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List Price: $34.99
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Assume the role of a futuristic investigator, from hard-boiled detective to alien sleuth to company man. Your goal is to track down killers and prosecute them. The player to survive "the life" best and earn the most credits is the winner, the foremost jovan in the city.
While you investigate cases from the Murder Cards, use Legwork Cards to advance your own case or interfere in other players'. But don't get too deep into your work or you'll get Hardship Cards in this board game from White Wolf.
White Wolf Press
Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,100 grams
Language Requirements: This is a domestic item.
- 5 detectives
- 25 Murder Cards
- 50 Legwork Cards
- 25 Hardship Cards
Average Rating: 2.8 in 2 reviews
Murder City: Film Noir style game set in a Gritty Sci-Fi world of the future. Robots, Aliens, Technology. Think Blade Runner.
You are a Private Investigator (Referred to as a "Jovan" in this game) at some undisclosed point in the future. The Justice system is overwhelmed, and somewhat corrupt, and depends more on PIs then public servants to take care of the City's problems. You have to take on murder cases, collect evidence for them and Bring them to court. Convictions get you paid. Money makes the world go 'round.
The Game play:
Everybody assumes the role of a Jovan (There are 5 to choose from) Each with their own strengths and weaknesses (Which are abilities to get or not get certain types of evidence). Each player starts with 3 murder cases. The Murder Cards contain Vague information (It's good in this case) on them like "Dead Athlete", along with a list of possible suspects, and conviction ratings. They also contain a list of 3 pieces of evidence needed to solidify the case. The Murders are also color-coded. Evidence cards are separated into 5 decks: Weapon, Eye Witness, Forensics, Professional Opinion, & Interrogation. These also have vague descriptions like "Used Syringe" (Weapon) or "AI" (Eyewitness). These cards are also color-coded. The players start with 3 pieces of evidence in their hand, and each turn can draw 2 more, but they must discard one. You assign evidence to murder cases based on what the murder card requires. If the color matches, then the evidence is pretty solid, if the color doesn't match, then it's assumed that the evidence is flimsy. (For instance, finding a gun on the scene of the crime with the suspects fingerprints on it vs. Finding a gun in a dumpster several blocks away with no incriminating evidence associated with it) When you feel you have enough evidence (1-3 evidence cards associated with a murder case) you can take the case to court. This is the really sweet part of this game. Based on the evidence cards that you have, and the vague description of the murder victim, you have to make up a story making certain you incorporate all the evidence you've collected, and present it to another player, who acts as "Auditor". The person acting as Auditor can then challenge your case, pass it along, or endorse it. A successful challenge will throw the case out, and the Jovan presenting will make no money at all. Passing it along, will allow the case to pass with no benefits one way or the other, and Endorsing will allow the Auditor to get monetary kickbacks should the case successfully get a Murder One count. Once the case has passed the Auditor, you roll D6's to determine the charge. There are values from 1-3 given for each evidence card, plus bonuses and negatives from your character strengths, and other hardships. You roll the amount of dice necessary, total them up, and see what count you get based on the values given on the murder card. You then collect the money, and get a new murder to investigate. The Jovan with the most money at the end of 6 rounds is the winner.
