Full disclosure: A review copy of Decktective: Bloody Red Roses was provided by dV Giochi.
I dragged my feet on this section, for some reason, despite it being the easiest part of the review to write. It’s just … how my brain works, sometimes, I guess. I usually just do this stream-of-consciousness, meaning you, reader, get unprecedented access to my mental state, usually at midnight, for a brief vignette of my life. Hope you enjoy! But this time around, dV Giochi sent over a couple games in the Decktective series for me to check out. One is going to take a bit longer since it’s competitive, but we tried the cooperative one, and here are my thoughts! Let’s dive in.
In Decktective: Bloody-Red Roses, you play as as an old-timey detective summoned to the murder scene of Ferdinand Tudor after Duke Edward York just arrived. That seems pretty bad, probably, especially since the War of the Roses thing a few hundred years back. They probably won’t start that up again, but you can never be too careful. Unravel the mystery and figure out what happened here. Was it a terrible accident? A murder? Something that’s neither of those two things? Maybe a … regular death, outside, I guess? It’s possible. Will you be able to solve the case? Or is that not in the cards, for you?
Incredibly, there’s none. No setup! You just have the deck of cards:
You have some clips you can set aside, also, but they’re clips, so, I didn’t photograph them. Then you’re good to go!Gameplay
So this escape room / puzzle game is similar, in some ways, to The Sherlock Files, which I covered a bit ago. Here, players have a certain number of starting cards in hand, and they can choose to either discard them face-down or play them face-up. The key challenge, here, is that cards have a cost, and you can only play a card face-up if there are that many cards played face-down! If a card costs 7, you’ll need seven cards in your archive in order to progress.
Other than that, you cannot show any cards in your hand to anyone, nor can you talk about face-down cards or take any notes (unless otherwise stated). You’re allowed to read the title of every card, but that’s it. After playing a card, draw a card to replace it.
Once you’ve reached the end of the game, there’s questions to answer! Answer them right to score points and see how good of a detective you are!
Player Count Differences
I’d probably most recommend this in the 3 – 4 player space, just because that’s usually where you have the most cards out and available. That gives you a lot of information and a lot of available context, provided you move through the initial cards pretty quickly. I’m not great at solo puzzle games, personally, not for any fault of my own but I just … prefer having another person that I can bounce ideas off of. Hard to do solo. At six, you only have one card in hand! That’s interesting, but it also makes your turn a bit dicier. More cards are likely in play, yes, but you really can’t hoard useful cards. If you get one and you can’t play it, you better remember what it is! Just, hopefully, there are fewer cards for you to individually remember anyways. That’s the dream, at least. That said, realistically, I haven’t played a six-player game (beyond some very rare instances) in a long time, so, not really expecting that to be a reachable player count anytime soon anyways. We enjoyed Decktective at two, and I think it would probably be perfectly enjoyable in the two – four player range.
- Try to think through a narrative before you discard cards; what pieces might you be missing? Are you overlooking anything? Once you discard a card, you’ve got to keep it in memory, so it’s worth looking through carefully to make sure you’ve got everything and that it fits in with a consistent story of what could have happened. The trouble is going to be if something contradicts your mental model! Then you’ve got to try and remember discarded cards and recontextualize them. It’s easier if they’re face-up, but sometimes you have no choice, so make sure you’re discarding cards that (hopefully) won’t help you.
- Think through cards you’re about to discard; be prepared to justify why you discarded them later! There will likely be questions from your coplayers, especially after the game is over. If you don’t have a good reason for keeping a card, it might be worth discarding, but if it’s crucial information you just got rid of, you may want to have a better reason for discarding something.
- Don’t hoard valuable cards; you might need to discard some of them in order to play cards face-up later. If you’ve got something worth sharing, play it! Eventually, you’ll have to discard cards in order to play higher-cost ones, so you might as well try to clear useful lower-cost cards out of your hand. If you think it’s relevant to everyone, it probably is!
- Everyone’s got pieces of the narrative, so, going over what everyone’s seen might make it easy for you to find holes. Talk a bit before finalizing things. The narrative is divided into a ton of pieces that are nonobvious! Everyone probably has something to contribute based on the card(s) in their hand, so ask some questions! Learn about the titles! Don’t just silently discard cards. This is definitely not a game to be played in silence.
- Just remember you can only talk about cards that are face-up; don’t reveal anything else that’s not public information! While silence is bad, also, don’t cheat. As I said, you can talk titles; you can’t mention anything else on cards in your hand or on cards you’ve discarded. That said, once the game is almost over, you can talk about everything, so it might be worth doing that, as well. Just make sure you remember everything correctly!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- This is my first time with the Decktective series, and I quite enjoyed it! It’s clever in ways that I didn’t expect. I think we’d almost certainly do better with another one of these, now that we know how the game works and what it’s looking for. It’s sort of like our general improvements at both escape rooms and EXIT games since we’ve played all of them. We’re getting a better sense of how the puzzles are designed and the spaces they operate in. We didn’t expect a lot of the curveballs that Bloody-Red Roses threw at us, and rightly so! It made things exciting, but it also makes me want to try another one.
