The company Cheapass Games began with the philosophy that most of the expense of board games went into pieces you already had -- dice, counters, money -- and they would give you the essentials (rules, board) for a low price. This makes it a mystery that years later, one of their flagship games, Kill Doctor Lucky, has been released with all the "fancy pieces" as Kill Doctor Lucky Deluxe Edition from Titanic Games.

The gameplay of Kill Doctor Lucky Deluxe Edition is virtually identical to earlier versions of the game. In this pre-murder mystery, you're in the mansion of Doctor J. Robert Lucky with the goal of doing him in. However, several other people are in the mansion -- and they want to kill him to! So as Doctor Lucky blithely wanders through the mansion, the players try to get him alone so they can do him in.

The board, which represents the mansion, is divided into main rooms (numbered 1 through 20), halls, and a few unnumbered rooms. Each turn a player can either do nothing (moving zero or one spaces) and draw a card, or play movement cards (moving them or Doctor Lucky either a certain number of spaces or to a room) and draw no cards. After all movement is done, if the player is in the room with Doctor Lucky and no other players can see into the room, that player can try to kill him.

A player can try and snuff the good doctor by either playing a card (which have a point value; many are worth more in certain rooms) or making something up for a one-point murder attempt. Going clockwise, the other players can play failure cards for all or some of the points of the murder attempt. If the total points equal the murder attempt, the try fails and Doctor Lucky wanders off to the next-highest numbered room. (And if the Doctor moves into a room where another player is, it becomes that player's turn.) But the other players can't share information on their failure cards, so it's a balance between keeping the Doctor alive for the turn and blowing all of one's failue cards that could be used against other players. Also, failure cards don't get recycled into the deck, so when they're gone the Doctor's lifespan is very brief indeed.

The game Kill Doctor Lucky is wonderful, a great blend of simple rules, substantial strategy, and pure chance. I'm a bit conflicted about Kill Doctor Lucky Deluxe Edition: While it keeps the same game play as the original, it goes against the direct philosophy of its original company. It is nice to have a solid board instead of having to lean several pieces of paper together to make up the mansion, and the pieces are nice. However, the only addition to the rules are "spite tokens" (that give a +1 bonus to all murder attempts for each failure) that could easily have been included in the original rules. Kill Doctor Lucky is a must-have game. If you don't have it, get Kill Doctor Lucky Deluxe Edition; if you don't have it, the upgrade is more of a luxury than a necessity.

Overall grades: A if you don't have it already, B if you already have the Cheapass Games version

Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: