Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Secrets of the manor

With its Edward Gorey artwork and PBS branding, Mystery! Motive for Murder is clearly intended to appeal to mystery fans and new gamers, and it's a little self-conscious about its own complexity. It is presented as a series of five games, the first three of which are really "training games" designed to introduce the various elements of the game a little at a time.

Game One introduces the core concept of laying down tiles representing murder suspects in a particular pattern by lining up arrows on the edges of the tiles. Relationships can be either love or hate, and the tiles are then scored depending on their position relative to the victim tile, and the nature of their relationships to the other tiles.

Game Two adds the concept of a second murder victim who enters play midway through the game. Tiles can now be placed, and score points, in relation to either victim. Game Three adds a small number of Motive Cards, which can be played to alter the relationships between the tiles, score bonus points, and other game effects. Each player gets two cards at the beginning of the game, and can play one of them (discarding the other).

Game Four is where the full game comes together. Each player gets to start with a full hand of 3 tiles and 3 cards, and has to choose one action to perform on their turn: either play a tile, play a card, draw the top card or tile from the deck and play it immediately, or draw a tile and a card to add to their hand. Each player only gets three turns before the case is decided, so you have to decide carefully how to spend your turn. At the end of each round, points are given to the players who played the tiles worth the most and second most motive points. A case is played over three rounds, with the points awarded increasing a bit for each round. A full game includes three cases.

Game Five is an advanced game that adds Second Interview tokens that allow players to guess which suspect will be worth the most points at the end of the round and score bonus points if they are correct. It also adds some additional motive cards, and each player plays as a particular detective archetype with a unique game ability.

Playing through the three training games is a little tedious, as they aren't all that interesting on their own. But once you get to the full game it's quite interesting, with a lot to think about as you struggle with a limited number of turns, tiles and cards. The artwork and design is utterly charming, and combined with the game's structure it definitely calls to mind the scene at the end of every mystery story where the detective explains whodunit by eliminating the room full of suspects one by one.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) a nice, light game, but the artwork by Edward Gorey is more of a draw than the actual game play.

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