#915 – Crime Zoom: His Last Card [Mini] [Spoiler-Free]

Base price: $15.
1 – 6 players.
Play time: ~60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Crime Zoom: His Last Card was provided by Lucky Duck Games.

Back with more Crime Zoom! I had received a couple of these, and we’ve been playing some other games in the meantime but recently had time to crack open a couple of mysteries. We quite enjoyed Bird of Ill Omen, so I’m excited to take a few steps back in time and see how His Last Card compares! I think it’s tough in a crowded mystery / escape room / puzzle game space to come up with something genuinely novel, and I really appreciated how much the Crime Zoom games channeled that point-and-click adventure game vibe for something that felt new. So let’s see how this one shapes up!

In Crime Zoom: His Last Card, the year? 1980. The place? Brooklyn. There’s a dead guy on the sofa. A message scrawled in red nearby. Is it blood? Tomato sauce? Only one way to find out. Wouldn’t recommend tasting it, just in case, but your attempt to solve the case will take you through a variety of organizations and enterprises with a vested interest in figuring out just what happened to this guy. Will you be able to crack the case?

Contents

Player Count Differences

Yeah, I think just like the previous Crime Zoom game, I’m really the biggest fan of this at 1 – 2 players. There’s a lot of text on cards that can be read, and sometimes it’s quickest to just pass it around (or try to read it to the group). With more people, it just tends to take longer to disseminate information, and each player tends to get to do less, individually. Flipping over the cards and deciding where to go is a lot of the fun of Crime Zoom games, as is coming up with theories. With more people, the latter becomes easier, but at the cost of the former. My housemate and I get through these at a pretty good pace, but I just don’t think there would be enough to do to add more players on. As a result, I’d probably just stick to our Crime Zoom duo if I were going to play more of these. That’s about the right number.

Strategy

  • When in doubt, just explore everything. If you read everything, you will have enough information to solve the case, if you can connect everything. So while every card isn’t necessarily critical, if you’re not sure what to do, flip another card! Try a new location! Talk to a new person! If nothing else, you’ll get some additional context on the life and times of the recently-deceased.
  • Keep in mind that exploring everything does implicitly cost you end-game points. At the end of the game, you gain an additional star for every five cards that remain unflipped and unexplored. So the more you look through and the more redundant information you dig up, the fewer stars you’ll get at the end of the game, even if you get everything right.
  • If you’ve got a theory, pursue it! It might lead you somewhere. I really like Crime Zoom’s support for player-driven theories. If you think you know where you should go next, you generally … can go there. Start formulating theories and see if the things you investigate support it! I was definitely wrong, at first, but it was fun to drive our investigation along what I was theorizing.
  • Some things can only be discovered if you possess certain items or information. Keep an eye out for evidence you can take along with you! This is more generally true of the Crime Zoom games, but essentially, you can’t unlock a door if you don’t have a key in your possession. So if you see a locked door, keep an eye out for it! If you see a key, hold on to it and see if any doors pop up that are compatible!
  • There’s more than one path to the right answer, so you may be able to avoid wasting time “discovering” information you already know. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are redundant sources of information within the game (partially to help you; there’s more than one path to The Truth), and it’s possible to get to the same location through a variety of conversations. Sometimes, even, just listening to someone else can direct you to a spot where you learn something that informs a later choice. If you feel like you already know something, you may be able to leave more cards unflipped (unzoomed!) and gain additional points.
  • If you’re not sure what to do and don’t mind a mild spoiler, check the questions at the end of the rulebook! You need to be able to answer all those questions in order to win. The multiple-choice questions can often really suggest some potential routes to explore if you’re genuinely unsure, but also, they can give away some of the information about the game itself. If you want to remain entirely unspoiled, I’d avoid the questions, but they’re a pretty good way to get unstuck.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • It’s still very fun to yell “CRIME ZOOM” whenever we flip over a card. It’s how you know you’re zeroing in on crime, or something. We attempted to cop a solid Brooklyn accent while we played this game, but honestly, our accent work is deeply terrible, to the point of being unintelligible. We genuinely did not know what was happening. So we just stuck to the Crime Zooms.
  • The red streak on the box is very striking; it’s a fun color. I like the way it contrasts against the blue of Bird of Ill Omen, and it’s just a pleasant color. Big fan.
  • I still like the solution system of this game. It’s fun to have to answer questions with effectively citations of cards you’ve found. It has a nice detective flavor to it all. You know what happened, but can you prove what happened? That’s a critical part of the game.
  • I also like that you really can be successful if you just kinda go through everything. You’ll score fewer points, but who cares? I think they leave the difficulty up to the player, which is nice. If you want to try and get the highest-possible score, well, that’s pretty tough! You have to find a pretty optimal path through the cards. If you just want to enjoy the story, then flip over everything! You’ll learn a lot.
  • I still really appreciate that the rulebook does a good job giving examples based on the designer / publisher. I think that’s an incredibly fun way to teach the game and also a fun way to learn more about the publisher / designer team. It’s very endearing, which isn’t something I usually say about a game that’s very murder-themed, but I like it!
  • The nonlinear nature of the game remains fun, since you really can just explore things as you feel like it. I do mention that this game, narratively, came across as more linear, but it still has nonlinear elements in how you choose to go through the space that you’re currently in, and I like that a lot! I like that I can choose not to talk to people if I don’t want to, or that I can really go off on a tangent if I so desire. I can even just go breadth-first and just leave a location as soon as I find literally anything that takes me anywhere else. I like the freedom that that provides.
  • I like the sprawl of the game a lot, as you cover the table with clues and group them. It has a very murderboard vibe as you just kind of spread across the entire table. I like losing some of the cards and then scrambling to find them again when we need them for the solution to the mystery. It’s very fun.
  • I still like mystery games that aren’t completely destroyed after one use, even if there’s no point to me playing them again. I occasionally shop them around to some friends or let people play them when they come over to my house to try and slowly tempt more people to play mystery board games (or to try and eventually convince them to do an escape room with me). EXIT games, while I love them the most, I usually end up just giving them to Brieger Development for parts.