At the Table:
The game is certainly fun, and most different from other games. I really like the story-telling/role-playing elements incorporated into the game. The setting's really great, and the murders and evidence is vague enough that you can get the same cards, with different elements, and totally make up new and different stories time after time, so the murders don't really wear out. On that same note, this game is very open-ended as far as liberties with the story-making-up bits. There's no rules about not making up extra evidence, or misleading the Auditor in any way, so serving as the Auditor can be fairly difficult in that it's hard to figure out how to rule. You're going entirely on their story. What makes me think this case is good enough that I should endorse it? What makes this case suspicious enough that I should challenge it? I should note that all evidence cards are hidden from everyone except the jovan involved in the case, and unless you want to, you never have to reveal those evidence cards to the other players. This is where the Honor System is involved with this game. Not so much in the making up elements to the story, because if you want to get as many cases through as possible, you'll probably have to fudge evidence at least once or twice in a game, (however, a dishonest person could ignore the evidence written on the card in favor of something more suitable to the story) but more in the rolling. Since the rolling values of each piece of evidence is printed on it's respective evidence card (Which remember is never revealed to anyone else) a dishonest person could totally change numbers in his favor. So that's kind of a negative. In that same category, there are certain Evidence cards that can really provide a challenge in fitting them into the story. For instance, I got a "Witness" card that stated "Would not talk without his Lawyer". It's really hard to get that into the story as an Eye-Witness Account. Some people could see this as a negative, but I like to think of it as one of the challenges of the game. Totally depends on your point of view. There's also about a million cards with this game, each separated into their own little pile of 30 cards, so when the game is all set up, there's literally 11 different decks of cards to draw from, so there's just piles of cards everywhere. Seeing this, I think, the manufacturer choose to make some of the cards super-small (about 1"x 3"), including the Evidence cards, (5 Decks) The Credits (3 Decks) and the Legwork cards (1 Deck). They're fairly difficult to shuffle. The cards all have a pretty similar look, so quick glances can garner you the wrong card, or can cause discarding into the wrong pile. There's also a proof-reading problem with this game. The "Professional Opinion" deck has "Opinion" spelled wrong on the back of the cards. The Rulebook has a lot of story elements to it, adding to the depth of the world that you're playing in. If you read through it, you can incorporate these ideals into your story, but there's still enough open ended-ness that you're imagination is the limit. Unfortunately, also included in the manual is a plethora of mistakes (more than just spelling). Most of them are trivial, like having the money values of the money cards listed differently than they are in the game. Luckily, there's a corrected rulebook available for Download on the site of the manufacturer here: http://www.white-wolf.com/murdercity/MurderCityRulesUpdate.pdf so make sure you get those before you play.
I really think that the positives outweigh the negatives in this game, as long as you trust the people that you are playing with. It's really fresh and different from most other stuff that I've played, and is a refreshing change from the massive amount of card games that are so similar. I totally recommend this game. We've had a lot of fun playing this already.
Open ended story-telling and role playing elements lead to creativity and gameplay uncommon in card games
Dark setting and story elements
Fairly easy to pick up and play
Open Ended story-telling rules could lead to dishonest play
Cards tend to look similar
Difficult to make Auditor decisions based on the story-telling aspects of the game
Small cards and a lot of them
Errors in both the Rule Book, and on the Game elements
MFG suggested age is 12 & up. But, depending on if you're cool with your 12 year old telling you a story about a "Registered Prostitute" in a hotel room with a "Dead Lawyer" and the associated "DNA Material" found on site, you may want to consider something else for the Juniors.
I really wanted to love this game for its theme. Each player takes on the role of a Jovan in a dystopian sci-fi future. As a Jovan, you are both a cop and prosecutor and the game employs this theme well. First you will gather and assign evidence to your cases, then you will go to court and roll the dice (literally) with the jury. Because Jovans get paid for convictions, not by the hour, they have an incentive to use false evidence to persuade the jury. In an attempt to prevent rampant corruption, Jovans are assigned as auditors to monitor cases brought to trial by others and can either try to get the case thrown out for false evidence, or can publicize to help increase the odds of a conviction.
Unfortunately, the auditing system in the game is fundamentally flawed. It is intended to be a bluffing game where players are encouraged to use false evidence with the player assigned as the auditor attempting to decide whether it is a strong case based on real evidence, or whether the Jovan is using false evidence, but the choices between these decisions are vastly imbalanced.
If you endorse a case, it improves the Jovan's chances of getting the best result (a murder one conviction) and if that happens, the auditor gets a reward. However, there is a strong chance that your endorsement will help your opponent more than you. And if your opponent rolls terribly (no conviction), the auditor will be punished more than the Jovan. In contrast, if the auditor tries to catch the Jovan using false evidence, there is NO penalty if the auditor guesses wrong (they only get one guess as to which of your 3 pieces of evidence is false), and an automatic no conviction result for the opponent. What this boils down to is 95% of the time the best decision is to call your opponent's bluff, whether you think they are bluffing or not.
Another notable rule is that the game directs you to tell a crime story to your auditor based upon your evidence cards. Unfortunately, there is no real gameplay impact of this story, it is simply intended to help draw you into the theme. Theoretically if you played this game a lot and memorized which color cards have what evidence, it would help you decide if a player is bluffing, but that is both unlikely and probably unintended. Personally I enjoy the story-telling aspect as it succeeds in building on the theme, but it isn't everyone's cup o' tea.
As a final thought, I do believe some simple house rules could save this game and transform into to 3.5 or 4 stars, but my gaming group was so turned off after our first few games that I haven't gotten a chance to try.