Friday, April 24, 2015

Tommy's Take on Wicked Lies & Alibis

First off, I have to say how pleased I am at the response to the giveaway and how pleased I am that one person has managed to deduce the clues I left in my post as to my favorite Great Detective. You still have time to win, so enter!

Now, let's take a closer look at Wicked Lies & Alibis, if you will.
ETHICS IN GAME JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: I did receive a review copy of Wicked Lies & Alibis, and this review does contain an affiliate link to RPGNow. Making purchases through that link may provide me with store credit at RPGNow and affiliated sites.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Wicked Lies & Alibis is $7.99 in PDF format, or $14.99 with a PDF rulebook and printed playing cards. It is also designed as a one shot party game, with a murder mystery setting. The game is specifically set in the Art Deco period, which spanned roughly from the 1920s and into the 1940s. The players are all the prime suspects in a murder, and the GM plays a Great Detective, who attempts to unravel just who killed the hapless victim.

You will note that I mentioned cards above. Each player will begin with cards that detail their Occupation, the Circumstance (a situation that they likely want to hide from the investigator), their Reputation and their Motive for killing the hapless victim. Once the game begins, the players each get a Connection card, which they use during the opening scene to establish a link to another character.

Gameplay reminds me a lot of Fiasco - and that's not a bad thing - with an assumed more serious tone, as it's a very narrative game, just with cards instead of dice. The game begins with all the PCs arriving at the same event and getting to mingle (if they know each other) or be introduced before the hapless victim turns up dead.

A series of Flashback rounds follow, in which the players (starting with the Prime Suspect) tries to lay the blame at other people's feet, using Accusation cards. Essentially, it's a game of storytelling and card play (players can use Alibi cards to escape Accusations), until someone has gathered four Accusations, at which point The Great Detective fingers the murderer, who makes their confession.

And that's really it. It bears a lot of resemblance to EPOCH, not surprisingly, as well as reminding me more than a bit of Fiasco (due in part to the "Every Man For Himself" attitude the murder suspects are liable to have). The rules section includes very clear full page breakdowns of each phase of the game, as well as examples.

A lot of advice is given on bringing The Great Detective to life, including a group of sample, era-appropriate Great Detectives that can be combined with the nine case set-ups (which provide not only the gathering and the victim, but advice on which cards should remain in the decks to be put into play).

SIX POINT SUMMARY

- The game is designed so that The Great Detective is always right, as suits the source material...there's an optional rule that provides Verdict cards to the suspects, which can lead to the detective being wrong.

- Tons of background information on evoking the art deco era.

- The game is definitely more about the journey and not the destination, from a game standpoint, as there is no real winner, though there is a pretty clear loser (unless you use the Verdict cards and the killer gets off scott free).

- Reference sheets are included for each of the nine case set-ups, to help you keep track of the background details.

- Though a lot of information is provided for playing in the art deco era, it wouldn't take much work to update the setting to something more contemporary, if that suited your tastes (and I know from the contest entries I have received, that it does suit many of your tastes).

- The PDF includes all of the cars from the game, if you want to print them out instead of buying the card deck.

Wicked Lies & Alibis seems like a great party game for amateur actors, or for anyone who likes their story games with a stronger emphasis on "story". I think my group will enjoy it, given how much they  liked Fiasco (though this doesn't have quite the same humor emphasis), and my gut says it could be a great convention game (moreso than EPOCH, which relies a bit more on mood setting).