Beignets and Board Games: First Look at AssassinCon!

What if the world’s greatest assassins meet each year to compare notes, talk shop, and of course, play a con-wide game of “Assassin”?  If you’re sick of trading in the Mediterranean or running from zombies, then let’s talk today about a game with a very unique theme.

At our game nights, the Krewe de Gumbo loves to play deduction games with a little bit of take that in them. Games like Dead Last and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong have been big hits. (Well, except for our friend, Dave.) Are there any games out there that will fit the bill?

As a freshman at LSU in the mid 80s, I joined in on a campus wide game of Assassin. We were told to get a nerf type gun, carry it around in our backpack, and were handed a picture of our “target.” This was well before 9/11, when you could walk into the scheduling office of the largest university in Louisiana and ask “Hey, what’s So-And-So’s schedule this week?” and be handed a copy of your target’s class schedule, no questions asked. (Try doing that today!)

The game was fun, and as I recall, I got down to the last four or five people left before taking a hit coming out of a history class. I never played the game again, but it was fun, and I know it has been played by thousands of geeks at conventions all over the country.

The folks at Mayday Games sent us a copy of game based on that same concept from the live action games. So pour yourself a steaming hot cup of Community Coffee, grab some powdery goodness, and let’s take a quick look. 

In AssassinCon, the 2016 release designed by Binh Vo with artwork from Marco EehevarriaAllison Litchfield, and Benjamin Schulman, players choose characters (each with a different color and picture, but all with the same characteristics) representing assassins at a convention. Each assassin is given a target to “eliminate”, but does not know who their pursuer is. The game is geared for four to six players, but seems to play best at five (where the sixth player is handled with a ‘dummy’ deck, whose randomness throws a little chaos into the deductive skills of the best assassins.

The characters are spread out around the convention center, and players take turns playing actions Robo-Rally style  mixed up and face down so nobody knows who is making what move. If a player ends up in the same room as another player, he can be eliminated — if the assassin wants to take a chance and reveal himself or herself. (It might be more strategic to wait until there are multiple eliminations at one time, so no one can smoke you out.) There are also three special rooms that allow long distance eliminations (in other words, without being in the same room as the target).

The game play is quick and as the turns move forward, the tension gets ratcheted up. Once the game is down to two players only, or if one person can figure out who is chasing them and successfully “call the guards” (reveal the pursuer), the board is reset and players get new characters.  The first assassin to five points wins, and points are awarded either for eliminations or for being on the right side when the guards are called.

We have only played this a couple of times, and it’s going to take a few more plays to really evaluate the game.  I do see some roses and thorns so far.

The roses: the game plays very quickly. Players really only have three choices in playing cards — there are three different movement cards, so it does not take long to figure out your next move. The game length is perfect for a game to play at the start of the night while waiting for other players to show up. It only plays to five points, and a couple of quick eliminations gets one of the players to three or four points quickly (since you also get any points that player accumulated during the round). The artwork is fun, too.

There are a few thorns, however. While the artwork is fun, it is a little cartoonish and uneven. The cartoony part is probably chosen to complement the theme, to keep it light and representative of assassins taking part in this fantasy convention, but it could have used a little bit more of an edge. The board itself is very busy and takes a while to really get used to the arrows pointing in all directions (representing the moves you can make with your movement cards.)

And the worst culprit is the rulebook. I have read hundreds of rule books, and on the surface, this seems like a fairly easy game, but the rulebook was a tough read to understand the schematics of the gameplay.  If I were Mayday Games, I might give Paul Grogan from Gaming Rules a quick call if a second printing is planned.

Finally, even though it seems to be geared as a light, action packed first-part-of-the-night game, it is in fact a brain-burning puzzler with lots of tensions that is a little hard to teach without walking players through each phase of the game play.

AssassinCon has a had  a lot of buzz since its release. You have probably heard that it is a brain burning, tense, quick to play puzzle and the rumors are right. It is not for everyone — keeping track of who is attacking you, what moves you need to make, what rooms to avoid, navigating the convention to get the best spot to make a play on your target, all of that is a lot to grok! — but if you like Dead Last or Werewolf or Coup but don’t like the direct confrontations in the game, the indirect targeting in AssassinCon should be right up your alley.  I definitely want to get a few more plays in, and test out a couple different strategies on the rooms to grab early and on how to make the most of multiple elimination opportunities.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

 

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