Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Review

Overview

Board game review 8

You and your fellow detectives arrive at the scene of a murder. Initially, everything seems pretty routine. That is, until you realize that one of your coworkers must be the murderer. You know this because of the odd evidence left behind at the scene of the crime. Now begins the deception as you work with your fellow detectives to weed out the criminal amongst you.

Deception:  Murder in Hong Kong (Deception for short) is a social deduction game for 4-12 players. This game is published by Grey Fox Games and was designed by a relatively new designer, Tobey Ho. I bring this up, because he will definitely be on my radar with any future games he comes up with. More on this in a minute, but first, let me explain the basics of the game.

How To Play

There are a few ways to play this game, but this section will only cover the main game with no variants. For reference, the variants for the game ultimately just increase or decrease the level of difficulty for the investigative team and are fairly self-explanatory. They do this by adding in expected roles such as an accomplish or witness

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Exactly what it says on the tin

There are three role types in the main game:  Investigator, Murderer, and Forensic Scientist. The Investigators must attempt to solve the crime and correctly identify the Murderer before the end of the game. The Murderer’s job is to deceive the Investigators by not being found out. Lastly, the Forensic Scientist is responsible for giving out clues to correctly identify the murderer. This role is the most important, and the most complex in nature.

I will come back to the Forensic Scientist in a moment, but for now, let me first explain game setup. The game is set up by taking out the Murderer, Forensic Scientist, and enough Investigator cards for the total number of players minus two. For example, in a 6 player game there is, 1 Forensic Scientist, 1 Murderer, and 4 Investigators. These cards are shuffled and then dealt face down to each player.

Players keep their identities a secret EXCEPT for the Forensic Scientist. All players, except the Forensic Scientist, are then given 4 cards from two different colored decks, for a total of 8 cards. 4 of these cards are blue “means” cards. These represents ways the victim could have died. The other 4, represent “key evidence” left behind by the killer. These cards are placed face up in front of players so that everyone can read them easily. Lastly, these same players are also given a “badge” token. This represents their one and only formal accusation for the game.

At this point, players take a moment to look at everybody’s cards before play can begin. After it is determined that play is ready to start, the Forensic Scientist will initiate the game by asking everybody to put their heads down. During this period, the Forensic Scientist will tell the Murderer to look up and select 1 blue, and 1 red card from the 8 cards in front of them (this selection must always be from the killers card pool). The Murderer puts their head back down once the Forensic Scientist has indicated they know what was selected. Players are then instructed by the Forensic Scientist to look back up, and play is ready to commence.

The Forensic Scientist has the trickiest and most important job in the game. Their role is to communicate who the killer is, along with the key evidence and method of murder. This would be fairly simple, except that they are not permitted to speak or allowed to indicate information nonverbally in any way. They are however, able to give clues by placing markers on clue tiles placed in front of them.

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Clue Tiles

There will be a total of 6 clues given in the game’s first round. There are 3 rounds in total, but only the first round has 6 unique clues given. Rounds two and three only offer an additional hint, or rarely, an special event for the Investigators. Now that the game has started, the purple “cause of death” tile is placed in front of the Forensic Scientist. In addition to this, 1 of the green “location” tiles (randomly selected), and 4 orange “clue” tiles (these are also random and it should be noted that event tiles should not be used in the first round) are also placed face up in front of the Forensic Scientist.

Each tile contains a list of options that the Forensic Scientist may select as a hint for the Investigators. The Scientist does this by placing a marker on the selection they feel best conveys the correct information to incriminate the Murderer. This may be done as quickly or as slowly as the Scientist deems necessary. However, once a marker is placed, it cannot be moved. Once all markers are placed, the round moves to its next phase.

During phase one, the marker phase, players may freely discuss the information they are given with each other. An investigator is also permitted to make a formal accusation at any time during this phase, and all other phases, as well. The Forensic Scientist should pay close attention to discussion so that they may give the best clues to the investigators. The Murderer should do their best to subtly shift focus away from themselves onto others.

Once all clues are given out in phase one, the Forensic Scientist initiates phase two by asking a player to give a “presentation.” Each player (Any play may start these, and any player may follow another. I suggest going in a circle and starting with a random player each round) is allotted time to present who they believe the killer is and the logic behind their choice. Players are not to interrupt any person giving a presentation, but may ask questions or defend themselves at the conclusion of each presentation. The once exception to this is formally accusing a player, which may be done at any time, granted the player doing the accusing still has their police badge. Each player is given the chance to make a presentation before the round concludes.

If the killer was not correctly identified along with the corresponding red and blue cards, play moves into the second round. Unlike round one, only one new clue will be given. This is done by selecting an orange tile at random and replacing an existing orange tile with the new one. If an event is drawn, the instructions are followed on the tile instead. Events range from weeding out irrelevant information to a free accusation. Once the new clue or event is given, another round of presentations begin after some time is given for discussion.

