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KILL DOCTOR LUCKY: DELUXE 19.5th ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Reviewed by Herb Levy

KILL DOCTOR LUCKY: DELUXE 19.5tH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Cheapass Games, 2 to 8 players, ages 12 and up, 20-40 minutes; $40)

 

In the world we live in, the craving for something new is a powerful and often irresistible force. This applies to games as well as many gamers virtually salivate over the promise of the next new game to appear on the horizon. Sometimes, it is murder for a game to survive – and murder is what this game is all about and survive it has – with the victim is none other than the man whose name appears in the game’s title: Kill Doctor Lucky: Deluxe 19.5th Anniversary Edition. killdrluckyannbox

Kill Doctor Lucky was the first game ever released by Cheapass Games twenty years ago! (We featured the original back in the Fall 1997 Gamers Alliance Report and revisited it in its subsequent revised and improved edition in the Spring 2007 GA Report.) Designer James Ernest has not lost his macabre sense of humor with this more streamlined version.

The game board shows a cutaway view of the mansion in which Dr. Lucky resides with each room numbered. (The board is double-sided with the reverse offering an alternative mansion “floor plan” dubbed “Dr. Lucky’s Bed and Breakfast” offering more rooms and a more complex layout.) With murder on their minds, the 72 card deck is shuffled and players are dealt a starting hand (of 5 or 6 cards based on the number of players).

Each turn, a player may move 1 space (from one room to an adjacent room as hallways don’t “count”). Only three types of cards are in this new edition: Move, Weapon and Failure.

Move cards allow you to move an additional space or two or “teleport” to a specific room as stated on the card. The other two card types come into play when someone tries to murder Dr. Lucky!killdoctorluckyannboard

If a player is alone in a room and no one – not another player nor Doctor Lucky – has an unobstructed view of the room, that player may draw a card. This is the only way to replenish your hand. (There is no hand limit.) But if a player is alone in a room with Dr. Lucky AND he is not in a “line of sight” of any other player,  a murder attempt may be made.

All players have a base “attack” value of 1. To that, one Weapon card may be played to add to that value. (Weapons are “linked” to specific rooms; if the attack is done in the matching room, the value of the weapon is significantly greater.) Now, it is up to the other players to stop the potential crime!

In turn order around the table, players may discard Failure cards (or any other card) displaying “shamrocks”. Shamrocks represent “luck” and Dr. Lucky IS lucky IF the number of shamrocks played is equal to or greater
than the attack value. If they are, Dr. Lucky has survived and may continue on his merry way. (The good doctor moves to the next higher numbered room after EACH player’s turn but turn order can change if Dr. Lucky enters a room occupied by another player. THAT player then becomes the active player.) As compensation for a failed attack, the thwarted player retains any one of the played cards to indicate that, for his next attempt, his base attack value swells by 1.  (A second unsuccessful attack would increase that player’s base value by 2 and so on.) But, if shamrocks do not appear in the required amount, Dr. Lucky has been killed and the player doing the dirty deed is the victor!killdoctorluckyanncards

In addition to the standard game, this anniversary edition includes a bunch of variants including a token which serves as Doctor Lucky’s Dog (or Cat, depending on preference) which adds additional obstacles to the murderous mayhem and a “turn the tables” option (“Escape from Lucky Mansion!) where Dr. Lucky has “risen from the dead” intent on revenge and to murder the players. In this option, the last player to survive wins!

This new Kill Doctor Lucky benefits from its presentation (an attractive and spacious board layout, a tall black wooden Dr. Lucky piece for atmosphere and character cards, which have no game purpose save for helping to identify which player is which color token) and smoother play. The game has an ever-increasing arc since the attack strength of players gradually grows (from failed attempts) and, if the card deck runs out, “the lights go out” making line of sight no longer a consideration thereby making murder tries easier. On the other hand, you have to always consider the yin-yang of card play: play that shamrock-laden card to stop that murder attempt or save its use for your own (while hoping someone else will do the “heavy lifting”, stymie that attack and deplete THEIR hands so you benefit). In addition to the winning conditions, there is also a “loser” condition in the rules: the player who COULD have played luck but didn’t! In our sessions, players were intent on committing murder (of course) but they were more concerned with NOT being the loser! This added to the fun and made Kill Doctor Lucky tilt on the scales more towards a rollicking “experience” rather than a straight win-lose game – not a bad thing at all!

Sometimes, games go through a long development phase until they ripen and blossom. With this one, the development phase has lasted 20 years but for this appallingly appealing (after all, you ARE plotting a murder) game of murderous fun, the third time IS the charm. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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