Tabletop Game Review #2 – Murder of Crows

game box
Game box

I’m a big fan of the card and storytelling game Gloom, where the object is to make your characters as miserable as possible before killing them off. Sounds like a lot of fun, right? I truly love dark humor. So when I heard Atlas Games had another macabre card game available, I had to snatch it up. It did not disappoint! Let’s take a closer look.

Overview:

Murder of Crows
Players: 2 to 5
Ages: 13 and up, although I think it’s fine for slightly younger players.
Publish Date: 2012
BoardGameGeek Link: click here

Image of a card, with one crow
Notice the one crow in the upper left corner.

Gameplay/Rules:

According to the rules sheet, the objective of the game is to “reveal a complete murder story by playing all the letters in the word ‘M-U-R-D-E-R’.” Each card contains one of these letters, along with an accompanying image and a line of story text.

To start the game, players are dealt five cards, and the remaining cards are used as the draw pile. On your turn, you must draw one card and play one card. You can also choose to skip your turn and draw two cards. To play a card, you simply place it into your Murder, which is the table space in front of you. You eventually want to spell out MURDER; this seems easy, but each card allows you to perform an action once it is played associated with its designated letter. For example:

  • M‘s action is “misplace,” which allows you to take one card of your choice from an opponents murder and put it into your hand.
  • U is “uncover,” where your opponents reveal their hands, and you take a card of your choice.
  • R is “reap,” which is drawing an additional card from the draw pile.
  • D is “drain,” where you must choose one letter and your opponents discard one of that card from their Murder.
  • E is “expel,” where your opponents have to discard their entire hand and draw three new cards.

You can play any number of letters into your Murder, meaning you can have multiple M‘s, U‘s, etc; you just place them on top of each other when played. This way, you can continue to screw over your opponents by playing the same actions over and over again – if you have the right cards.

three crows on the card
Three crows on the card

If one of the players performs an action that you want to prevent, you can discard one of your cards from your hand. The one you are discarding must have the same number of crows in the upper left corner that are on the card your opponent played. For example, if your opponent plays an E card with two crows pictured, and you don’t want to expel your cards, you can discard one that also has two crows.

There are also Wild Crow cards that can be used in various ways.

  • It can be played as a wildcard, where it takes on the properties of the letter you want.
  • It can be played to remove an entire stack of letters from one of your opponent’s Murders.
  • You can discard it to prevent the effect of any card, regardless of the number of crows on your opponent’s card.

To win the game, be the first player to complete the word MURDER, and then read aloud the text to reveal the murder story.

All the cards spelling out Murder
The story reads: Carnage shattered the witching hour on forgotten gravestones when Samuel Scratchpad, on a venomous whim, used nail clippers to hack Emily Bloodstone.

Design:

The illustrator is Thomas Denmark, who’s done work for Magic: The Gathering, and the Game of Thrones and World of Warcraft card games. The artwork is fantastic – it gives it a dark feel while maintaining a sense of whimsy; it reminds me of Lemony Snicket. The coloring is subdued, but effective. Additionally, the cards themselves have their action titles (misplace, uncover, reap, drain, expel) printed on them, which is helpful in remembering what to do, especially when coupled with the included reference cards.

Replay Value:

Murder of Crows is amazingly fun and easy to learn – it took me five minutes to read through the rules and completely grasp the concept. That makes this game one that I can play with my non-gamer and gamer friends alike. My nurse and I have played this numerous times, and each time, we play at least three rounds. It’s addictive – so, yes, a great replay value.

The Gimp Glimpse:

As with any card game, you may have trouble with this if you have trouble handling cards. The story text is a small, but not miniscule – and if you can’t read it, it doesn’t affect gameplay in any way. The rule sheet is available online in PDF (as are most rulebooks – just check out the included BoardGameGeek link above), so you can download that if you need the text enlarged.

Score:

Four and a half stars out of five. Easily one of my favorite games I’ve purchased this year. I took off half a star because the end stories are not as amusing as they could be – the characters and scenarios in Gloom are more entertaining. But definitely pick this up if you’re looking for a quick, fast-paced, easily transportable card game.

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