"Une ombre sur Whitechapel" ("A shadow over Whitechapel") is a tactical game for two players (lasting about half an hour). One of them will be Jack the Ripper, while the other will represent the police (we call her "Scotland Yard").
There are eight characters in the game (including some famous personalities as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson) and one of them is the culprit (the player being Jack draws an "alibi" card at the start of the game to know which one). However, during the game both players will be allowed to move all the characters. The goal of Scotland Yard is to deduce who is Jack, while the Ripper can win in three ways: remaining not accused for eight turns, escaping the district of Whitechapel or if Scotland Yard wrongly accuses an innocent.
How Jack's identity is progressively deducted is both simple and clever. The board represents the district of Whitechapel as an hexagonal map, with several empty hexes (the streets) and some occupied ones (by houses, that simply act as "obstacles", or by street lamps). Any character adjacent to a lit street lamp OR to another character is considered to be "visible"; otherwise he is "not visible". At the end of each turn, Jack must declare if he is currently visible or not, thus Scotland Yard may cancel from the "list of suspects" all the characters whose position exclude them from being the culprit (for example, if Jack says "I'm not visible", all characters currently enlightened by a street lamp or neighbouring another character are obviously innocent). This means that Scotland Yard tries to divide the characters still suspected as evenly as possible between zones of darkness and light, while Jack tries to hamper her efforts.
But there's more. If Jack is declared "not visible", he can try to escape in the next turn, obtaining an instant victory. However that's not so easy, as there are only four points leading out of the board (approximatively one in each corner) and two of them are always guarded by a group of policemen, thus reducing the effective escape ways to only two (since the policemen move during the game, the two blocked exits change from time to time).
Finally, there are eight manholes (dislocated in the streets) that can be used to quickly move from a point to another of the map (they are considered to be all linked together); two of them are closed and the rest all open and thus usable.
HOW TO PLAY A TURN
Eight cards (one for each character) are shuffled and four are randomly dealt face up. Those are the four characters that will be used in that turn. Scotland Yard and Jack alternate picking characters and "activating" them (the "drafting" order is SY-J-J-SY during odd turns and J-SY-SY-J during even turns). When a character is activated, he must be moved from 1 to 3 paces (adjacent hexes) AND his special power is triggered. Yes, each character has a different special power and their mutual interaction is what makes the game interesting (and different each time). See below for a brief description of each character.
After the four characters have been activated, the witnesses report Jack's position ("visible" or "not visible" as explained above).
Finally, for the first half of the game (4 turns), one of the street lamps goes out (at that time they were consuming gas... and it ran out). There are eight street lamps: two begins the game already "off", four have a limited amount of gas (one dies at the end of each of the first four turns) and two are always lit. Note that the amount of gas left in each lamp (i.e. the turn when that lamp will die) is known to both players since the setup, so it can (and should!) be taken in consideration when planning your moves. A few lamps will be lit (or re-lit) during game (by one of the characters, see below).
During the next turn, the other four characters are used. Then the deck is reshuffled, so that the characters are grouped differently each time.
THE CHARACTERS (and their powers)
Sherlock Holmes: you draw an unused "alibi" card and do not reveal it to the opponent (sometimes he can resolve the game in this way, as Scotland Yard has only two suspects left and Holmes draws, or has drawn in a previous turn, the "alibi" card of one of them). Jack gets no advantage by this power apart negating it to Scotland Yard (often a good deal).
Dr Watson: has a lantern that enlightened all the street hexes in the direction where it points (the pawn clearly shows where the lantern points; Watson's pawn is the only with a "relevant orientation" in the game).
Inspector Lestrade: moves a group of policemen (so they now patrol, i.e. block, a different exit).
Sir Thomas Arnold: can move through blocked hexes (any character may cross hexes occupied by other characters, but only Sir T.A. can pass over buildings and lamps, as long as he ends the move in a free hex).
Sir William Gull: instead of moving, can swap his position with any other character.
Jeremy Bert: opens a manhole (moving one of the two "closed manhole" counters upon a different manhole).
John Smith: lights a street lamp (with enough gas to last for the whole game).
