Thoughts On: Mystery Express

Posted by James (admin) on October 12th, 2010

I liked the idea of an Orient Express themed deduction game. so was very open to trying Mystery Express.  I’m not a fan of Clue/Cluedo as it’s too dry and massively dependent on dice rolls.  The preview information released about Mystery Express indicated it was very different and had a lot more logic to it.

During the game, you are trying to work out the 5 facts about the crime – where, who, what, why and when.  Each turn, you have a fixed amount of time to spend on actions (based on which part of the journey you’re on, i.e. which turn) and each action is located in a different carriage of the train.  Once you’ve been in a carriage, you can’t return to it during the same turn.

Most of the deduction of the crime’s facts is a process of elimination.  Players hold cards of the various possible facts – there are 2 identical cards of each apart from the actual facts of the crime of which there is only 1 copy of each (because 1 has randomly been removed at the start of the game).  I actually felt this was still very much like Clue/Cluedo.  Depending upon the actions that players take, cards get shown to players, and also move around between players, but they move around such a lot, I found it hard to track and deduce – something that I’m usually quite good at.

One facet of the crime is the time at which it occurred and this is different to the other fact card decks.  The time deck consists of cards each showing a clock set at various times – there are 3 of each time but only 2 of the crime’s time (again, one has been removed).  The deck of time cards is revealed 3 times during the game and each time they are shown in a different way.  The players job is to spot which time is not as present in the deck as the rest.  This is a great mechanic for those with good visual memories (which I liked) but terrible for those who don’t – it also seemed quite easy if you just watch for 3 or 4 specific times each reveal as that makes it fairly easy to spot the missing card.

Each player has a different character to play and each of these has a special ability that they can use during the game.  Everyone gets a note sheet to help them track the different cards too.

Overall, Mystery Express was just too random and too difficult to deduce because the cards moved so much.  I wanted to like it, and it had good hype beforehand, but it didn’t do well with me or any of the other players in my group.  Maybe lighter gamers will enjoy it as they may have less expectations from the game mechanics.  I just found it too similar to Clue/Cluedo gameplay – whilst much better executed and more interesting, it wasn’t enough for me to want to play it again.


[Played with 5 players]

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