Saturday, February 7, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Jack... Hello Red November!

Traded away my copy of Mr. Jack for Red November. As usual, I will take the opportunity to note down some of my thoughts on the game.

Mr. Jack was an enigma for me. It's very well thought-off on the geek. Coupled with interesting mechanics and a reasonably short play-time, I figured it would be a shoo-in for my collection and I took the plunge despite the somewhat high prize tag for a game of this nature. However, despite a number of plays, the game never took off for me.

I'm intrigued by the mechanics and like the premise of the game of trying to deduce the identity of Mr. Jack. Unfortunately, two issues leave the game somewhat wanting in my eyes:

1. Downtime Due To Analysis Paralysis

Mr. Jack has a certain chess-like element which leads to a certain degree of downtime while players contemplate their moves. While I agree this varies from player to player, it has nonetheless been true of my games with Van. I in particular can't play the game by merely making cursory in-game decisions. 

While I don't mind downtime in some games, it is particularly frustrating here for the downtime is unproductive. What I mean by this is that while my opponent is contemplating his or her move, I am unable to use the same time to contemplate mine for my potential moves are highly dependent on the state of the board after the completion of my opponent's moves. 

Unlike Chess, the random nature of card flips on alternate turns limits the ability to think ahead and decisions tend to be confined within each player's turn. In addition, the variety in possible moves also add to the difficulty of planning ahead during an opponent's turn.

2. Insignificant Character Turns

As the game progresses, there are an increasing number of suspects proven innocent. Due to the rotational nature of characters, there will be occasions where players need to utilize certain innocent characters which have little to nil impact on the game due to their location on the board or the irrelevance of their special ability at that point in time.

A somewhat related issue is the variable movement of characters. More often than not, I find little difference in moving my chosen character between 1-3 spaces and thus the decision becomes much less meaningful.


I thought I add some of my pre-play impressions of Red November which led me to trade for it:

1. Portable
2. Plays up to 8
3. Reasonably short game time - box says 60 minutes but I understand that is highly dependent on the number of players
4. Cooperative element - reviews and the rules suggest it does not suffer as severely as Pandemic from the 'puzzle' syndrome.

The rules did seem rather fiddly though, hopefully that will not be a game-breaker. Looking forward to trying it out. Unfortunately it doesn't play with 2 so Van and I will have to wait till we have friends over to give it a go.

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