- Very portable. Almost exceedingly so, since it’s essentially a small card box. Bit bigger than your Hanabi or your Coloretto, but not by a whole lot.
- The scaffolding of “play a card, draw a card” is a really nice way to take folks through a gameplay puzzle. It’s kind of an interesting contrast to our The Runes of Odin puzzle that we did the same evening; this was so well-scaffolded that we kind of got lulled into a false sense of security and came up with a few wrong answers. The narrative design of the game perfectly folds into the gameplay, since you’re always just playing a card and then drawing a new one. The lack of variance makes it easy to understand what the problem you’re trying to solve is.
- Having the clips included as a way to select answers and gain points for those answers is also pretty smart. The clips are a nice touch; they didn’t have to include them, but including them makes it easier to figure out which answers are correct and how many points you get (since your score for the question is revealed on the back of the card that asks the question you need to answer, along with the answer). It’s a smart way to do points quickly without extra components.
- Plays in less than an hour or so, which is always nice for a quick little bit of mystery. It’s one of the quicker mystery games, I think, short of The Key series (which is more logic-puzzley / deduction, anyways). I haven’t tried Crime Zoom yet, but that seems like it either must be extremely fast or incredibly close, given the title. Either way, this was a nice palette cleanser after the much longer escape room puzzle game we did before.
- Plus, you don’t have to destroy the game, which I always like. The game even encourages you to pass it along to friends after playing it, so I’ll probably loan it to my friend and his wife for a spin once I’ve finished this review. I generally don’t … love loaning out games I haven’t reviewed yet, just in the off chance that they get destroyed or come back with missing components. It doesn’t happen, but, you can never be too careful, I suppose?
- My personal favorite part of the game which I don’t think counts as a spoiler is that you actually assemble the grounds of the murder scene inside the box, which is adorable. I’m not sure if they all do that, but your first few cards of the game actually have you build up the murder scene as an almost-diorama! Yeah, it’s not a spoiler; it’s pictured on the back of the box. It’s super fun, and makes the game kind of spatial, in a way? It’s just a very cool and simple way to present information, and it smartly makes good use of the game box and the limited resources of the game itself. It seems like this is kind of their thing, so, I’m very into that.
- It’s a bit funny that the game asks you to get a “non-playing person” to reorder the cards if they’re not in order from 1 – 52. I’m mostly just trying to figure out circumstances for that, but I live with folks who are usually playing the game if they’re around. Just, I imagine, must be frustrating if you need someone to reorder the cards but there’s nobody around, save your players. One person has to make a big sacrifice so that the group can carry on without them, I suppose? Single tear, all that.
- I think our group regretted not paying more attention to the visual details of the game, since that’s where we kind of got thrown off. The one challenge of trying a new puzzle game / escape room game is that we didn’t necessarily know what to expect, and that was a big mistake that we made. We were perhaps a bit annoyed about that (hence this Meh), but, that’s kind of the way things work when you’re trying out a new system for the first time. I’d recommend trying to succeed where we failed and looking carefully at all the cards; the visuals were drawn by someone and they tend to matter more than we gave them credit for.
- I was surprisingly wildly uninterested in the theme of this one. It’s not a bad theme, but boy howdy did I not care about it in the slightest? I think I thought it was going to be a creepy murderer-leaves-you-flowers-to-try-and-catch-him or Alice in Wonderland, either of which I could tolerate, but it was just British Aristocracy Crimes, I guess, which isn’t particularly interesting to me. Oh well, tons of themes for mystery games; they can’t all be winners.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I liked Decktective: Bloody-Red Roses! I assume I’ll probably be more interested in the series if I try a game with a different theme, since apparently the ins and outs of British aristocracy does nothing for me, conceptually. I think I already knew that, since my dad tried to get me to watch The Crown and I wasn’t into it at all, but, it really do be like that, sometimes. Not much more to say on it thematically beyond that. Gameplay-wise, I think there’s a lot to like here, especially if this is one of your first escape room game experiences. The game is very scaffolded, since the entire gameplay loop is “play a card, draw a card”, so you’re not exactly confused as to what your goals are at any given point. There may be some difficulty around figuring out the solution to the mystery you’ve been given, but, that is kind of the point of these games, so that’s really on you to solve. I particularly like that you don’t have to destroy the game once you’ve finished with it, but make sure you put the cards back in order! It really can wreck the game if they’re jumbled after you play, especially if you’re planning to give it to someone else. I’ll make sure to double-check when I do photography. If you’re interested in the Yorks and the Tudors, you enjoy a good mystery, or you just want to try out another puzzle game series, I’d recommend trying Decktective: Bloody-Red Roses! I thought it was fun.
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