Crime Writers

You are a guest at a famous authors mansion. As you dine, the subject of the authors new crime novel comes up. Though, the author is dying to indulge the guests´ requests to learn more about the plot, the author simply slips the title of one of the cases, leaving his guest´s to guess the outline of the plot. Will, you be the guest who solves the cases set by the author? Or will, you spin a web of stories, leaving your guests in the dark?

Let´s solve a crime story. Let´s all be Crime Writers!


Facts:

Developed by Lulla Games (Lulla Jatek)

Designed by Adám Vágó & Mori Mészáros

Player count 2 – 10

Play time 15 min per player

Aged 14+

Objective of the game:

You would expect you should solve crimes, right? That is not the case, you are to figure out the key elements of a crime story.


At first glance:

Since this review is made on a Simi-prototype, the game currently available on Kickstarter and pre-released in Hungary, I would like to offer my thoughts on the game when I first received the copy.

The box is an absolute marble! Some of you might remember the show “Murder She Wrote”, where a crime writer / amateur detective solves numerous crimes, from murder to theft. This game in its core is Murder She Wrote the game!

The box is about the size of a big pocket and will certainly find its way into my backpack when going camping this summer.


How to play:

The essence of Crime Writers is that the players assume the roles of a famous crime-writer hosting a small dinner party for some close friends. The role of the host is turn based, so everyone will have a go at being the famous crime-writer and the guests around the table.

Start by having everyone take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Unfortunately, none of such is include in the base version of the game, you will also be needing a timer, be it a stopwatch, sand timer or an app.

Divide the cards into four stacks according to the back-cover of the cards, Killer/Victim, Crime Scene, Cause of death and finally Motive.

When every stack has been shuffled, it’s time to begin the first phase. The writing phase.

Turn by turn, starting with the player being the host during the first round, each player takes a total of three cards from the four stacks. The only stack, from where the players may take two cards, is the “Killer/Victim” stack, meaning that one of the cards will be the killer (instigator of the event) and the other card the one being victimize.

Each player will be making a short crime story based upon the five basic outlines:

Who? Whom? Why? Where? How?

Each player starts by inserting the outcome of their cards into the basic outlines, hereafter filling the two remaining empty outlines by using their own imagination. Now, each player will be given 10 minutes to write a short crime story, making it as extravagant and exciting as possible. Lastly, every player must give their story a title, but not just any title, it must be a title where every basic outline has a relevant connection.


An example, from the developer, of how a story could look like.

When every player has finished, it’s time to start the second phase of the game. The guessing phase.

The host reads out their title of their story, and from this point on, the host will be silent unless answering the questions from the guests. The answers are predetermined by the game, therefor the guests must ask questions that can be helpful to them with short answers.

The answers the host are allowed to present are:

Yes Also Almost No Not Characteristic Not important

(Naturally you are encouraged to fit the types of answers the host can present to your group of players)

Starting with the player to the left of the host, the players will be asking the host questions. These could be as specific or as broad as necessary for the players to tune in on the elements of the crime.

Example of the questioning phase:

Sammy asks: “Did it happen inside”? Host: “Yes”

Sammy: “Was it in a home”? Host: “Almost”

Sammy: “In a house”? Host: “No”

Diana: “Was it in an apartment”? Host: “Yes”.

In the example here, Sammy figured out that the crime happened inside and home, but by guessing a house, which was false, Sammy´s turn is up, and Diana is now the active player. The game continuous in this way until the players have figured out the basic outlines of every players story.

If the players get stuck asking questions, the host is allowed (and encourage) to help the players get back on track by repeating what the players have found out already.


Here the cards drawn are: The lawyer, Professional Calling and Rope. Remember that the lawyer can be either the murder OR the victim. The area of the crime scene and the other killer/victim are up to the author.

My impressions of the game:

Let me start off this way:

If you are having trouble letting the imagination run off with you.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with even the basic crime tv shows.

If you do not enjoy storytelling.

Then, Crime Writers are definitely not for you.

Crime Writers, though, are fantasy if you enjoy puzzles, story narrative and crime investigation, like Sherlock Holmes or CSI, and if you enjoy a good crime novel, you are surely in for a treat.

The game works quite well and it´s easy to get into the roles as the host and the guests, but having said that, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out the different elements that the author used, when you only have a title to go on.

Do not be fooled by it´s small box, this game is a beast in disguise. Its part sheep – drawing cards and writing a story, and part wolf – merciless and difficult. Not so much the mechanics of the game, but at times we simply had to use hints or choices to start with, so that the guests would have a chance of figuring out some of the elements.

Personally, I love the what this game delivers. A way to let your inner author shine, and as a former dungeon master, I’m convinced that if you were to hold a workshop for DM’s, this game would be amazing. And as I previous stated, this game will certainly see a lot of game time at our place. But unfortunately, not everyone is born to be authors. And if you, in your group of friends, have people who have a hard time using their imagination, then Crime Writers are absolutely NOT the game to throw at the table.

We have tested the game for about a week, and have played with three mixed groups, all of whom were set to experience something new. And only once did the game fall a little short. Not because the rules of the game were too difficult, and not because the stories that were written were not imaginative, but simply because the game has a degree of difficulty that is not suitable for all groups.

Would I recommend Crime Writers? Yes and no. It depends very much on who you want to play with. Is it for the group that, like a pack of hungry wolves, runs to the table when Cluedo or Consulting Detective comes out, definitely yes. They will love a good murder mystery that requires wits and sharpness.

If you as a student, e.g. journalist education, and has a study group, definitely yes, because it will turn on the imagination and open a world of possibilities for how an article can be set up.

But if it’s for the family or the group who love less demanding games such as. Codenames, well, I would strongly recommend that you stay away from it. Most people will feel like they are drowning in the task of writing a story that others should guess, just by hearing the title and it would be a shame when the game, in its correct element, is amazing.

Content:

86 full color cards

and one rules booklet

Rating:

The game is great, and would be granted an higher rating, but there are circumstances that impact the rating. First of the lack of paper, pen and timer. Now, I know that it´s part of the basic household, but if you buy this doing e.g. a camping trip, and you don´t have access to those items, well, the game would lack some of the key elements. Another small thing to consider about the rating is the difficulty of the game, make no mistake, its a tough one, and I do suspect that a lot people will have great difficulty in playing this, but most problems could be houseruled.

Support on Kickstarter:

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