Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Letters from Whitechapel

I finally broke my Fantasy Flight streak and played some Letters from Whitechapel recently. Although Fantasy Flight didn't make it (Italian games publisher Nexus did) the game adheres to the same high quality bar that Fantasy Flight has set for all of their titles. Kudos to Nexus for a compelling and well crafted board game!

The game's setting puts you in late 19th century London during Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. One player takes on the role of Jack, while the other players are tasked with tracking and arresting the notorious killer.

The two sides have different resources available. After the murder, Jack can use carriages and back alleys that he can use to try to get back to his secret base before daybreak. While he's doing this the detectives can move around the board attempting to pick up Jack's trail and arrest him before he returns to his hideout.

The game has a lot of similarities to Fantasy Flight's Fury of Dracula. Each sides has access to a disparate set of abilities and has a distinct win condition. Each game is about one team chasing the other around the board, and the quarry has things they can do to throw his pursuers off. Each game has a high quality board and set of tokens.

And each game is a lot of fun.

Just like Dracula, the person who plays the Ripper in Letters from Whitechapel needs to have the right mindset going in. The player needs to almost be a Roleplaying Game Master. In the game I played it would have been easy for Jack to have simply won by ending the game on the last two turns before the investigators were even able to take an action. So Jack can be a little overpowered in some cases.

But this game is about the chase. It's about Jack's hubris. His belief that he is untouchable by the bumblers from Scotland Yard. In the end, it's about his downfall or ultimate triumph after a series of harrowing close calls. If Jack goes in just trying to win at all costs, he'll likely do so, but some of the magic of Letters from Whitechapel will be lost.

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