Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mord im Arosa

The GURPS Monster Hunters game I play in is on hiatus for now. So last Thursday we played board games instead.

The first game was Through the Desert. This was new to me, but it's well known enough that I don't think I need to say much here. I enjoyed it. Next time I won't spread myself out so much.

Then we played a game I hadn't heard of before. Mord im Arosa has a murder mystery theme. You are an investigator trying to solve two murders that have taken place at a hotel. You are also a suspect in these murders, so you are not really trying to solve them so much as trying to cover up your own involvement and implicate somebody else. Make sense? Well, it's pretty abstract, so don't worry about it.

The hotel is built from eight paperboard boxes stacked to make a tower. The boxes are bottomless, and each has a square hole in the middle of the top. The holes are all lined up, so that things dropped into the hole on top could theoretically fall all the way to the bottom, or they could stop at any other floor.

There are two red wooden cubes, to represent the dead bodies, and each player gets twenty wooden cubes of the same color, which represent clues. The cubes are about half the size of the holes in the boxes. There is also a board representing the investigation file, also divided into eight floors.

To begin the game, someone drops the two red cubes (the dead bodies) into the top of the tower. It's important to listen, because the cubes could stop on any of the floors. Each player in turn then drops two of their own cubes into the tower. In general, we found that they fell farther than it sounded like they did.

The meat of the game, then, is guessing where the cubes landed. During the first part of the game, you're trying to guess where the two murder victims are. On your turn, you name a floor and then lift up the box for that floor and see what cubes are there. If there is a murder victim (a red cube), you place that cube on the investigation board on the appropriate floor. If clues from any other players are also on that floor, each of them must put a cube from their supply on the board on the same floor. If one of your own clues is there with the dead body, you get to simply ignore that evidence. All the clues that were on that floor are then dropped into the top of the tower again.

If you were wrong, and you revealed a floor with no bodies, then this is sloppy investigation on your part, and you end up leaving more evidence implicating yourself behind. You take whatever clues were there and drop them back into the top of the tower, adding one cube from your own supply.

Once both bodies have been found, the second part of the game begins.On your turn, you pick a floor, and either declare that you are cleaning up after yourself, if you think you can find your own cubes, or you say that you suspect some or all of the other players, if you think you know where theirs are. If you suspect other players and you are correct, each other those players must put a cube from their supply on the investigation board for each of their clues found on that floor. If you are trying to clean up after yourself, you must pick a floor where you already have cubes on the investigation board. If you find one of your own clues, you get to remove one of your cubes from the same floor of the investigation board for each clue you found in the tower.

Either way, all the cubes found on that floor are dropped back into the tower once again. And if you were wrong on your guess, whether you were suspecting someone else or trying to clean up after yourself, this is sloppy investigation, and you must drop another cube from your supply into the tower.

The game ends when one player has ten cubes on the investigation board, or they completely empty their supply of cubes. Then each player counts their score according to where their cubes are on the investigation board: three for a cube on a floor with a body, two for a cube on a floor adjacent to a body, and one for a cube on any other floor. Highest score is the murderer and loses. Lowest score wins.

If my explanation has not been entirely clear, here is a video explanation of the game, though the reviewer skips over some points. It's really very simple: cubes in the tower always get dropped back into the tower. If you guess right about where they are, you get to take your own cubes off the investigation board into your supply, or make other players add cubes to the board from their supply.

I didn't win this one either. Most of us focused too much on trying to implicate someone else, but that's not how you win. MK was smart and focused on cleaning up after himself, so he finished with only two points and won.

In summary, it's a fun, fairly quick game with a clever mechanic. I'd play it again.

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