Full disclosure: A review copy of Death Note: Confrontation was provided by IDW Games.
Gen Con games galore! I picked up this game from the IDW Booth; other than Dragon Ball Z: Perfect Cell, I haven’t played a ton of games based on anime, but this is based on the classic anime Death Note, a cautionary tale of what happens when you give a mediocre man the power of a god.
In Death Note: Confrontation you take on the roles of either L, the great detective, or Kira, the mystical murderer. It’s a game of cat-and-mouse as Kira attempts to kill criminals before L can deduce their identity. Will you be able to outsmart your opponent?
So there’s actually two games in here (effectively): Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Chapter 2 is a more advanced mode with the same rules, so I’ll cover setup for both, since it’s identical.
So both L and Kira have notebooks that they’ll use for the game:
Each contains a map, inside, of the general area the game takes place in:
Note that the Chapter 2 map is much more densely populated than Chapter 1. Fun times ahead.
Each player also gets a like, Search Grid? They’re kinda translucent, so photographing them is hard. Anyways, these are used to help you visually track things on the board. It’s 5×5.
Kira should now draw one Suspect Card:
You’ll notice there are different ones for Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. More on that later. Kira should draw a 5×5 box around the Suspect Card they drew; that is their Local Area. Everything outside of that is their Regional Area.
L should take and shuffle the Lead Cards:
Again, different ones for Chapters 1 and 2. Also give L the Crime Type dice:
These will help L decide which criminals to feature on the news to try and draw Kira out. Once you’ve done that you’re basically ready to start!
So, over the course of a game of Death Note: Confrontation, L will be trying to deduce Kira’s identity while Kira is asymmetrically trying to kill enough people to earn 15 points in Chapter One or 20 points in Chapter Two (using a very macabre scoring system). If either one achieves their goal, the other loses.
Each round of the game takes place over a day — during the day, Kira goes out on the town and does a murder that L tries to prevent, and at night L tries to manipulate the news and lure Kira into a trap that he can’t escape.
So, in the Daytime, L will flip one of the Lead Cards. These will have one of two potential crime scenes that Kira and L can visit. In Chapter 2, some of these will be apples, which Kira can gain to try and bribe Ryuk for abilities; more on that later.
Both players will take their A/B tokens and choose one, concealing it. Then reveal!
- If Kira and L chose the same letter: L makes it to the crime scene and Kira doesn’t want to take the risk, so Kira flees. L deduces a bit more about Kira’s identity, so he can draw a Suspect Card (and eliminate that person as a potential Suspect). In Chapter 2, these Suspect Cards will have stars on them that L can use to gain abilities (just like Apples for Kira). More on that later, again.
- If Kira and L chose different letters: Kira strikes at a crime scene while L is occupied at the wrong location. Kira kills one of those people (or just gains apples [or both], if it’s Chapter 2) and scores points. Note that Kira does not modify their board as part of this. Don’t check anyone off. That’ll come later.
Once this has occurred, go to the Nighttime Phase.
At night L will feature criminals on the local and regional news to try and narrow down Kira’s range of operation, which is a thing you can do when you’re a supercop. Makes sense to me.
L rolls the Crime Type dice and chooses three criminals on the board that match those crime types, reading their numbers aloud. Kira must now choose one of those criminals to kill and cross their space out. You can only kill them once, after all. However, Kira didn’t spring for the regional news, so there are some limits on who Kira can just murder:
- Kira can kill anyone in their Local Area (the starting 5×5 square). Think globally, murder locally, after all.
- Kira can only kill two (Chapter 1) or three (Chapter 2) people outside of their local area. That’s just the rules.
- Kira must kill someone, if they can. This isn’t called Friendship Note: Confrontation.
Kira should confirm to L which number they murdered. Note that this means it’s possible for Kira to be incapable of killing anyone in an evening. That’s referred to as a Quiet Night. While that’s a lot of information for L, that comes at a great cost; on the third (Chapter 1) or second (Chapter 2) Quiet Night, the trail goes cold and L loses Kira forever, losing the game. So, be careful.
Chapter Two Abilities
So Kira and L can both obtain abilities over the course of Chapter Two that are very useful. Both share two abilities:
- Change up to three dice: The player who uses this ability may set the Crime Type dice to be whatever faces they want.
- Last minute A/B switch: The player who uses this ability may wait until the A/B tokens are revealed and then switch their token to the other side. Useful if you want to catch a criminal or avoid being caught.
Kira’s other abilities are just 2 points or 3 points and are gained immediately once you’ve added enough apples.
L’s other abilities are drawing another Suspect card (and gaining the stars for it immediately) and gaining an extra Quiet Night. Both very useful.
If Kira ever earns their requisite number of points, they win immediately. This means that L should be aggressively tracking their point total. At any point, L can declare that they’re ready to identify Kira. If they correctly guess (this should not be a guess) Kira’s identity, they win. Otherwise, they immediately lose.
