Happy April, folks! This month’s board game review is on a game called Tragedy Looper by game designer BakaFire, produced by Z-man Games. Before I begin, I want to assure you that this post will describe how the game is played without giving away any spoilers, since solving mysteries is the main point of the game. As you can probably guess by the artwork on the cover, this game was first released in Japan in 2011. The English version was released last year.
Tragedy Looper is a cooperative game for up to 4 players. It takes about 120 minutes to play a scenario through. The game has a set of scripts that it comes with, one of which is a tutorial. Below is the helper sheet for the tutorial scenario.
At its heart, this game is a mystery game led by one player – the Mastermind. The other players – the Protagonists – are trying to solve the mystery. Each scenario has one plot from the helper sheet, and two subplots. Each plot and subplot involves certain roles, and so one of the things the Protagonists can do is attempt to figure out what every character’s role is. The game is a giant logic puzzle, with all the clues available via the helper sheet and the actions that the Mastermind takes.
To win, the Protagonists must survive an entire loop. A loop is made up of days. Depending on if certain circumstances are met on the game board, Incidents can occur at certain times during the loop. These incidents can result in the death of the protagonists or the end of the loop. Both of these things reset the scenario to the beginning (first day) of the next loop.
The script sets up various characters in four different locations, and at the beginning of the scenario, the Protagonists are given a script card. The Mastermind has one too, but I will not be sharing what that one looks like. Suffice it to say it is similar enough to the one below. The conditions of the scenario are displayed on the card, and which incidents, if any, can happen when.
Here is an example of how the game board might be setup at the beginning.
Below is a cheat sheet of how the turns happen.
In Step II above, the Mastermind and the Protagonists place cards on the game board. The Mastermind can play three cards on either characters or locations. The Protagonists play a total of three cards (one per player). Each location or character can only have a single card from the Protagonists and a single card from the Mastermind placed on it each turn. Here is an example of cards placed on the board for a turn.
Cards do things like move characters around the board, make characters paranoid (which affects whether or not incidents happen), give characters goodwill, and add influence. The card playing is the basic mechanic of the game, and all the other points are just times when things can happen. Here’s an example of what it looks like when cards are flipped and resolved. The circular tokens on some of the characters and board spots represent goodwill, paranoia, and intrigue.
The Mastermind and the Protagonists each have a handbook to help them along. The Mastermind’s main goal is to keep the Protagonists guessing. This can be done in many ways. The Protagonists should not talk amongst themselves too much, though a little bit is to be expected, especially as you are learning the game.
While the game is going on, the Mastermind may say things like “Protagonists die” or “Loop ends”, and this resets the scenario to the first day, but now you are on the second loop. Protagonists generally want to learn as much as possible during the first couple loops, and then try to avoid and prevent actions that they have learned might cause death. It’s pretty much traveling back in time with some knowledge of what is going to happen that day. Having a pen and paper is pretty useful in this game just for note keeping purposes.
You may not get this game immediately, but after the first time you play it, it should make sense. The game lends itself nicely to a campaign-like mode where the players have learned the game before and know how it works. We have played this 3 times with the same group, and new scenarios each time. We’ve also switched up who the Mastermind is each time.
Overall, I rate this game a 7 out of 10. I like logic puzzles a lot, and this game provides that in spades. There is also a decent amount of neat interaction between the Protagonists as you start to figure things out about your scenario. I can’t give this too high a rating because once you have been through all the scenarios, the replay value is not very high (unless you enjoy being the Mastermind, I suppose). There are expansion scenario packs, but we intend to get all the way through the base game first. It’s a different take on a mystery game, and I like that.
Oh, make sure you check out this month’s giveaway over at Boardgamegiveaway.com – it’s for a pretty fun game called 7 Wonders. You can also check and see who won March’s Star Wars: Imperial Assault giveaway 🙂 We’re playing our next missions in that campaign this weekend, and I am looking forward to it!