 1
++ Investigation Phase
(Xerxes takes his turn, watched by Ms. Viper. - I will only concentrate, however on mine and Ms. Viper’s play unless Xerxes takes an action that directly effects me or her..)
Legwork: ‘Dataslate System Shutdown’
In hand: (Prof.Op.)/Org, (Interrorgation)/Blu, (Forensics)/Grn
Draw: (Murder Weapon)/Red, (Prof.Op)/Wild
(My Red Case (Slot # 3) has no MW evidence, so this card will have to sit in my hand a while longer, unless I want to bluff, but Id rather play it safe for now…)
Place: (Int.)/Blu + (Prof.Op.)/Wild on Blu Murder Case (Slot # 1)
(Prof.Op.)/Org on Org Murder Case (Slot # 2)
Creds: 3 x Evidence placed = 3, -1 Cred for the Murder Weapon Draw (my weakness).
Bank: 5 Credits
AHDP (I pay great attention to her card selections and discards…)
In her hand: Forensics + Int. + Eyewitness
She Draws: Murder Weapon + Forensics
(Forensics is her strength, but she chooses not to sift the discard pile…)
She Places: Forensics + Eyewitness on Grn Murder Case (Slot # 2)
(Did she play her original Forensics card? And if she did, does this matter? The fact that she still holds a (Forensics) card, however, probably does mean the colour doesn’t match any of her Murder Cases and she’s being careful like me… It occurs to me that AAI will have seen I’m still holding a (Murder Weapon) card and that, if I decide to put it down as a bluff, he’ll probably catch me… If he’s paying attention, of course!)
Creds: 2 x Evidence placed = 2
Bank: 5 Credits
++ Court Phase
AAI - Passes
Me - I pass.
(My Blu Murder Case has 2 cards down, both of the correct colour, but with only a total of 3 Trial dice - the (Prof.Op.) card gives me an extra dice because of my strength - I don’t think its worth going even for the minimum target number; ‘14’ for an Aggravated Assault charge, in this case. Additionally, I’m not ready to hit the Hardship Deck, which could have given me an extra dice….)
AHDP - Takes Grn Murder Case (Slot # 2) to Court
Auditor: Me (+ 1 Credit)
Case: ‘Dead Business Partner’ with 2 Evidence: Forensics + Eyewitness
“The Suspect, a merchant banker, had a history of stimulant abuse. Additionally,Forensics turned up fresh urine stains on the carpet next to the victim, urine stains that could be traced through DNA tests, to the suspect.”
(What do I know?:
I ask her how sure she is that the suspect is going down for Murder One. She tells me there’s a very high chance - the evidence in both areas is strong. Is she bluffing me? She seems quite sure of herself. She’s looking to convince me to endorse her…
I know she’ll be gaining an additional dice on her Forensics due to her strength - so, a minimum of 3 dice and she needs a ‘21’ for Murder One on this case. Even with an additional dice from my endorsement, the evidence would indeed have to be good…
Additionally, this is the only case with any evidence on it. She’s going to court with only two cards. If she was bluffing, that would be risky.. I would have a 50/50 chance of choosing the false card correctly. Would it be worth her bluffing? - I also make a note, she’s holding 3 unused evidence cards - These cards, more than likely, are neither yellow, green or blue. She’s playing it safe…
So, if she’s telling the truth, should I endorse her?
If we get a ‘21’ or above and Murder One, she’ll receive 7 Credits and I’ll get 2 Credits for the endorsement. She’ll be 5 Credits ahead, but I would have gained Credits - my main goal, no matter how paltry the sum. If I simply Rubber Stamp and she fails to get Murder One, I’m 5 to 3 Credits behind, with NO extra cash in the bank…
The chances of her failing on even Aggravated (and therefore losing me 2 Credits through mis-endorsement) are low… I decide to endorse the case.)
Dice Roll: Target = 21
She Rolls: 16
+ My Dice = 5= 21! = Murder One!
(The merchant banker sucks cyanide and AHDP and I clap a high-five! AHDP’s evidence is shuffled discreetly into the discard deck - was she bluffing? I will never know…)
My Bank: 8 Credits
AHDP Bank: 12 Credits
++ Turn 2
++ Investigation Phase
(We forget to start this new turn with AHDP; she having the most Credits, but no worries…)
(Having a slow time of it and not putting down many cards…)
New Legwork: ‘Circumstantial Evidence’
Legwork Played: I play ‘Dataslate System Shutdown’ on AHDP. She can draw no new Legwork Card this turn. AHDP plays ‘Shocktroop Interference’ on me, limiting me to only one Evidence draw this turn. (Crap!)
