Posts Tagged ‘review’

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Asmodee – Skull (Review)

September 27, 2016

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Publisher Asmodee
Genre Card
Number of Players 3-6
Play Time 45 minutes
Initial Review Date 9/26/16
Last Updated 9/26/16

In this abstract game each player bids in an attempt to bluff their opponents.

Setup

Each player is given a set of four round cards that look like highly stylized drink coasters. Each set of cards have unique artwork both on the front and back. Three of the cards show a picture of a rose, the fourth card shows a day of the dead style skull. Each player also recieves a matching play mat, which is slightly larger than the cards and is square.

Gameplay

Each player starts by placing a single card of their choice face down in front of them in order to “ante-in”.

Then the starting player may either “raise” or “bid”. If a player no longer has any additonal cards to raise with, then they must bid.

 

  • Raise – a player takes another one of their cards and places it on top of their stack.
  • Start Bidding – a player must announce how many cards they can flip over without revealing a skull.

 

Once bidding starts a player may either bid or pass.

  •  Bid – a player must announce how many cards they can flip over without revealing a skull and this number must be higher than the last player to bid. A player may not bid more cards than the number of cards on the table.
  • Pass – a player takes no acton and sits out the remainder of this round.

Once a player wins the bid, they must start flipping over cards. It should be noted that they must start with their own stack first and may not flip over any cards of another stack until they have flipped all their own cards.

If a player successfully flips a number of cards equal to their bid they score 1 point (this is represented by turning over their play mat.

If a player flips over a skull, then they have lost the bet. When this happens the player who’s skull they flipped over, selects one of the player’s cards at random and it is discarded without revealing it. Only the owner of the cards may examine them afterward and knows for sure if they still have their skull card or not. If a player flips over their own skull card then they still lose the bet as normal and they must discard one of their own cards randomly. Once the card has been discarded they may examine their remaining cards as normal.

If a player loses all of their cards then they are eliminated from the game.

Winning

There are two ways to win in this game.

  • Be the first player to score 2 points.
  • Be the only player to not be eliminated

Conclusion

This game is a pure bluffing game. The short goal of scoring only 2 points means that riskier players will either win quickly or quickly be eliminated. As such, you can’t play it safe the whole time. Sometimes it can be worth failing a bet just to keep players guessing if you still have your skull card or not. Since now there is a chance that you don’t.

If you enjoy bluffing games this one is defintely worth a shot. It’s short enough that if you find you don’t enjoy it you haven’t wasted a lot of time on it. The only real downside to the game is that there isn’t any play outside of the bluff. There aren’t really any odds to fall back on or calculate. You have to judge what other players have, based on their bets.


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Devir – Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft (Review)

September 13, 2016

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Publisher Devir
Genre Card
Number of Players 2
Play Time 30 minutes
Initial Review Date 7/11/16
Last Updated 7/11/16

In this two player game, you take on the roles of Sherlock Holmes and his older smarter brother Mycroft Holmes. The two of you are having a friendly battle of wits to see who can solve the case first.

Setup

Each player is given the three meeples of the same color. Next, each player receives five investigation tokens. The board is then seeded with the first three starting cards and then each player draws two character cards. Each player chooses one of the two character cards and they are placed on the board face up. The unchosen characters are shuffled into the character deck.

Finally, the clue deck is shuffled and four cards are dealt face up next to it.

Gameplay

During the course of the game, each player will take turns moving one of their standing meeples from its current character card to different character card where they do not currently have a meeple. The character card is activated and then the meeple is laid down to indicate it has been used.

The abilities will be one of two basic types

  • Spend X investigation tokens to collect Y clue cards from the center row
  • Collect X investigation tokens.

The exact quantities and ratios vary and some are conditional and their benefits/costs are determined by the current state of other elements in the game.

Once both players have activated all of their meeples, setup begins for the next day. First, the board is checked if any one character card has 2 meeples on it. If this is the case that character card is exhausted and can not be used the next day. To represent this, this character card is flipped face down.

Then, regardless if a character was exhausted or not, a new character card is drawn and placed in the next open slot and all meeples are stood up on their respective cards, starting the new turn.