Player Count Differences
None. It’s a two-player game.
- You need to win the Day Phase. That determines a lot about whether or not you can win the game, in my opinion. This means that Kira should be taking the occasional sub-optimal play and L should be trying to anticipate that. The more Kira confuses L, the more points he can slip in with.
- Pocket those abilities for a rainy day. I saved up as Kira for the Last-Minute A/B Switch ability and had the game guaranteed won — either I got three points from killing a bomber, or I could switch, gain three apples, and use that to gain a 3 Points bonus. That’s always a nice bit of security.\
- You should be making marks on your notebook. Kira should mark off which Suspects that they cannot be (so that they can try to throw L off the scent more proactively), and L naturally needs to mark stuff down so that they know which suspects are still in contention to be Kira.
- (Kira) You kinda just need to … go for it, at a certain point. Try to take out people at night such that it’s unclear which of many suspects you could be, sure, but at the end of the day 15 points isn’t a ton; that’s only 4 bombers, a shooter, and a stabber. At some point you gotta try and break away before L puts the pieces together.
- (L) At night, cast a wide net, early. You want Kira to use up their regional kills, if you can. This means that you need to check for criminals that don’t have a lot of overlap between suspects and suggest those for Kira. That way, Kira runs the risk of outing themselves by just process of elimination.
- (L) Once you’re pretty sure that Kira has used their Regional kills, you can try to leverage that to force them to pick one spot. If you have Kira narrowed down to, say, 5 suspects, you can put two of the Nightly News crimes outside of that range and one inside somewhere. If you get a Quiet Night, cross the ones that it can’t be off the list and then go deeper. If you’re trying to decide between two suspects, put one suspect outside of the range and each of the other two in only one suspect’s range. Remember, Kira is forced to make a kill every night, and if you can force them to take low-scoring or sub-optimal criminals out, that keeps them from winning and helps you.
- (L) Keep track of what’s happened. If a suspect has too many confirmed kills outside of their Local Area, then you can dismiss them; they’re not Kira. As more kills happen, this will become easier for you to narrow down. At some point it’s legitimately impossible for Kira to be anyone beyond a small handful of people, and you need to tighten the grip so that they can’t escape.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Plays quickly. For a deduction game, it’s over pretty fast.
- Feels tense the whole time. They really polished the game such that it’s stressful (in a good way) for both players. Most games end on a razor-thin margin between victory and defeat, in my experience (especially since Kira is essentially guaranteed some points every phase).
- Asymmetry is so hot right now. The only weird thing about it is trying to enter it in BGStats, since technically Kira scores, but L does not. So you’ve got a 15 – None game.
- The notebooks are a cute thematic touch. It’s just a nice thing to see in the games and a thoughtful use of the IP.
- Is this technically a roll-and-write? You both roll and write, so I’m inclined to say yes. I love roll-and-writes, mechanically, so that might further explain my soft spot for this game (the Death Note IP does nothing for me, personally, but if you like it then I mean, game’s solid).
- Some people won’t be wild about the Day Phase. It’s difficult to obtain useful information as to what either player will pick, since you’re essentially playing Crime Chicken with each other. That’s not terrible, but it might be frustrating to some people (especially if one player does really well). Just worth mentioning if you think that you’ll be frustrated by it.
- It’s kinda impossible to laminate these. I always have a bit of existential dread about Games with Finite Plays (this is why I agonize over competitive Legacy games), and it would be nice to be able to laminate one of the pages (or at least for it to be easier to tear one out without aggressively damaging the notebooks. Not sure what to do with that, yet.
- Doesn’t come with pens. I know everyone owns pens, but, it’s weird that it doesn’t come with any? That seems like a really cheap thing that could have been included. Now I have to remember to have a pen every time I play (which I usually do because I’ve been carrying Railroad Ink with me for the past two weeks without fail).
- The notebooks aren’t the best for hiding private information, unless you’re sitting directly across from each other. If you see any of another player’s board, that could be enough information to drastically affect the game, so it’s important to see none of it. I think player screens might have been a bit more practical for this game, and then you’d also be able to laminate the sheets (which is, as mentioned previously, something that does vex me about this game).
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, Death Note: Confrontation was a pleasant surprise! Like I said, I’m super into asymmetric games, right now, and this has a nice blend of some roll-and-write-inspired mechanics with some good deduction, as well, and I haven’t seen that before, which is always fun. Part of the reason I’m enthused about this is that I’m normally a bit skeptical of IP games, and between this and Korra IDW has been putting a good amount of effort into publishing really good games, which bodes very well for the upcoming Dragon Ball Z / Super games they’re making, which is exciting. Either way, it’s short, tense, and fun, which are three great things to say about a deduction game, so if you’re looking for a game that will test your limits as killer or detective, Death Note: Confrontation is definitely a solid choice!