Designed by Will Hindmarch, published by White Wolf.

I have played this game twice now, and this was at least one time too many.

The theme is fine: each player is an investigator putting together evidence to bring murder cases to court, and the motive is pure profit, not justice. The style they have picked is dark Blade-Runner-esque and dystopian. So far so okay.

The components are not perfect, but are near enough adequate. In an attempt to look a bit sci-fi, the dice are metallic silver-finished, although we don't get enough of them to play the game easily. Most of the cards are small and difficult to shuffle, and the backs look very similar, which makes sorting the cards out before during and after the game a bit of a pain.

The game itself is slowish, requires little skill, has a largely irrelevant role-playing element, and has some nonsensical elements. Most of the fun in my second game (which by common consent was cut short) came from suggesting better rules.

Each turn, every player is supposed to roll dice to decide on the order of play. This is a pain because it takes time, involves no skill, and makes no difference to the game. Who goes first is largely irrelevant. The first time we played we just started with the same person each time, and the second we just rolled one die once to see who went first each turn.

Putting together a court case requires coming up with two or three pieces of pertinent evidence. A given case (the cases are all VERY similar, with stats that vary very little, and graphics that vary not at all) might ask for "Eye Witness", "Forensic" and "Murder weapon" cards, for example, but a player may send a case to court with perhaps just two cards, and often he is wise to do so, because if he only has one card of the correct colour, it is more likely to be picked by any official who challenges it.

The most cards allowed is three, and when a case has three cards allotted to it, it must be sent to the courts. At this point, the investigator is supposed to describe the evidence he has, and supposed to try to make it seem convincing, but in the game there might be advantages to make it seem unconvincing (to invite an opponent to challenge a good case), and there is no requirement to stick to the facts on the cards. In fact, the only thing that is relevant is what colour the cards are, because only those of a colour matching the case are impervious to a challenge. The game gives very few opportunities for finding out the colour of an opponent's cards, because very little trading happens - why give the opposition what it wants? - and most turns people take as many cards as they can from the face-down packs, because every piece of evidence played down is worth a credit, and there are only six turns to create as many cases as possible, so players wisely get and keep all the cards they can.

Most of the time, the player to an investigator's left audits the case, and is the one who may choose to challenge the evidence (by picking one card and checking to see that it is the right colour). This is arbitrary. Worse, if he knows the game, then he will always challenge almost every case, because a case that is thrown out is a major blow to the other player and earns the challenger benefit, and if the evidence turns out to be good, there is NO cost to the auditor. There is only a minor cost of a credit or two to the auditor if he challenges a bad case but is unlucky and picks the one good bit of evidence in it, but the risk of this is not huge, and the benefit of throwing out a bad case is much greater than the cost of failing to do so. There is precious little skill to auditing - pick a card at random and cross your fingers.

It would make far more sense to me if the rules said that challenging a GOOD case was a cost to the auditor. Here, he would be preventing a sound case from going to court, and would have failed the call-my-bluff test. Challenging a case should be a serious risk. If the game hung on the bluff element this would be an improvement over hanging on blind luck.

Once a case has been made and passed audit, dice are thrown to see what charge the accused is convicted of. If the investigator is lucky and rolls high, the accused is convicted of first-degree murder. If the dice go against him, he may get nothing or just aggravated assault. He is not required to bid a severity of crime - he does not have to judge the strength of his case and press for, say, manslaughter (which in alternative rules could preclude his getting murder-one). Instead, he just rolls all the dice and hopes - blind luck deciding the points instead.

We won't be playing this game again as the designers intended. We might write new rules and get a much better game out of it, but we probably won't bother. Two or three cards per court case is too blunt an instrument for this sort of game, and there needs to be more information given to players on which to base their decisions. Another mildly annoying thing about the game is that it would be possible to learn the packs, because there are only two of every type of card, and so one could memorise which two colours a given card appears in, and so if one could be bothered, it would be possible to gain a level of information that would kill the game even deader.

Avoid, unless you are a student of game design.


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