Scoring

Scoring happens after day 7 is resolved.

Points are determined based on the clue cards each player has collected. There are 9 different types  of clue cards. 7 of the nine have a number on them. Wild cards have similar artwork but do not display a number and finally, there are map pieces.

For each of the numbered cards, a player scores points for them only if they have more of that number than their opponent. The player scores a number of points equal to the number, minus how many cards of that number their opponent holds.

for example. If you have 6 of the cards labeled 9 and your opponent has 2 You would score a total of 7 points for those 6 cards.

In cases of ties, no points are awarded to either player.

Map fragments score points based on how many you have as follows.

  1. You get -1 point.
  2. You get 1 point.
  3. You get 3 points.
  4. You get 6 points.
  5. You get 10 points.

Conclusion

The game is well done. The mechanics match the theme well, with each illustrated character card representing a famous character from the novels, with the artwork closely resembling how the characters are described as appearing. It even makes sense that the character might want nothing to do with the holmes after a day in which they were visited by both Sherlock and Mycroft picking their brain and asking them strange questions.

The game also includes some additional cards that can be used for advanced play, which feature famous villains from the books along with the holmes brothers themselves.

Overall, the biggest shortcoming this game has is that it is strictly a two-player game, which may limit its replayability. The game is well made and fans of sherlock holmes and/or set collection games will enjoy it.  However, if the idea of a two player set collection game doesn’t really interest you then you can easily pass on this one.


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Wizards of the Coast: Dungeon! – Review

August 16, 2016

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Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Genre Family Game
Number of Players 1 – 8
Play Time 30 minutes
Initial Review Date 3/29/16
Last Updated 3/29/16
Official Rules PDF

This game is a re-print of a classic board game that came out in 1975. At that time it was produced by TSR (the makers of Dungeons and Dragons). TSR and it’s properties were later sold to Wizards of the Coast (the makers of magic the gathering).

In this game you play as competing adventurers exploring some underground ruins in search of treasure. But creatures still live in the dark places and will need to be overcome in order to claim the treasure.

Setup

Setup of this game is very straight forward. Each player is given a cardboard standup that represents the character they are playing. If you are playing a wizard you will roll a single die and add 6 to the result. You then take a combination of spell cards (of your choice) equal to that result. This means that depending on how you roll, you can end up with between 7 and 12 spell cards for the entire game.

Each player places their character in great hall in the center of the board and then play begins.

Game Play

This game is very simplistic. Each turn you can move your character up to six spaces. If your movement places you inside of a chamber or room you immediately face a monster and your movement for that turn ends. The rooms are color coded to represent the “level” of the dungeon. You draw a monster from the appropriate stack and then roll two six-sided dice. You then consult the monster card to your class. If you rolled a total value that is equal to or greater than this value, then you defeated the monster and draw a card off of the corresponding treasure deck (treasure decks are also sorted by level). If you failed to beat the monster then you roll two dice and consult a table to see what happens to you. This can be anything from the monster killing you outright (very rare), to taking some damage (uncommon), to the monster missing (very common).

So, long as you stick to fighting monsters that are level appropriate to your character you will usually win.

Wizards have the option of using an offensive spell card on monsters after the monster is revealed. The spell will also be listed on the monster and it is resolved as a normal attack. Except that if you fail to kill the monster the monster does not get to attack you back.

Aside from the normal treasure, there are also magic swords that can be found as treasure. A magic sword is the only way you can “upgrade” your character. Each sword adds either 1 or 2 to your die roll. Wizards are the only class that can not benefit from a magic sword.

Scoring

You will quickly realize that the different characters are not balanced against each other. The wizard is clearly the most powerful, while the rogue and cleric are the weakest. The game tries to make up for this by setting the finish line lower for the weaker classes.

Each piece of treasure you get has a value and the higher level treasures are worth more than the lower level treasures. In order to win you have to acquire an amount of treasure based on your class and then return to the great hall. The first player to do this wins.

