Category Archives: Rules

Posts about rules clarifications.

Updating our abilities

This could probably be filed in the “should have done this sooner” drawer. We’ve just finished an analysis of our many and various abilities. We’ve copied all the abilities into a single spreadsheet so that we have everything in one place.

And now that we can see all 500+ abilities in one place, we’re marveling at some of the contradictions.

For example, we found eight different variations on the Not so Fast! ability. We found some abilities that had different wordings in the same game. We found some abilities that have different effects in different games.

A sample ability

A sample ability

All this leads to inconsistency – we don’t want you to have to relearn the abilities every time you play. Once you’ve learned Not so Fast! you shouldn’t have to re-learn it.

This has crept up on us over time. Our approach to abilities has changed over time. As an example, an early version of Sudden Insight states “After talking for five minutes with any person, you realise that they revealed more than they intended. They must show you everything on their “Information” card.” Feedback from players suggested that some players were timing themselves to the second so that they could play the ability. That wasn’t really what we intended – we just wanted them to talk for a short while. So later versions said “After talking briefly to …” or even just “After talking to…”. But we didn’t then go back and change the original abilities.

So we’ve agreed on some standardised wordings for our “standard” abilities, the ones we use time and again. For example, Sudden Insight will now say: “After talking to another player, you realise that they have revealed more than they intended. They must must show you their Clue.” (As discussed previously, Clue is our new term for Information.)

And we’re going to sort out all our old games and bring them up to standard. (This isn’t going to happen overnight, obviously.) So when you see Sudden Insight in Court in the Act, you know that it’s going to have the same effect as Sudden Insight in Casino Fatale.

The only things that may change are flavour text and restrictions. We sometimes use flavour text to give the abilities a bit of colour and make them fit the character. And in some cases we put a restriction on an ability (in Happy Birthday R.J. the Harrington Stock cannot be pickpocketed, for example). However, neither flavour text or restrictions change the basic effect of the ability.

We will also ensure that the balance of abilities is about right. For example, Hollywood Lies currently has over 20 versions of “I love talking to people – I never know what I’m going to learn!” We’re going to replace some of those with abilities that do slightly different things so that there’s a good variety.

First games to get the new abilities will be Lord and Lady Westing’s Will (due 15th April) and Death on the Gambia

.Steve Hatherley

Interviewing absent characters

Here’s an idea that you may wish to include in your game. (Note that if you’ve not played our games before, we suggest that you stick with the basic rules – but if you’re an old hand, go crazy!)

Death on the Gambia

An investigation during Death on the Gambia

Interviewing Absent Characters: Sometimes it can be useful for the detective characters to interview absent characters to eliminate them from their inquiries.

Here’s what you do:

  • When you’re preparing the game, print out all the characters – even if you know that you haven’t got all the roles filled.
  • Also print out the items and other handouts for that character – and put it all in that character’s envelope.
  • When the game is running, if one of the players wants to ask a question of one of the missing players, you’ve got all the information in one place so that you can answer the query. (This is easy if the detective has the “I’d like to ask you a few questions” ability as you can simply show them each characters’ Information/Clue.)

An advantage of bringing the complete characters to the party is that if you do get someone arriving at the last minute, you can easily get them involved by giving one of the spare characters to them.

Steve Hatherley

Clarifying “Information”

We’ve had a couple of questions about “Information” lately, in particular what do we mean when an ability says something like “After talking briefly with another player, you realize that they revealed more than they intended. They must show you their Information.”

Of course it’s obvious to us – but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.

So to be clear, when we say “Information” we mean the small nugget of information on page 6 of the character booklet (or on that character’s information card on our older games).

However, with our new game (Lord and Lady Westing’s Will, due soon) we’re going to try using the word “Clue” instead. If that’s successful, then we’ll slowly move our old games over to the new terminology.

(That means that the ability will say: “After talking briefly with another player, you realize that they revealed more than they intended. They must show you their Clue.”)

As for what Information/Clues actually are, they’re really just a clue to a plot. It’s something that the character knows that, in game terms, we’d like to see deliberately circulated around the game. (Sometimes they pertain directly to the murder, often they don’t. And sometimes they are red herrings. We’ve made that clearer in the new game.)

We created the Information/Clue mechanic because our experience is that some players like to hoard information. This can cause problems because for our games to work best, the players need to share information. That way when a player learns a key piece of information that they need for one of their character’s goals, they can act on it. If everyone hoards their information then plots can fail and our games aren’t as much fun as they should be.

We have found that the more you play our games the more likely you are to share information, so the Information/Clue mechanic becomes less critical the more experienced your group is.

Steve Hatherley

Rewarding great play

Here’s an idea that you may wish to include in your game. (Note that if you’ve not played our games before, we suggest that you stick with the basic rules – but if you’re an old hand, go crazy!)

Here's a poker chip from us for "best beard" if nothing else!

Here’s a poker chip from us for “best beard” if nothing else!

Rewarding great play: You can reward great play when you see it. Simply keep some poker chips with you when you are the Host. When you see someone doing something really cool (which might be over-acting, good roleplaying, a fine costume – or anything else that you think is worth rewarding), then give that person a poker chip.

That player can then use that poker chip as an ability use for any of their abilities.

Remember to brief this out to everyone at the start of the party – otherwise your players won’t know what the poker chips are for!

Be generous!

Steve Hatherley

Arrests in Way out West

In Way out West the Sheriff and Deputy can (via an ability) arrest other characters. There are various ways in which someone can escape arrest, one of which is that the restrained player gets outside help.

Way out West wanted poster

Way out West wanted poster

We’ve recently been asked if the player providing the outside help needs an ability to cut the ropes/unlock the door and help the restrained character to escape.

If we’re presented with this situation during a game, we ask how the helping player plans to release the arrested character. If they have an item which will obviously help, that’s great: but if they have a good enough imagination, then they don’t need to have a specific item. After all, Way out West is set in the Wild West town of Cactus Gulch and there are lots of other things lying around which aren’t represented on the item cards.

So if they need something particular for their imaginative plan, and it’s reasonable that they might find it in Cactus Gulch, we let them succeed.

Basically our guideline is: if it feels ‘fair’ that they should succeed, because they’ve put in some effort to find items or to invent a good plan, then they should succeed.

Steve Hatherley