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Derek Thompson
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Mr. Jack Pocket is an entirely new game in the Mr. Jack series, designed by Bruno Cathala & Ludovic Maublanc, published by Hurrican, and distributed in the U.S. by Asmodée. Despite fitting inside a rather tiny square box and having an MSRP of $12.99, this is a full-fledged addition to the series, not a dumbed-down, tiny version of the original.

Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components - Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility - How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth - Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme - Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun - Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: As mentioned, this game comes in a rather tiny square box, although a fair share of components fit snugly into the box. Everything in the game is thick, hard cardboard and excellent quality. Nine tiles are laid out to make a random board setup, nine thick cardboard "cards" are used to select the suspect, while three character tokens "walk" around the board. Four more tokens determine actions for the round, and lastly there are eight more similar tokens for keeping track of turns and victory points for the Jack player. Although the game doesn’t have a lot of components, it doesn’t need them - everything is as streamlined as possible, making the game very portable, and the components that are presented are excellent quality for a game that can easily be had for less than ten dollars. My only complaint is that the rules tell you to flip the action tokens in the air, which can wear them out, so I would suggest instead having a player close his eyes and turn the tiles over an arbitrary number of times instead. That’s an extremely minor complaint, though. 10/10

Accessibility: If you’ve never played any of the Mr. Jack games, it’s a brilliant twist on deduction - one player is the bad guy and knows his identity, spending the game trying to avoid being caught, while the other player attempts to deduce the murderer. Players manipulate both the tiles and the three inspectors (Holmes, Watson, and their dog Toby) around the edge of the tiles, and "line of sight" is used to check who they see down each alleyway. At the end of each turn, if Jack is unseen by all of the three inspectors, he gains an hourglass, and can also gain them from suspect cards. Jack’s visibility lets the inspector rule out other suspects, and the inspector wins if all but one suspect has been eliminated before Jack gains six hourglasses. The rules for this version are quite simple and streamlined, but they aren’t quite presented that way in the rulebook. The grammar and ordering of the rules are not the best, and one rule is glaringly omitted from the rulebook, although it will be obvious to fans of the original: if neither player achieves his respective goal (either deducing the murderer or gaining six hourglasses) after eight turns, the Jack player wins by default. There’s also one necessary but somewhat fiddly and hard-to-remember rule: the same tile can’t be rotated twice in the same turn. I understand its purpose, but I would have rather had another distinct action (instead of two rotations) than an extra rule to remember. Despite these complaints, the game still plays very smoothly, and I’ve never had any question about which actions are or aren’t possible in the game. 8/10

Depth: Although your options each turn are limited to just a few actions, you have some flexibility with the use of each action, and these simple rules give way to some very brain-burning moments. Keep in mind that the game is meant to be played in about fifteen minutes, although I found some of my more intense games going closer to half an hour. Because the action tiles are only reshuffled on odd rounds, during the odd rounds you can do some long-term planning about the actions that are guaranteed to be available in the following round. All of this makes for a very tough and interesting game in a very short playtime. 9/10

Theme: Theme in a game comes from two primary areas: artwork and mechanics. The character art on the cards and tokens is excellent, though I was surprised to find a different artist for this entry in the series. The square street tiles are a little bland, but they’re supposed to be - it’s a dark alleyway in the middle of the night; you’re not supposed to be able to see much. Furthermore, they’re efficiently functional for the game; before even reading the rules I intuitively realized the significance of the gate on one of the tiles (it blocks line of sight). Mechanically, the explanation for the original Mr. Jack games was that Jack had infiltrated the investigation and was pretending to be one of the investigators, which is the same idea here. However, in the original games, it seemed a little odd that the two players were more like gods moving everyone, while here only the inspectors move, so you can think of it as the inspectors themselves deciding to move forward, or Jack luring them one way or another with noise or light. What doesn’t quite make sense thematically is each player literally rotating and swapping alleyway setups, but since it is the middle of the night you can think of it more as changing which corridors are actually lit. Although it takes a bit of work to accept the literal actions as thematic, the feel of the gameplay is very cat-and-mouse in a way that I’ve never really experienced outside of the Mt. Jack series, and that’s probably the most important and excellent piece of thematic integration found here. 8/10