In hand: (Forensics)/Grn, (Murder Weapon)/Red
Draw: Sift (Prof.Op.) Discards = (Prof.Op)/Red
(I draw a ‘Hardship’ for an Extra Evidence. ‘Cheating Spouse’. My Wife is Cheating on me! I cannot Audit AHDP’s Cases this turn. Any case she decides to take to court will go straight to trial. I see her eyes light up at that…!)
Place: (Prof.Op.)/Red on Red Murder Case Slot # 3
(Murder Weapon)/Blu on Blu Murder Case Slot # 1
Creds: 2 x Evidence placed = 2, -1 Cred for the Murder Weapon Draw.
My Bank: 9 Credits
(Again, I watch her card selections and discards, bearing in mind I wont be Auditing, but I still might learn a thing or two…)
New Murder Case: Yellow into Slot # 1
(Another yellow case. I’m damn certain she doesn’t have any yellow cards, at least no yellow (Int.), (Forensics) or (Prof.Op.), at any rate…)
She Draws: 1 x (Forensics) sifted from Discard Pile (I suspect the same Forensics Card from her previous turn, ie Grn….)
1 x (Murder Weapon)
She Places: (Forensics) + (Murder Weapon) on Blu Murder Case (Slot # 3) (But what are the chances these are both blue… Maybe the(Forensics) card, as she may well have chosen a blue one from the discard deck, but the (Murder Weapon) card? This would be grounds for a challenge, but I cant audit…)
Creds: +2 Creds
AHDP’s Bank: 14 Creds
++ Court Phase
AAI - Gets Rubber stamped by AHDP but fails to turn up even Aggravated Assault.
Me - Take Blu Murder Case (Slot # 1) to Court (I decide to go for it. I need some cash)
Case: ‘Dead Pimp’: Suspect: Classy Gigolo with 3 Evidence: (I)/Blu + (Prof.Op.)/Wild + (Murder Weapon)/Blu
“The suspect, whilst under interrogation, insisted on seeing a lawyer, a clear sign of guilt. Additionally, a pair of titanium knuckles covered in what Dr. X can only describe as “the victims blood,” were found in the Suspects under-pants. The man is guilty.”
1+1+1 (Trial dice) +1 (Prof.Op. strength dice) and I draw a Hardship for +1 extra dice (my cheating spouse throws me out of my own house after I accuse her of cheating on me! I‘m restricted once again to only 1 Evidence card next turn as I try and find a place to live…)
AAI is convinced (probably by my gutsy Hardship card draw!) and endorses me: +1 dice
Total Dice = 6
Roll = 18 = Manslaughter
(Pah! The Classy Gigolo sneers at me as he’s led away for a brief spell in the slammer… His titanium knuckles must have slipped into the Pimp’s face by accident… However, I get cash and AAI doesn‘t. This is all for the good!)
Credits: + 6
My Bank: 15 Credits
AHDP - Takes Blu Murder Case (Slot # 3) to Court with 2 Evidence (Forensics) + (Murder Weapon)
(She’s happy because the case will go straight to Court as I’m too busy with my cow of a wife… However, AAI plays a ‘Jurisdiction’ Legwork card and takes over as the Auditor!)
(What do we know?
As I mentioned above, its not likely the Forensic card is dodgy - she chose it from the discard deck… Which leaves the Murder Weapon Evidence card. I have to say, Ms. Viper took a lot longer than should have been necessary to place these two cards - a sign of a bluff attempt? Xerxes has also spotted this glitch, so he challenges the (Murder Weapon) card. And… its Orange! Busted!)
Result: Cash for AAI (2 Creds) and a Hardship Card for AHDP, and the case is thrown out of Court.
++ Turn 3
++ Investigation Phase
(Takes some cards, places some cards. AHDP watches him like a hawk. She‘s clearly now out gunning for the poor sucker after the last turn!)