Treasure needed to win by Class

Class Total
Rogue (Halfling)  10,000gp
 Cleric (Dwarf)  10,000gp
 Fighter (Human)  20,000gp
 Wizard (Elf)  30,000gp

In this way the more powerful character are encouraged to go to the higher level areas of the dungeon, while the weaker characters can explore the lower level areas.

Conclusion

This game is a good way to introduce others to Dungeons and Dragons. It introduces concepts like classes and races. It also will expose players to the iconic monsters in Dungeons and Dragons, even giving players a sense of how dangerous the different types of monsters are relative to one another.

While, a bit different from traditional roll and move children’s games, it still has that overall feel. Once you know what you’re doing the game gets repetitive really quickly. You start to wish there was more to do in the game and that there was a way to make your character more powerful than just simple magic swords. The rogue and cleric classes make you feel like you’re in the “kiddie pool” while the fighters and wizards get to do the fun stuff.

In the end if you’re looking for a way to introduce dungeons and dragons to completely green players this can be a way to go. However, once they start playing a real tabletop rpg this game will just collect dust.

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Pressman: The Oregon Trail – Review

August 9, 2016

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Publisher Pressman
Genre Card
Number of Players 2 – 6
Play Time 45 minutes
Initial Review Date 8/7/16
Last Updated 8/7/16
Official Video How to Play

This game is a historical journey back to the 1980s. In the 80’s there were a number of “edutainment” games. These games were an attempt to blend video games with education. Oregon trail was an attempt to teach history through video games. This is a card game version of that 80’s video game. The artwork of the card game has been done in the same style as the original video game. Unlike the video game, you play this one with your friends, working together and get at least one of your group to Oregon.

Setup

You start by separating the cards into their respective piles (trail, supply and calamity cards)  and shuffling those piles. Each player is dealt five trail cards and a number of supply cards based on the number of players. The remaining supply cards form a market. To create the market the remaining supply cards are sorted into face-up piles based on their card type.

You then take the Start and finish cards and place them 3 feet apart (which is 9 card lengths).

Now the first player starts.

Gameplay

On your turn, you must do one of the following

  • Play a trail card: In order to play a trail card, it must connect with the existing path when placed evenly against the previous trail card. You may rotate the card to make this connection if needed.
  • Draw a trail card: you can only draw a trail card if you can not currently play any of the trail cards you have.
  • Play a supply card: Supply cards are played on calamity cards in order to resolve them. Unresolved calamity cards often result in one or more player’s deaths.

Trail cards when played often come in one of five types.

  • Fort: This card allows you to collect two supply cards.
  • Town: This card allows you to collect one supply card or remove a single calamity card.
  • Empty: These are one of the best kinds of trail cards, you progress without any event.
  • River: These cards will require you to roll a die in order to progress. A failed die roll will sometimes result in a supply card being lost or the entire group being killed, depending on the river card.
  • Calamity: These cards look like the empty trail cards, except they make you draw a calamity card.

Once you play a trail card, you follow the instructions (if any) and then your turn ends. This means that when you draw a calamity the next player will have to deal with it, not you.

When 5 trail cards have been placed, they are then collected and stacked. This means that you will have to play a total of 25 trail cards in order to travel from the start to the finish.

Conclusion

This game not only pulls on nostalgia but it seems built on it as well. Unfortunately, this means that certain aspects of the game loom large (like dying of disease and failing to ford the river. While some of the parts of the game that were actually educational have been lost.

In the original game, the primary focus of the game was proper trip planning. You made decisions about what to stock up on. There were also several forks which you were presented with which were often a choice of (longer safer path or shorter more dangerous path). You even controlled the speed at which you traveled which impacted how often your wagon broke down. If you planned properly and made smart decisions most of your group if not all of them would arrive safely. You would sometimes lose someone to the RNG but that was typical of 80’s style video games in general.

Sadly, this card game is a badly watered down version of the original.Trip planning has been thrown completely out the window since your supplies are randomly given to you and the few fort and town cards that are in the game (2 of each) mean that at best these cards just help you deal with whatever problems you’ve encountered, making them completely reactionary. Often, the only decision you’ll be making is if you want to deal with another river crossing or another calamity both of which are terrible options. Of course, that’s in the early game, in the late game you probably won’t have any choices at all, it will just be whatever the next playable trail card is.

