Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mystery Express—

Let me start off by stating that Days of Wonder is one of my Favorite Game Publishers. Everything they do is top notch.

The first Days of Wonder game I played was Ticket to Ride—at the time, it was the new hotness that all the game stores were pushing. I'd seen it a few times and it evoked a big "meh" from me. Then it was given to us as a gift for Christmas. It's still one of my favorite games—I like most of the expansions/sequels as well.

After we discovered Ticket to Ride, we get into quite a number of games published by Days of Wonder: Shadows Over Camelot, Mystery of the Abbey, Pirate's Cove, Colosseum, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Battlelore (Now owned by Fantasy Flight), and Small World.

Fun fact: We liked Shadows over Camelot and Mystery of the Abbey better when We were playing them wrong.

So their newest game is Mystery Express. It's like Clue, but on a train.

Good things about the game: Think about the last time that you played Clue. Remember when you kept rolling ones and you couldn't get to a room to make an accusation? That mechanic is gone. You can move to any car on the train at any time. When you're in the different cars, you don't make accusations like you do in Clue—each car has its own game mechanic. To explain the mechanic of the cars, I guess I need to explain the trip that the train is making. The train is making its way from Paris to Istanbul. The trip has five stops, and each leg of the trip takes a determined number of hours. Each car has a certain action that you can do in that car, and each action takes a certain amount of time.

The first leg of the trip is from Paris to Strasbourgh, and it takes 4 hours. In the dining car you can ask players to show you a card that is in their hand. You also get to determine the type of card (Motive, Weapon, Location, or Person). If you ask two people it uses two hours. In the lounge car you can have all the players reveal to everyone a card of a chosen color simultaneously, which takes two hours.

During certain legs of the trip there are extra passengers that board the train that you can get information from (i.e. trade a card for a new card), and if you do an action in the car that the conductor is in, you can get information from him.

Unlike Clue, there are two of every card—so you cannot eliminate anything until you know you have seen both cards. Also there are five things you are tasked with discovering. The Guilty Party, The Weapon, The Location, The Motive and the Time.

Determining the time of the murder is a pain in the brain. There is a deck of cards that has the eight possible times on cards, three of each card, on analog clocks, with no numbers on the faces. After each leg of the trip is over, there is some method of viewing the time deck: For instance, after the fist leg of the trip, the player that went first flips all the cards over one at a time in rapid succession while everyone tries to remember what they see. No note taking is allowed until the last card has been flipped. After the second leg of the trip all the cards are dealt and you get to look at one hand at a time and then everyone rotates hands until you have seen all the hands—again, no note taking is allowed during the viewing of the time cards.

So, what did I think of this game?

I knew I was either going to hate it or love it. I'm not a big fan of clue, I thought that this might overcome some of the things that I hate about Clue. It did, while simultaneously introducing a greater number of things that I hated.

First of all, the game took way too long—admittedly, part of that was due to our learning as we were going—but it took three hours to play a game advertised at 90 minutes. During that three hours, There were things that I had easily taken care of early on in the game. I knew who and where. However, by the end  I had to guess on motive and weapon (and I had neither one of those narrowed by much—there are a LOT of cards flying around in this game and it becomes fairly easy to conceal one if you have a lot of a particular category).
The time was a cruel joke—only those gifted with a photographic memory will enjoy that mechanic.

Did I mention that I won, well co-won. In then end I guessed properly the weapon and the motive, making me correct in every category but the time. Another player had done the same. As a tie breaker, the game has you you write down all your premature guesses at the penultimate stop. I had three of five correct, so did the the other player—so we both won.

That's right, I hate a game that I won. It happens. The win was pointless, because I guessed so much vs players that had used skill and deduction and gotten more things wrong than I had.

I don't want to play this game again.

I still think Days of Wonder is a fine game publisher.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the concept, but thought it was too long. At least the group we played with was fun!