Sergeant Goodley: using his whistle to call people in the foggy night, he has three movement points to spend upon other characters; these points may be split (or not) as desired, but their use must bring the moved character(s) closer to him.
If Scotland Yard understands who is Jack (or if it is the last turn and there's no better move than a random guess), she can win by accusing him. This is done moving any of the other seven characters upon the culprit (at that point the "alibi" card drawn at the beginning of the game can be revealed for verification). Only one accusation can be done during the whole game and if it is wrong, the game is lost for Scotland Yard. If Scotland Yard knows who is Jack, but can't accuse him (moving an innocent upon the culprit) by the end of the eighth turn, she still loses.
Alternatively, if Jack manages to abandon Whitechapel (under the conditions stated above), he immediately wins.
The game has quite a lot of bits: the board (composed by 6 portions to be juxtaposed to create the whole map), 17 cards (8 "alibi", 8 "characters" used to determine who will be moved during the turn, each with a summary of the power of that character, and 1 "visible / not visible" to remember the last declaration: relevant as only if it was "not visible" Jack can try to win escaping), 8 characters pawns, a player aid (that serves to keep track of the current turn, summarizes the sequence of play and has a list of the eight characters to remember who is still suspected), various chits representing the lit street lamps, the two groups of policemen blocking the exits, two "closed manhole" counters, seven "innocent" marker to put on the player aid to mark the characters no longer suspected, a turn marker (placed on the player aid to track the current turn) and the rulebook.
Artwork is quite nice.
The game is language indipendent, but rules are (only) in French.
WHERE TO FIND THE GAME
Well, it's already unavailable. Why? The game was proposed by the designers to several publishers, but no one wanted to publish it (even if they all appreciated it). Thus the designers opted to self-producing it, creating just 250 copies (hand made). It sold out quickly and thus (so far) there are only hopes that someone will finally pick it up to release it "as due". Time will tell...
A note on the mechanics
The deductive aspect of the game is fairly minor, being only a logical consequence of the placement of the characters (if you're looking for an investigative game, this is NOT it).
The game emphasizes the tactical decisions: which character do I pick (and thus, which ones do I leave to my opponent) and how do I use his special power?
The luck factor is minor: once the four characters are dealt in any of the odd turns, you'll automatically know which characters will be available in the next round as well. Besides, you know since the beginning the "drafting" order for all the turns (and when each of the four "few gas left" lamps will die). Personally, I’ve found that the biggest random element in the game is Holmes’ power: sometimes it wins the game, sometimes it is completely useless. However, both of you know this and should take it into consideration when dealing with the famous detective.
Jack has two main victory conditions: trying to escape (quite difficult to achieve, but it's instant victory!) or leaving as many characters as possible suspected for eight turns, forcing a random accusation by Scotland Yard (of course the best way to play would be to manoeuvre so that the culprit can’t be reached by another character in the last turn, preventing the accusation against him and granting the victory for Jack). He can thus try to play the game in two (quite different) ways.
These two possible "styles" and the random distribution of characters every other turn keep the game different and interesting.
Even if playing Scoland Yard seems much easier the first time(s), the gameplay is quite balanced.
The game was presented from Hurrican at the Spiel 2006 in Essen.
The components are very good. The board is out of thick cardboard, as well as the character cards. Very sturdy components.
There is a small flaw, though. The cards with the suspects show different colors, depending on the character. Due to the fact that the cards are also made from the nice thick cardboard, it is possible to guess a hint about the color (the edges are round). There is a message in the box with an excuse about the mistake and a way to workaround this problem. For me it's a minor problem. You have to look very closely to see anything and I hadn't seen it, wouldn't there be the message. For the workaround you just have to put the cards that way, that it is not possible to look too closely at the rim. As those cards aren't used a lot (just to pick Jack and for the special ability of Holmes) this works quite well.
The pieces for the characters are wooden disks with stickers on them. Very nice. Everything has great art work on it.
Very sturdy, good to use components with amazing art work (and one minor flaw).
The rule book contains the rules in french, german, english and dutch.
The game itself hasn't changed, it is great. We play it a lot.
- Last edited Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:54 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:58 pm