It’s worth playing for nostalgia and the theme might be appealing to history buffs, but I think after a few play-throughs you’ll be wishing it had more depth to it. If you want an inexpensive nostalgic card game, this is probably worth picking up and you’ll feel that you’ve gotten your money’s worth after a few plays. Otherwise, I would recommend staying away from this game.


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Blam!: Celestia – Review

August 2, 2016

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Publisher Blam!
Genre Press your luck
Number of Players 2 – 6
Play Time 30 minutes
Initial Review Date 7/18/16
Last Updated 7/18/16

This game is an updated version of the game Cloud 9. The hot air balloon theme has been given the steampunk treatment, turning the balloon into a steam-powered airship. In the game, each of you is a passenger on the airship and part-time captain. Since no one wants to get blamed for the trip going badly no one wants to be the captain and so you each take turns piloting the captain. If that wasn’t bad enough each of the other passengers have started taking bets on the current captain’s abilities. In the end, it’s a race to see who can reach the point goal first.

Setup

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Each location is laid out in a column progressing from the smallest value on the bottom and the highest on top. Next to each location a stack of point cards corresponding to that location are shuffled and placed next to the matching tile. Each player selects a colored pawn along with it’s matching character card which is placed in front of the player to identify their color. The airship is placed on the starting tile and all of the pawns are placed inside. You then select one player to start as the captain.

Game Play

On each turn, the current captain rolls the dice where everyone can clearly see the result. The number of dice rolled depends on the next highest value tile in the column and is shown by the number of white squares shown. The early tiles are easy only requiring two dice to be rolled, whereas the later locations require all four dice to be rolled.

Each die has 2 blank sides, a chicken, a storm cloud, a lightening bolt and a pair of crossed swords. In order for the airship to progress to the next location tile, the current captain must play cards from their hand that match each of the rolled symbols. Blank dice require no cards to continue.

Starting with the player to the left of the current captain before the captain plays any cards from their hand each player must decide if they think the current captain can overcome the current perils. Any player that decides that the captain will not overcome the challenge may get off the airship safely. Those who decide to get off may immediately claim one card from the pile next to the current location. These cards will be worth points based on their location. If there are no cards remaining at the current location then the player claims no cards when they get off.

Once everyone has decided to get off or stay the captain must either play every card required or ask for help. There are some cards that will allow dice to be rerolled. If the captain is able to play cards matching the perils then the airship moves on to the next location, leaving behind anyone that decided to get off. The player to the captain’s left becomes the new captain.

The player to the captain’s left who is still on the airship becomes the new captain. If after arriving at a location the captain finds that they are by themselves on the airship, they  have the option of stopping at their current location and collecting a card from the location or continuing on. However, so long as the captain is not alone, they must attempt to travel to the next location.

If the captain is unable to play cards to overcome the perils rolled then the airship “crashes”. This ends the current trip and all pawns are placed back in the airship, which is then returned to the start. The player to the left of the last captain becomes the new captain for the round.

Scoring

In general, you want to ride the airship for as long as possible before it crashes, since if you’re still on the airship when it crashes you get zero points for that trip. This means that while it is a “press your luck” style of game, it is often not your own luck you are relying on, but rather the luck of the other players.

At the start of each new trip, a player may announce that they have reached the point goal and reveal their cards. If multiple players have points equal to or greater than the point goal then the player with the most points wins.

Otherwise, point cards are kept hidden from other players.

Conclusion

This is actually a really fun and easy game. It’s also visually interesting from across the room, since you’ll see the airship with the pawns sitting in it. People will come over to ogle this game if they’ve not seen it before. If you like “press your luck games” this one makes a nice casual addition. If you hate “press your luck games”, you might find that this one isn’t so bad. Since even if you “always roll bad”, most of the time it isn’t your rolls you’re having to bet on. Plus, when you’re the one rolling the dice, to a certain extent you’re locked in. With the exception of a few cards you will already have a pretty good idea if you’ll make it or not and so there’s not much pressure. The pressure is really on the passengers who have to decide if you have the cards or not.