New Murder Case: Grn into Slot # 1
In hand: (Forensics)/Grn, (Murder Weapon)/Red
Draw: 1 x (Prof.Op.) Discard deck - choose the (Prof.Op.)/Wild card I discarded last turn. I draw a Hardship - ‘Drunk’
(I find myself with a bottle of cheap bourbon, sitting next to a dumpster, crying for my wife! - As a consequence, a random card from my hand must be placed on a random Murder Case. My gracious Auditor watches me as I roll a dice and get given the new, Green Case in Slot # 1. The random card is the (Prof.Op.)/Wild card I’ve just drawn! No problems, though I ham it up a little, hopefully leading AAI to believe I’ve just messed up the Murder Case).
I draw a Yellow Forensic……
And so the game continued…
I managed to convince Xerxes to challenge me on the Green Murder case when I took it to Court that turn… Whether he thought I was double bluffing or not, I’m not sure…
Either way, it wasn’t a powerful Trial roll, but I got a minimum of Agg. Assault in the roll and some credits, and he got a Hardship Card for his troubles, which is all that mattered!
By the end of Turn 3, I was on 19 Credits, Ms. Viper on 17 and I think Xerxes had 12.…
Well, as I think I pointed out in the run-through, there dose seem to be plenty of chances to Bluff and to be bluffed, all with the taking and placing of cards… Clearly, the bluffing aspect is centred on the card play, rather than the stories.
We kept the stories reasonably minimal, with the odd splash of colour here and there (the urine, unfortunately, springs to mind…) but the real focus was on the card drawing, the sifting, the pondering and the placing.
The rules variants we used seemed to make sense. The two Hardship Card rule didn’t cause any problems - it actually added to the general levels of amusement as my Corporate Liaison first discovered his wife was cheating on him, next got thrown out of his own house when he confronted her about it and then ended up getting s**t-faced on bourbon as his life fell apart around him! Marvellous!
We didn’t utilise the Legwork Cards as much as they might have been used. This should be remedied. They’re useful and they certainly mess with the opposition.
Credits are the core of the game. I concentrated on gaining Credits, even small amounts whenever possible. By doing this, I was drawing more Hardships and bluffing on cases, but the game ‘moved’ because of it…
Revenge elements add another spot of flavour to the game, but it was surprising how, one minute we would be at each others’ throats, while the next endorsing one another… Again, mostly because of the Credits.
Xerxes, for example, was playing it carefully. He didn’t draw Hardships and he tried to ‘go straight’ on the murder cases.
Some further variants
I’m thinking that, perhaps, a 1 Credit payment can get you ‘in’ on a discard deck you don’t have a strength in…
There might also be room to implement some form of Computer Hacking, whereby you can ‘access’ another players Hand or Dataslate. In fact, taking into account the theme, I’m surprised there isn’t an aspect of this already in the game…. (Actually, thinking about it, there might be a Legwork card that allows it)
I’ll put these ideas into the Rules Variant forum, as and when…
Thinking about it, the Hardship Cards, (and the Legwork Cards, come to think about it,) really DO 'move' the game along.
They are an important element of the game.
For example, if I hadn't got the 'Cheating Spouse' Hardship card, Ms. Viper would never have tried to openly bluff on her case, as she was certain she would jump straight to Trial without having to face an Audit, the card having removed me from the scene, so to speak...
Playing his 'Jurisdiction' Legwork card, Xerxes was able to alter the game flow-dynamic and interrupt Ms. Viper's plan, catching her out and gaining Credits in the process... And all because I chose to draw a Hardship Card.
I'm thinking that, for those of us who tend not to want to draw Hardship Cards (and let's face it, who would really WANT to? They hold such negative connotations...) this game can become a little bland. And,in the case of this game, at least, 'blandness' certainly dosent help; it simply adds to the number of people not wanting to play it...
But the Hardship cards give the substance, my friends.... It's the game's driving mechanic. Without them, the game consists of a bunch of freaks sat round a table, apatheticly throwing down cards and picking up new ones, wishing they were playing 'Settlers of Catan'.
So, my advice?
Drag out your copy of Murder City (if you havent already sold it on Ebay!) and give it another go, but this time, get those Hardship Cards flowing, brothers and sisters! Give the Hardship Deck a chance!
Can't wait to get this game to the table. Nice review!
This is certainly a game worth playing... But it's also a game that I'm sure only certain people will like!
Having said that, I have used it in the class-room (I teach English, here in Spain..)
My students (luckily, 30-35 year olds) really got into the theme and the story-telling. In this case, though, the focus clearly was on the story-telling!
As I mentioned in the above session review, if you shift your attention to the card-bluffing aspect, it seems to run a little more smoothly than when simply playing it for the role-playing angle...
I hope you have a good session!