Wednesday evening found me at GWAN (Gamers Without A Name), a game group hosted by Kevin (BGG user cyberkev63) at his house. Also in attendance were two others I had gamed with before, John (BGG user Friendless) and Justin (BGG user jwalduck), and two others I hadn't met before, Phil (BGG user Jacko_p) and Adam (BGG user AdamP).
After some deliberation on choosing a game that would take six players we settled on Deduce or Die. Deduce or Die is a deduction game for 3-6 players by Larry Levy in which the players are trying to find out who among them is a murderer. The actual murderer is as anxious as anyone else to determine the facts of the case, as that will allow him or her to pin the blame on someone else. The first player who can correctly accuse another player of the crime wins the game.
The rules for Deduce or Die are available at the Games Journal. The game is played with three decks of normal playing cards (using Spades, Hearts and Clubs) and a special sheet to write notes as questions are asked and answers revealed. Justin (jwalduck) had cleverly re-themed the motivation cards to represent the three motives of Money, Love and Hate. Not only that but he has created the cards with his own artwork. To see what they look like click here. We also had available to us his specially designed deduction sheets for writing down the clues.
Deduce or Die would have to be one of the more challenging of the deduction games around and I found it to be quite a brain-burner. It also seemed to take several rounds of questioning before I started being able to identify which players had what cards. When it wasn't my turn to ask a question I was focusing on my deduction sheet and the information I had gathered. In fact, there was little player interaction and for the majority of the game all players had their heads bent down intently studying their deduction sheets.
Deduce or Die felt to me like a more complicated game of Sudoku, mixed with the feeling of a game of Bingo as information was revealed and all players jotted it down on their deduction sheets. Including the initial rules explanation the game took 2.5 hours. For the entire game one is concentrating on the clues and trying to logically work out which two cards are missing to enable you to work out the third card which will be held in the initial four-card hand of one of the players. I almost came to resent each player having to ask a question as it broke my concentration and the processing of the information revealed by the previous question. Two hours of this sort of concentration felt way too long for me.
I'm generally not that big a fan of deduction games due to the effect an incorrect answer or the incorrect recording of information can have on the outcome. This issue is quite noticeable with Deduce or Die so accurate note-taking is vital. While I'm certain no players gave a wrong answer I did realise towards the end of the game with the revelation of further clues that at some stage I'd either incorrectly interpreted or transcribed information on my deduction sheet. This affected my data and I was suddenly at a loss as to what was correct and what was not.
John (Friendless) went on to impressively take the win with an accurate accusation. It turned out that I was the murderer and I did it for the money.
While Deduce or Die is undoubtedly a very good deduction game it runs too long for my taste and feels too much like a puzzle that must be solved. I prefer my deduction games to be either shorter (e.g. Coda), or with more theme (e.g. Mystery of the Abbey), and my puzzles played solitaire.
Having said all that, I did enjoy the gaming experience this evening and it was great to catch up with some old opponents and have the opportunity to meet new ones.