Round three is played in the same way as round two. The only difference being, if the Investigators cannot identify the Murderer before the last presentation, they and the Forensic Scientist lose. If they do manage to do so, they win. Guesses do not have to be used, but if they are not used by the end of the last presentation during round three, they are considered forfeit.

When an accusation is made the Forensic Scientist simply states “yes” or “no” in regards to if the accusation was correct. This means, that the accusing player must guess everything correctly to get a “yes” response, thus winning the game. If a “no” is given, parts of the information may be corrected, but the Forensic Scientist may not indicate this in any way.

This may seem complicated, but it really isn’t. The rulebook does a better job getting into all the details with pictures for reference to keep things nice and simple. My version is more of a quick overview for the general idea, so I definitely suggest looking at the rules if you haven’t played before.

Components

Surprise! I am trying out, what I believe to be, a better format for board game reviews. This information was sometimes in my previous reviews, mixed in with everything else, but I think this will work better for everybody in the long run. Any way, on with the components!

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An example of most of the game’s components

It should be noted that I have the Kickstarter version of the game. In this version some of my components are upgraded and I got a bit more content than the final consumer product. Overall, the two versions are very similar, but I wanted to at least put that out there.

The game is mostly comprised of two decks of cards, one red and one blue, that are used for denoting clues and means. There is the Forensic Scientist’s deck, which is made up of tiles rather than cards. The remaining components are tokens and role cards, these are fairly standard.

For the most part, none of the components bothered me and are of slightly better than average quality. You shouldn’t feel the need to sleeve the red or blue decks, but I recommend putting sleeves on the role cards since they have the dreaded black boarders. Since these cards are shuffled up and are meant to remain secret, the white scuffs that will eventually occur are not good. The only other gripe I have is with the tiles. While I think that functionally they are fantastic, they are a pain to shuffle. They are just too big and thick to do so easily, but this is only a minor complaint.

Thoughts On Gameplay

I have played the game with groups of 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 people so far. Each game was very good, but the games with only 4 were a bit too easy for the Investigators. I would recommend the game with a group of at least 5. I found that the game is definitely better as the player count is increased.

The game itself plays fluidly, with games lasting mere moments, to up to 45 minutes when discussion gets intense. On average, games took about 15-20 minutes regardless of player count. I suspect that with a 10+ crowd that the game would run about an extra 5-10 minutes, but that’s perfectly reasonable.

As I’ve mentioned, the game plays with ease most of the time. The only time it doesn’t, is when the Forensic Scientist is bad at their job. For your first couple of games, the person who owns the game should probably take this role until others feel comfortable taking the role for themselves. From here I’ve either randomly shuffled it in, or simply passed the role to another person when starting a new game. Conveniently, if the card is randomly dealt out and a person doesn’t desire to be the Forensic Scientist, another player may switch their role with them before the game starts since the Forensic Scientist knows everyone’s roles.

The only downside to this game is that it relies on variety to remain interesting. However, the game comes with a lot of blue and red cards. This is where most of the variety comes from. Since the box has a lot of room for more stuff, I suspect that this game will see expansions, which will eliminate this issue pretty quickly.

Final Thoughts & Where To Buy

Deception:  Murder in Hong Kong has easily become one of my favorite games since I got it in December (2015). It’s a very accessible social deduction game with hidden role mechanics that offers enough complexity without overwhelming less experienced gamers. I would recommend this to anybody since I’ve found success in all circles thus far.

This game works best with teens and up. I think you could play this with ages 9+, but I would keep the player pool small and the game pace on the slow side. If you have experience trying this, I’d really love to hear about it in the comments.

People often ask me, “Is this game like Clue?” before starting, and I feel it’s a fair comparison. The game is conceptually similar, losing the more tedious mechanics of Clue and adding more social elements. In short, this is the “grown-up’s” version of Clue with a lot more theme.

If you would like to purchase this game, you can do so at Coolstuff, Amazon, or straight from the publisher, Grey Fox Games. The price ranges from about $27-$40 depending on where you buy from. However, the game is incredibly popular and is out of stock pretty much everywhere at the time of writing (1/26/15). That being said, it should be restocked fairly soon, so consider watching for it.


 

I’d love to hear about what you think about this game, so let me know in the comments below. Also, do you guys prefer this newer format that I think is a bit cleaner, or the older versions better? Please let me know. Lastly, consider liking this article and following my blog here. Doing so really helps me out. You can do so here, via email subscription, over on Facebook, or on Twitter @JS_Reviews. Thanks in advance for any and all support!

 

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