It’s worth checking out, even if you just use it as an icebreaker.

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Kosmos: Imhotep – Review

July 26, 2016

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Publisher Kosmos
Genre Block Placement via Queue
Number of Players 2 – 4
Play Time 40 minutes
Initial Review Date 7/11/16
Last Updated 7/11/16

In this game, you play as competing master builders that are trying to build various stone structures in Egypt. Each player is represented by the blocks that they place. Just be careful, because all of your bricks are delivered using boats and your opponent might mess you up by sending your perfectly arranged boat to the wrong construction site.

Setup

First, you lay out the 5 site tiles, which represent the different construction sites. You then select the set of round cards for the number of players you have. These cards are shuffled and placed in a stack. You also shuffle the market cards and put them on the market board in the open spaces. finally, each player selects a color (placing one cube of that color on the scoring track at zero) and then each player receives the corresponding stone sled.

The start player then receives 2 stones of their color from the supply. Each player subsequently receives one more stone than the player before them. So the 2nd player takes 3, the 3rd player takes 4 and the fifth player receives 5 stones.

The first round card is flipped face up in order to reveal which ships will be used for the round.

Gameplay

On your turn, you may take 1 of the following 4 actions.

  • Take 3 stones: 3 stone are taken from your supply and placed on your sled. If your sled doesn’t have room for all the stones you are taking, the excess stones are lost and returned to the supply.
  • Place 1 stone on a ship: You may take one stone and place it on ANY empty spot on any ship. This is when you want to pay attention to what the different sites look like and place your stone strategically.
  • Sail 1 ship to a site: Each ship has a minimum and a maximum capacity. A ship can not be sailed until it is filled at least to its minimum. This minimum is indicated on the ship. It should be noted that you do not need to have any of your own stones on the ship you are sailing. This can be used to your advantage by sailing a ship to a poor location for its load, in order to intentionally mess up your opponents.
  • Play 1 blue market card: Blue cards acquired from the market are held, once played they are discarded. Generally, these cards allow a player to “break” the rules in some way. If a blue card and the rules contradict each other, then the blue cards take precedent.

Some of the build locations score points immediately, others score points at the end of the round and yet even others don’t score until the end of the game. In this way, you can either seek out short or long term goals or some combination.

When a round ends. The market gets cleared and new cards are placed in all of the spots (regardless if anyone claimed cards or not). The next round card is flipped face up and the new start player is the player to the left of the player who triggered the end of the round.

Since there are 4 ships and 5 locations, one location will be untouched each round. This does not prevent them from scoring. So, if an area scores at the end of the round each player will score it as normal regardless if a shipment of stone was sent there or not.

End of the Game

The game ends after 6 rounds. This means that one of the round cards goes unused. Players then add up points based on each of the end of the game locations as well as any end of the game bonuses they might have picked up from the market. The player with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the player with the most stones still on their sled wins.

Conclusion

This game is very simple to learn, but it definitely is strategic. It reminds me of worker placement games, however, the delay between placing stones on a ship and that ship going to a location keep things very strategic. You need to pay attention to everyone and what they want to do, in this way you can either piggyback off of someone else’s desires or intentionally position yourself to block them. Just be careful not to over focus on just one player, since you might be able to foul them up but at the expense of letting another player slip past for the win.

Though, this isn’t a worker placement game as such. If you enjoy worker placement games you will probably enjoy this one as well. At the same time, the game is remarkably kid-friendly since there is very little text and what text there is can be read aloud without compromising the gameplay.


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Facade Games: Salem – Review

July 19, 2016

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Publisher Facade Games
Genre Card / Social
Number of Players 4 – 12
Play Time 30 minutes
Initial Review Date 7/11/16
Last Updated 7/11/16

In this game, each player is a townsfolk of Salem, but life has turned upside down now that everyone realizes there is a witch among you. Can you find (and kill) the witch before everyone dies? Just be careful, witch trials can be deadly and you just might kill an innocent instead.

Setup

Each player is dealt a card that represents who they are in the village. Additionally, each player is dealt a set of trial cards. Most of the tryal cards say “Not a witch”, but a few say “Witch” or “Constable”. These cards are placed face down in front of each player after the player has an opportunity to review them.

