The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
Letters From Whitechapel
The year is 1888. Mist clings to the cobblestone streets as the lamp lads make their rounds lighting lanterns. The drunk, the bawdy, the dirty, the smelly... and those who would do evil lurk the causeways and alleys of the Whitechapel district of London. In the middle of the night a woman screams - and Jack the Ripper has killed again!
In Letters from Whitechapel, two to six players take on the roles of Jack the Ripper and constables trying to find him. Playing with a fully detailed map of the Whitechapel district from that era one player navigates the maps as Jack the Ripper while the other players try to figure out where he's headed. It's a tense whodunnit where the forces of good race against the clock to stop the killings! Whose side are you on?
The game plays very much like a mix of Clue, Battleship, and Risk. The player controlling Jack moves his character without moving a character pawn. He or she has a sheet where they detail which steps they took in the city. The map is laid out with 199 circles linked together by dotted lines. Each circle is numbered, and Jack moves through streets and alleys from adjacent number to adjacent number. If Jack takes five victims before the constables can find him, he wins.
The players controlling the constables must investigate those circles and create a trail of clues determining where Jack's been and where he's headed. With the use of bingo-chip like tokens, they mark the circles and keep track of his path. If the constables can track Jack before he kills five times (equalling four game turns), the constables win!
Because this game is structured like a mystery, it changes every time. I could see it becoming repetitive if a playgroup had a set player who always played as Jack - the other players would learn his style. But if you and your group keep switching up who plays which roles, there will be plenty of twists and surprises.
I played and reviewed another Jack the Ripper deduction game here a few months back called Mr. Jack (check out that review here), which was strictly a two-player game. That game feels so completely different from this one, even though the subject matter and basic game mechanics are the same. Mr. Jack was about moving pieces, using abilities, and generally trying to corner a killer. This game is all about strategy and there are large points in time where both sides of the field will feel completely lost, only to stumble on an easy way out of trouble (if you're playing Jack), or a juicy new clue that gets them back on track (if you're playing the constables). If you like the themes and general setting of Whitechapel during the Jack killings, you'll flip out for this game. We've spent plenty of time tracking killers in games, but this one feels the most like real detective work.