Thursday, May 14, 2009


There is a great comic book store near my mother's house that also has an excellent selection of games. A lot of them I have never heard of, so whenever I am visiting I always try to pick up something new. I was up there over the weekend and I decided to pick up Murdero, a rummy based mystery card game. Murdero takes places in (what I presume to be) 1940's era Hollywood and players play the role of detectives trying to solve a murder in one of three areas; movies, politics, and the mafia. It is for 2-4 players and plays as a rummy style game, with runs representing the progress of the case. A hand ends when one player has all five steps in their Case. Score and repeat.

First off, I do not understand the name of the game at all. Why isn't it just called Murder? What's this Murdero thing? Why is there an O at the end of it? The weirdness of the name is easy to get past since the cards themselves look so nice. The cards all feature photographs that appear to be from the era (note: we had a discussion while playing about the authenticity of the photos. We all agreed that they don't look quite right, but we also thought that the game probably did not have the budget to stage all of the photo ops. Afterwards I checked the rules and it indicates that the pictures are from 2007.) The cards are a little on the thin side so I'm not sure how they will handle repeated shuffling, but they are fine. Each card also had a quote that adds some flavor to the picture. I like it. My favorite card is Louis Petrovsky, an unfortunate victim of the world of organized crime. Everything comes in a tidy little box, making it great for traveling.

The rules are really simple and honestly take moments to grasp. The winner is the first to a hundred points and that should take about 6 hands or so to reach. It plays fast, but the game has huge issues with the balance and distribution of cards. The biggest issue seems to be that the deck only has 60 cards in it. In a four player game that is about 15 cards a player, making it really hard to solve a case since there are only three cards that are murder weapons, which is the final card needed to solve the case. Additionally, there are several ways for another player to remove a card and take it out of play. It just doesn't add up. In the majority of the games that we played the case file (the draw deck) ran out before anyone solved a case. It happened with enough regularity to make me think that it is a fairly common occurrence, yet the rules do not address what to do when this happens, which sort of left us scratching our heads and making up some rules on the fly. The tricky part is that each turn a player has the option of picking from the case file or the discard pile, so once the case file is dead, does the game end or can players keep drawing discards? I have some doubts about the playtesting for Murdero, there just seems to be some fundamental flaws in it as a four player game. Perhaps I was just under the impression that most hands would end with a completed case, and this assumption was wrong. I don't know.

There are also Action Cards that mix up a lot of the rules and add a random and strategic element to the game. Like a lot of rummy games, card farming is at a premium, which makes a card like Overtime (draw three cards from the case file) really good. A card like The Don's Alibi (a player can't win by closing out the mafia case) is not that useful since most hands are not ending with a completed case anyway. Shakedown, look at another player's hand and take one card, might be the most powerful of them all.

Despite the issues and strange name, Murdero is a fun game with a lot of personality. We all liked playing it. It is probably better off as a two or three player game, which I am looking forward to trying.

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