A blank token is then placed in front of each player, with the tokens that say “kill” and “save” in the middle.

The playing cards are then shuffled with two exceptions. The “Black Cat” card is placed to the side and the “night” card is placed on the bottom of the deck after it has been shuffled.

Finally, two playing cards are dealt to each player in order to form a starting hand.

One player must make the nightly announcements. This can either be a player involved in the game (called the town crier) or someone outside of the game (called the moderator). This player will then tell everyone to close their eyes. After everyone’s eyes are closed they will then tell the witch to open their eyes and select one player to kill.

The witch will then turn the kill token face down and swap it with one of the blank tokens in front of a player.

Once the town crier or moderator is satisfied that the witch has had sufficient time to do this they will then tell all players to close their eyes again. Then all players are instructed to open their eyes.

All players flip over their tokens in order to reveal the kill token. The player who received the kill token, has the black cat card placed in front of them instead of them being killed. Then the player with the black cat card becomes the start player.

Gameplay

On each of your turns you will start by drawing two cards. You must then play atleast one of these cards before ending your turn. Cards will be one of three types.

  • Red: Red cards allow you to accuse other players of being a witch. You play the card on the player. Each of these cards has one or more strikes on them. When a player receives seven or more strikes they are put on tryal. the player who played the card that put this player at seven or more picks one of that player’s tryal cards to flip face up. The card is then resolved as follows:
    • “Not a Witch” or “Constable” – If the player still has unrevealed tryal cards in front of them then they are safe. If the player has no unrevealed tryal cards then they are proven innocent with their death and they are out of the game.
    • “Witch” – this player has been killed and their remaining tryal cards (if any) are flipped face up. If all of the witch cards have been revealed then the non-witches have won. Otherwise, play continues.
    • After the tryal is resolved all of the red cards in front of the player put on tryal are discarded.
  • Green: These cards are played for an effect and then discarded
  • Blue: These cards remain in front of the player until removed by a green card or the player is killed.
  • Black: If it is the conspiracy card then the conspiracy round is triggered, if it is the night card then the night round is triggered.
    • Conspiracy: Basically two things happen. the player who drew this card selects one tryal card in front of any player with the black cat and that player is forced to reveal the selected card. Second, each player selects a face down card from the player on their left and takes it. In this way the witch card can possibly pass to another player. When this happens, the “old witch” remains a witch and the player receiving the card becomes a witch.
    • Night: When this happens then the moderator or town crier will instruct everyone to close their eyes. Then, as during setup the witch or witches will select a player to receive the kill token. Once sufficient time has been given to do this the witches then are instructed to close their eyes and the constable is allowed to swap one player token with the save token. Once the suffcient time has been given for this, all players are instructed to close their eyes. finally, all players are instructed to open their eyes. At this point, each player may “confess” by flipping one of their tryal cards face up in front of them. Once this is done players flip their tokens over. If a player who “confessed” received the kill token then they are safe from it. If a player who chose not to confess received the kill token  then they have been killed and all of their tryal cards are placed face up. The discard pile is reshuffled with the night card again placed on the bottom afterward.

Win Conditions

The game ends when either all of the witch cards have been revealed or all of the non-witches have been killed, with the respective sides losing.

Conclusion

This game is similar to games like Ultimate Warewolf and Resistance with regard to the social aspects. However, because of the high amount of structure the game enforces it’s much harder for someone to screw you over just because they don’t like you that day. Also, accusations end up flying around pretty evenly when no one has any concrete evidence. That is to say, when one person is sitting there with 1 card revealed and someone else has 4 cards revealed, that person with only one revealed card suddenly starts looking more suspcious to everyone.

If you have played games like Warewolf and Resistance and hated them because they lacked structure I would suggest giving salem a try. If you love those types of games then this will be yet another one you can add to your libary, espeically if you have friends that aren’t very enthuisastic about games like this.

On a side note, a VR version of this game is currently in development and I can see how it would improve it. since it would remove a little bit of the fiddlilyness involved with swapping the tokens in a way where no one can tell it was you.