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Reviews - Murder of Crows
 
by P.J. Cole-Regis


Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows

Published by Atlas Games
Designed by Thomas Denmark and Eduardo Baraf
Art by Thomas Denmark
Ages 13+
Time: 20 minutes
Players: 2-5
$12.95

In Murder of Crows, players attempt to reveal a (light-hearted) murder story by playing the right combination of cards to spell out MURDER in their play area.

Gameplay
Every card will have one of the letters from the word MURDER. Players begin with a hand of five and draw one card from the common draw pile, then play one from their hand. Players can also opt to simply draw two cards in lieu of playing one. A player is victorious when she or he spells out the word MURDER and reads the single sentence narrative of a murder when all the flavor text of the cards is read in sequence.

The Rs are interchangeable and repeating a letter you had already played will simply stack above the previous version, which remains below as a contingency. This is not a moot decision as players will be harassing your hand and letters using various effects.

Card effects are unique to each letter. M causes the Misplace effect, which allows the player to steal a letter played by another from their MURDER and bring it into their hand. Playing a U causes the Uncover effect, which allows you to look at all your opponent's hands and steal one card into your own, and so forth.

Players are not defenseless, however, as every card also depicts a number of crows from 1-3 along with its letter. A player need only discard a matching value of crows on the card being played to negate the effect from happening to him or her. If I were to play an M with three crows for Misplace you could discard any other letter with a value of three crows to prevent the effect from happening to you.

Lastly, there is the Wild Crow card that can be played as any letter and will defend against any letter. Players can only use one of these cards in their MURDER to complete the narrative, however.

Components and Packaging
The box quality is above average and the information on the back is accurate in capturing the theme and game as a whole. I'm not a fan of the split deck storage, especially when it's all one deck – but I think that this was probably deliberate in order to create the space needed for the information and graphics explaining the game on the back of the box.

The single one-sided instructions are clear and concise, which is great for learning and teaching others. The quality of the paper itself is decent and being printed in color adds to the quality as well. My only preference would have been a smaller double-sided sheet. The cards themselves are what one would expect from a higher end production quality company, good material with a coated finish.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the components is the artwork itself – the art is FANTASTIC (if they can use all caps for MURDER in the instructions, I can use all caps too). Each individual card has a unique piece of artwork that ties it to its flavor text. Particularly funny are those belonging to letter E which depict the delivery and method of death to the victim.

Conclusion
After reading the instructions and looking through the art, I was very excited to try Murder of Crows. My first few plays were two player games and they sadly fell flat. The interaction quickly turned into a back and forth exchange of playing a card, applying the effect, and defending it, with no one player ever really gaining the advantage until the first player lost tempo from an inability to defend or vice-versa. There was never really any threat of losing cards from your hand, so at almost every effect one was able to defend with the appropriate number of crows.

The game was much better with three players. Players were instantly more conservative in selecting moments in which to defend against the effects of others as the ratio of turn to opponent turns changed 2:1. The R cards (Reap effect lets a player draw another card in the turn) instantly became more meaningful in maintaining your hand instead of overflowing it. Decisions on whom to target for specific effects also became a factor, and the play in general was much more thought provoking. The game is definitely worth checking out, though I highly suggest playing it with more than two players.  

Links:

Related OgreCave podcasts:

OgreCave - GNU (Thomas Denmark/Studio Denmark) - interview on the upcoming RPG, Warriors of the Red Planet. (recorded at KublaCon 2014)

 
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