Murder with the Family

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Murder at Devil Pines
Murder at Devil Pines: Perhaps the killer's here?
We travelled down to Portishead this weekend to see my parents. The boys had fun catching up with their grandparents and running remote-controlled boats on the lake. We got back after dinner and had some nice cake (a combination of birthdays, Easter coming up and belated Mother's Day) and then the boardgames came out.

We had a number of increasingly cutthroat games of Kartel during which it was a pleasure to see the youngest's mathematical ruthless streak coming out. After that, we tried Murder at Devil Pines, which is a short semi-cooperative memory-game based X-Files style investigation for 3 or 4 players.

The game is played over 6 turns (maximum), where each player gets a go at investigating the mystery. There are shades of Cluedo here. There are a set of clues for the way the missing person has been murdered (you get to find them and the method), a set of clues for who is leading the evil cult, and a set of clues for the evil creature which has been summoned.

There are five of each clue type; four are put in a lead deck for that clue type, and one is randomly selected as a 'mystery card'. On your turn, you get to investigate (by picking up a dice of the relevant investigation skill number and rolling equal-to or over the 'heat' number (the round number). Each successful roll lets you look at a card from the lead deck for that die colour. Thus you eliminate the potential leads. The cards are returned and shuffled so you can't guarantee that you'll not get the same leads again.

If you are certain what the clue chain has got you to in eliminating leads, you can 'call it in'; if you are successful, this will get you benefits (equipment, extra dice) but failure could (in the worst case) take you out of the game.

You can also wait around for a random mail-order delivery of equipment (most of which amends dice rolls or allows a different set of dice to be used).

In certain situations, you may have to do a raid (for example) against the monster of the week when that is revealed. This involves a combination of the different dice pools. Ultimately, to defeat the creature you will need as many successes as there are players so it could take several attempts.

We succeeded through a combination of Aidan's observation and Nathan's writing it all down process!
Overall, I enjoyed it but I don't think that we got the best out of it. We did have a good time.

It was the first playthrough and some boardgame conventions (like rotating the first player) messed with people's heads a bit. The escalating difficulty (which worked well) and the added complexity for raids confused a bit. The fixed-movement (up to 3 spaces) also caused confusion as some of the players expected a die roll. The rules have everything you need, but I think a crib-sheet is needed and a clearer statement of the Raid action. Nathan and I would play it again, Aidan is a maybe and Jill doesn't see the point beyond Cluedo (but she's a great fan of that game).

The board looks lovely and is evocative of the feel for the game. It plays in under 20 minutes. Worth a look if you can find it.

Murder at Devil Pines
Posing with his Grandma with the investigation log!

Earlier on, I said it was semi-cooperative. You all win or lose by defeating the monster-of-the-week. However, the rules as written give all the players a conspiracy card, each of which has a symbol related to the method of death, the cult leader and the monster. If two of these symbols align, you win by stopping the other players winning. We didn't use this as it would just add complexity for the first outing. In most sessions, everyone will be working together.



13 April 2019
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