Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: Kill Doctor Lucky by James Ernest

KILL DOCTOR LUCKY: The Family Board Game Of Murder In The Dark by James Ernest

Have you ever been to a house party hosted by someone you just cannot stand? Someone you've hated for as long as you can remember, and you've secretly been waiting for them to shuffle off this mortal coil? Perhaps he is the only thing between you and the family fortune. Maybe he just dumped your grandma. Lets just say he's a terrible person. Whatever your motive, someone just cut the power to the mansion. Find a weapon, get him alone, make your move. Tonight you will Kill Doctor Lucky.

Kill Doctor Lucky comes with a deck of 96 cards, 30 spite tokens, a quad fold board depicting all the rooms of the mansion, and standees for the seven characters, Doctor Lucky and his pet dog Shamrock. The rulebook is riddled with humor, because you can't spell cold-blooded slaughter without laughter.

Kill Doctor Lucky is best described as a prequel to the classic board game clue. Every player is out to make the kill. The only mystery here is who will be lucky enough to do the deed, and luck is not on your side. At the end of each of players turn Doctor Lucky will move in number sequence around the board. Catching up with this old fool is the big trick to the game. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is not to try to chase him, but to wait until you get a room card to bring the good Doctor to you.

If you end your move in the same room as the doctor and no one has line of sight you can play a weapon card to add to your murder value. Once you've announced your murder attempt, each player in turn order plays a failure card. If they can match your murder value you fail. Failure isn't all that bad, because if you fail a murder attempt you get a spite token, and each spite token increases your murder value by one for all future attempts. Also, if you don't have a weapon your murder value is one plus any spite token.

On your turn you will choose do any of the following actions:
  • Take a free step 
  • Play move card(s) 
  • Play a room card 
  • Attempt murder 
  • Play a weapon card during an attempted murder 
  • Draw a card 
Free steps are always available and can be taken before or after any actions. Move cards will let you move yourself or Doctor Lucky up to the move value of the card or cards. When you play a move card you or Doctor Lucky are teleported right to that room. If you end your movement in a room with Doctor Lucky and no one has line of sight on you; you may attempt a murder. When you attempt a murder you may play a weapon card to increase your murder value. If you end your movement in a named room and did not play a card or attempt a murder; you may draw a card.

After you've done some combination of those actions your turn is over and it's time to move Doctor Lucky. The old man scurries along to the next named room with the next highest number. If he moved into an unnamed room on your turn by move cards then he moves to the adjacent named room of the largest number. After that is handled it's time to move Shamrock. Shamrock has pudgy little legs, and move only one room at a time. In this manner he will get separated from Doctor Lucky so his movement will always be one room along the shortest path back to Doctor Lucky. This is significant because if Shamrock has line of sight on you, you cannot attempt a murder.

As predictable as Doctor Lucky's Movement pattern may seem, he's all over the place, and I like that. With a clever combo of cards you can take up to 3 turns in a row, which is rare but totally possible. Its that high-level thinking that draws me to this game, though it's light enough to play with the whole family.  Game play in Kill Doctor Lucky is engaging, partly because turns consist of such quick actions. One thing that gets to me is Shamrock. The rule book doesn't explain if he is mandatory or not. It goes to great lengths to be ambiguous and annoying. My first play through I just opted to leave the dog out of the game. Subsequent plays I tried the three variants in the rule book. After doing all the research, I recommend the Old Dog Variant as described in the Rule Book.

All in all, I absolutely had fun each time I sat down to play Kill Doctor Lucky. With the interesting absence of character backgrounds, you can really get into play acting your character anyway you like. The game is streamlined. It has the minimum amount of parts for the maximum amount of fun. Remember, when you're stalking a doddering old geezer, get out of sight and get him dead.



Kill Doctor Lucky free downloads at Cheapass Games

Tom Vasel reviews Kill Doctor Lucky on The Dice Tower

FarmerLenny reviews Kill Doctor Lucky at ISlayTheDragon.com

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Matthew Ryan Robinson is an indie game designer and runs Broken Prism Games. He posts on three other blogs brokenprismgames.com, solventcage.wordpress.com, and 360to180.com. You can meet him at Dallas Gaming Marathon on Thursdays or Open Stage on Mondays {Youtube Search: Open Stage Penguin}.