Fun: This isn’t a laugh-out-loud kind of game, it’s a scratch-your-head-until-it-hurts kind of game. That being said, it’s the best of its kind - one where you directly interact with your opponent constantly, giving deep consideration to his options, instead of playing solitaire and seeing who does better at it. When you’ve got this kind of head-to-head competition, nothing’s more satisfying than luring your opponent into a well-baited trap and seeing the dumbfounded look when his own plan goes poorly, or the silent respect you can’t help but give when your plans are countered perfectly. These games are almost more like Chess than Clue, except in a much more awesome way than that analogy would have you think. 9/10

Average: 8.8/10

Bias: 9/10

The designers and publisher could have easily just made an easy cash-in for a portable edition of Mr. Jack, but instead, they’ve designed a game with obvious homage to the original and yet sits in a completely separate design space, delivering what has got to be one of the best games you can find for less than ten dollars. There’s no real reason not to give this game a try - and if you like it, I suggest you also check out its big brothers, Mr. Jack and Mr. Jack in New York.


Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
aldaryn wrote:
The rules for this version are quite simple and streamlined, but they aren’t quite presented that way in the rulebook. The grammar and ordering of the rules are not the best, and one rule is glaringly omitted from the rulebook, although it will be obvious to fans of the original: if neither player achieves his respective goal (either deducing the murderer or gaining six hourglasses) after eight turns, the Jack player wins by default.
The rule is clearly stated in the current version - I just checked mine.
 
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Derek Thompson
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
Good! They must have fixed it in the second printing.
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
aldaryn wrote:
Good! They must have fixed it in the second printing.
I imagine somebody will ask, so I'll note that the 'top' box edge says Copyright © 2010 Swissgames. I see no mention of 'second printing' either on the box or in the rules.
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
aldaryn wrote:
My only complaint is that the rules tell you to flip the action tokens in the air, which can wear them out, so I would suggest instead having a player close his eyes and turn the tiles over an arbitrary number of times instead. That’s an extremely minor complaint, though. 10/10
FWIW I really doubt the tokens will "wear out" from flipping them. I've got 36 plays logged, almost all on my owned copy, and there's not a hint of wear on the disks. But maybe you flip more brutally than we do.
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
Next they'll be selling counter sleeves.
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Derek Thompson
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
russ wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
My only complaint is that the rules tell you to flip the action tokens in the air, which can wear them out, so I would suggest instead having a player close his eyes and turn the tiles over an arbitrary number of times instead. That’s an extremely minor complaint, though. 10/10
FWIW I really doubt the tokens will "wear out" from flipping them. I've got 36 plays logged, almost all on my owned copy, and there's not a hint of wear on the disks. But maybe you flip more brutally than we do.
That's good. My friend's owned his copy longer and I was noticing some whitening on the edges, so I just close my eyes and "twirl" ours. Plus, I have no sense of aim; it wouldn't be long before I flip one into a drink.
 
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Russ Williams
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
Sphere wrote:
Next they'll be selling counter sleeves.
And dice sleeves!

---

Anyway, if the action disks get a little worn after a lot of plays, that won't bother me (unlike the alibi cards which of course must have indistinguishable backs). I actually kind of like it when a game starts to show a little bit of age, in fact. It gives me a warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling from all the times we've played it.
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JT Call
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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
russ wrote:
Sphere wrote:
Next they'll be selling counter sleeves.
And dice sleeves!
You joke, but I admit that not having dice sleeves is one of the reasons I've held off on buying Pickomino... ninja

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Re: Review: Mr. Jack Pocket
Sphere wrote:
aldaryn wrote:
Good! They must have fixed it in the second printing.
I imagine somebody will ask, so I'll note that the 'top' box edge says Copyright © 2010 Swissgames. I see no mention of 'second printing' either on the box or in the rules.
Here the game's designer commented that corrections would be made in a subsequent print run of the rules: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6543727#6543727
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