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?
Published in Europe (France/Sweden) in 2006, Mr. Jack is a game that delights in secrets, shadows, and clever thinking. With players assuming the roles of Jack the Ripper and a detective searching for the killer, there’s plenty of intrigue and tactics in this generally family-friendly horror/thriller board game. Mr. Jack employs a clever mixture of tactical game play and deduction, making this game a mixture of Clue and Checkers.
If you want to start getting the young ones into the genre of the ghastly and gory, but don’t actually want to scare them or traumatize them (just yet) Mr. Jack could be the key you’re looking for. It evokes that oft-hard to describe feeling of lighthearted dread that follows all well told frightful tales for children.
Mr. Jack is a two-player game that pits player against player in the foggy gaslight district of London. One player assumes the role of Jack (the Ripper) and the other player assumes the role of the Investigator. Jack’s job is to slip through the grasp of Scotland Yard and remain in shadow, while the Investigator must try to draw the impostor into the light.
The game lasts eight rounds and there are eight playable characters that each player will have a chance to control. Jack is assuming the identity of one of the playable characters, and only Jack knows who’s identity he’s assumed. The goal of the player playing as Jack is to slip out of the city before he’s discovered and collared by the Investigator.
The tricky part of the game is that Jack and the Investigator could, at different points during the game, move the piece representing Jack’s secret identity. The players move the characters, use their special abilities, and at the end of the round certain characters will be “visible” (either next to a street light or next to another character) while others are not. The player playing Jack declares whether his secret identity is visible or not, and the suspects are then reduced for the investigator.
This continues, with careful movement of characters, until either Jack has escaped through a city exit or the Investigator has figured out who Jack is and moves a character onto the same hexagon as Jack.
We had a blast playing this game and my co-conspirator and I are both itching to play again. The board is always set-up the same way, but the high variance comes from a number of factors, including: which character is secretly Jack, which characters get to move first, where various obstacles are placed, and different players’ style of play.
The beautiful artwork in this game evokes a certain lingering terror. The mechanics of the game lighten the mood by keeping it quick and contentious. This is a fast (about 30 minutes) game of quick decision making and narrow escapes. They may never have caught the most infamous murderer of the gaslight era, but you definitely can if you play your cards right!