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KILL DOCTOR LUCKY

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Temple Games, 3-7 players, ages 10 and up, about 40 minutes; $34.95)

 

A decade ago, I reviewed the then new Cheapass Game of murderous intentions designed by James Ernest called Kill Doctor Lucky. In addition to the often interesting ideas to be found in the line, Cheapass Games were known for their, well, cheap presentation. Whatever the merits of their games, all of the effort killdrluckyboxwent into the game and as little as possible into the presentation. In my generally positive review (back in the Fall 1997 GA REPORT), I mentioned “this is a game worthy of a deluxe treatment…”. Better late than never as Temple Games has done a first rate production (along with a few rules tweaks) of Kill Doctor Lucky.

In this new and improved edition (additional design by Rick Fish), players once again seek to put the kibosh on the unpopular Doctor Lucky as he moves from room to room in his luxurious mansion, the scene of the crime-to-be. This time around, the graphics of the game are MUCH nicer as players move around on a mounted board with many of the rooms named and numbered (think of a more detailed Clue board) and use big and colorful wooden tokens. (While the original stark black and white play area was easier to see, the new graphics give the game a much nicer ambiance.) The 96 card deck consists of four basic types: Move, Room, Weapon and Failure.
Play begins with all cards being shuffled and dealt until one player receives a Room card. That room is where Doctor Lucky begins. All players start in the Drawing Room and, with the cards reshuffled, begin with a hand of six cards.

On a turn, a player may make a free move into an adjacent room and draw an additional card (there is no hand limit) if he is standing in a numbered room and has not tried to murder Doctor Lucky. However, if he feels up to it, a player play any number of cards in order to take a crack at eliminating the doctor.

A player may play Move cards to move himself or Doctor Lucky a space or two or three in a particular direction while Room cards transport a player or the Doctor immediately to a specified room on the board. Should a player find himself ALONE in a room with Doctor Lucky and out of the “line of sight” of other players (players’ are considered to be able to “see” into rooms through open doors or down into rooms if they are situated in the gallery) since you don’t want any witnesses to the dastardly deed, he may player one or more Weapon cards which constitute an attack. (Some weapons cards are worth more in particular rooms – like a pool cue card played in the Billiard Room is more deadly than played elsewhere.)

Once an attempt is made, it is up to the other players to stop it. In turn, other players may play any number of Failure cards to try to thwart the murder attempt. If the sum total of ALL Failure cards played is equal to or greater than the value of the attack, the attempt fails. One thing to consider is that used Failure cards are REMOVED from the game, giving future murder attempts a better chance of success. But now, in a change from the original game, a new wrinkle comes into play: the unsuccessful player receives a “spite token”. There are 30 spite tokens in the game and these tokens add another strata of decision-making.killdrluckypcs

Spite tokens are welcome compensation since, on future attempts, each spite token adds a +1 to a murder attempt. (So, for example, if you have 3 spite tokens, an attack of 4 becomes an attack of 7!). The interesting thing here though is that you do NOT lose spite tokens in a murder attempt. They are REUSABLE! What’s more, they can also be used in defense to stymie someone else’s murder attempt. The twist here, though, is that spite tokens used to prevent another player from committing murder BECOME THE PROPERTY of the OTHER PLAYER! It’s a delicate line to walk in deciding whether or not to use spite tokens to stop someone, knowing that this will not only deplete your cache of tokens for use in your own future murder attempt but that action will also make it easier for your opponent to succeed on a subsequent turn.

As in the original, you CAN get an extra turn by ending your turn in a room where occupied by Doctor Lucky. However, if both you and another player are in the same room at the end of a turn, the OTHER player takes the next turn. The game continues until one player has finally succeeded in doing the dirty deed. (One of the complaints heard about the original edition was that the game took too long. The presence of spite tokens not only makes for tough decisions for players as to when to – pardon the pun – pull the trigger on using them but also hastens the game to its conclusion, neatly answering that complaint.)

The board is nicely mounted and the rooms display the proper atmosphere of a rich man’s mansion. The player tokens are big and easy to handle and the colors chosen easily distinguishable (a welcome plus, particularly in a game that uses EIGHT different colors for tokens). But there are a couple of nits to pick. The finish on the cards is a little “sticky” (one of the traits that often appears in cards manufactured in China) but this is more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker. One of the suggestions for improvement I made in the original review was that Room cards should have the number of the room printed on the card thereby making it easier to find the room. In this new edition, that was done – which is great. So why not do something similar with Weapons cards when weapons take on added effectiveness in a particular room? Here, the room number is missing and the added power is printed in unnecessarily tiny print, inexplicable when the card has so much usable space available for this important information.

The new and improved Kill Doctor Lucky makes for a good looking, decision filled excursion into the realms of mayhem, murder and just old fashioned fun. (And, if your sense of humor and the game’s seem to mesh, you might be interested in the upcoming expansion – Kill Doctor Lucky and His Little Dog Too – which will add a dog token and three variants – scheduled for July 2007 release.) – – Herb Levy


 

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