Mehs

  • This one felt a bit more linear than the previous Crime Zoom I did, in terms of locations to explore. I didn’t feel drawn in quite so many different directions? Not really sure if that was just a quirk of how we explored or the design of the game, but that’s kind of how it went.
  • The epilogue provides more context than explanation, this time around. I kind of would have liked to know what happened to the characters after, but this focused a bit more on the past of the game, which I found a bit odd. Not bad, just odd.

Cons

  • I kind of miss the modern-day setting of the previous one? I think I just enjoy a good modern-day mystery. I wouldn’t necessarily call 1980s Brooklyn “old-timey” but, I don’t know, it just didn’t resonate with me as much as a setting.
  • (ROT 13) V tbg gur qvfgvapg srryvat qhevat gur tnzr gung V jnf abg qbvat gur evtug guvat. V guvax gung vg’f xvaq bs whfg n qvfnterrzrag jvgu gur cybg, ohg V sryg yvxr jr, nf gur cynlre, jrera’g qbvat n terng guvat, rira vs jung jr jrer qbvat jnf sbyybjvat naq cebgrpgvat gur ynj. Vg ohzzrq zr bhg nf fbba nf V zbfgyl ernyvmrq jung gur cybg jnf naq ubj vg jnf tbvat, naq vg jnf uneq gb erpbapvyr gung sebz n cynlre crefcrpgvir.

Overall: 7 / 10

Overall, I enjoyed Crime Zoom: His Last Card, but I think that I still pretty solidly preferred Bird of Ill Omen. This one felt a bit … easier, to us? We’re not really sure, since fundamentally, we kind of powered through it at our normal pace, but I was a bit less engaged in it this time around. I’m not really sure what made this one hold my interest a bit less, but I think it was that I had kind of developed a working theory of the narrative and I ended up being more or less correct from pretty early on, which made the rest of the game feel a bit less perfunctory. I was wrong at first, but course-corrected. I still think the system is a lot of fun, though! It’s very point-and-click adventure game, in its concept and delivery, and I think this is still a pretty successful one, as well. I think what I like best about Crime Zoom is that every game is completely solvable, just because you can, with some effort, unearth every possible piece of information and then collate it. It’s something similar to the Hunt a Killer Mystery at Marigold Gardens that I did the other week. I think the discovery element excites me a bit, though I definitely preferred that plot. For me, a lot of the Crime Zoom rating is going to come down to my investment in the plot, and it was just less for this one than Bird of Ill Omen. That said, if you’re looking to solve the murder of a health inspector, you love crime-solving games, or you want to experience that point-and-click adventure feeling, I think the Crime Zoom series is a generally good choice, and I had fun with His Last Card!


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