Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Review

Designed by: Tobey Ho Published by: Grey Fox Games Plays: 4-12 Players

Overview:

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Be a police detective in Hong Kong as a murder investigation is under way, but be careful who you trust as one of your own committed the foul deed. Only the Forensic Scientist can provide evidence to help narrow down the suspects but it is still up to the investigators to interpret the information given to them to find what truly happened. On top of this the murderer is still hidden in the ranks and constantly attempting turn suspicion away from themselves and onto the other investigators. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a social deduction game that thrives on the interpretation of the facts when very limited information is available. In a time where social deduction games are coming out left and right, the question is if Deception is strong enough to stand out in the crowd.

How it plays:

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong starts with each player gets randomly dealt a role card. The roles are split into two teams, on one side there is the Investigators and the Forensic Scientist while the other side is the Murderer. Each player, with the exception of the Forensic Scientist, receives four red clue cards which represent possible evidence that connects them to the crime and four blue means cards which represent possible means of murder.

The Forensic Scientist has everyone close their eyes then prompts the murderer to open there eyes and select one of their clue cards and of their one means cards to select what will connect them to the murder. Everyone then opens their eyes and game begins. The Forensic Scientist gets six scene tiles which will provide options for the information they can provide to the investigators. Each scene tile has six options listed and using a bullet token the scientist selects on from the list. This is the only way the Scientist is allowed to pass information which also means the scientist is not allowed to talk.

The Forensic Scientist always gets the ‘Cause of Death’ tile and gets to choose one of the four ‘Location of Crime’ tiles. Then they draw four random tiles which tiles such as ‘Victim’s Occupation’ or ‘Duration of Crime’. The Scientist selects one of the six options from each tile and then it goes around the table as each player gets a chance to make accusations and talk about how they interpret each of the Scientist’s selections. Once each player has gotten a chance to speak their mind, the Scientist gets to draw an additional tile and replaces it with one of the six they already have out and select one of the six options on the new tile. Another round of discussion happens then the round repeats with the Scientist drawing one more tile, replacing another one of their six tiles, and then going to one last round of discussion.

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At any point during the game a player can make an accusation. When making an accusation you must select who committed the murder along with the means of the murder and what evidence links them to it (the two cards the murderer selected at the beginning of the game). The Forensic Scientist then either says ‘Yes’ if both are correct, or ‘No’ if one or both were incorrect. If they accusation was correct the Investigators win, if it was incorrect the accuser must hand in their badge (represented by a cardboard badge token) and that player cannot make another accusation that game. If all the Investigators have turned in their badges the Murderer wins.

In larger games there is is also an Accomplice on the side of the Murderer and a Witness role on the side of the investigators. The Accomplice knows who the Murderer is and what means and clue cards they selected. This allows the Accomplice help lead the investigation astray and can balance the game out if you find the investigators are winning more frequently. The Witness is only allowed if the Accomplice is also in play. The Witness knows who the Murderer and the Accomplice is, but not which one is which role. The Witness also has to be careful as if the Murderer is successfully caught, the Murderer gets a chance to identify the Witness and if he chooses correctly the Witness is killed and the Murderer and Accomplice automatically win.
There is also optional ‘Event’ tiles that the Forensic Scientist could draw instead of scene tiles. These each have a special power that triggers when drawn that can range from giving one of the investigators an extra guess this game to discarding one of the clue cards in front of each player to narrow down the possible combinations. These event tiles cannot be one of the tiles drawn for the initial six tiles, so there could be only two drawn max in a single game.

Components - 9/10

There is not much to complain about in this game. The Forensic Scientist’s tiles and the Badge tokens are made out of a very nice and thick cardboard that is very durable. The Bullet markers are pretty large and made of wood which gives them a nice weight. The art and design give everything a dark and gritty feeling which really work well to set the tone of the game. The thirty two scene and event tiles along with the ninety means cards and two hundred clue cards make for a ton of replayability. I usually do not like the smaller card size that the clue and means cards come in, however I think they were a good choice in this game as you do not have to hold them in your hand and it makes the game take up less table space.

One thing I should point out, while my copy does not have this problem, apparently there was a bad print run of the game and the tiles had some visible damage on them. I do not know if this is still an issue, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Mechanics - 8/10

Deception: Murder is Hong Kong is a wonderful balance between misdirection and hidden information. All of the roles are fun to play and overall it feels very balanced most of the time, and it does have some nice ways to tip the scales in either team's directions if you find one team winning more often than not. That being said there are some games which seem impossible, whether it be the Forensic Scientist getting tiles that have no helpful options on them, or there being too many (or too few) clue or means cards that are similar. These are few and far between and with games that last 15-30 minutes they are easy to forgive.

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Theme - 8/10

Theme really shines in this game. Everything really makes this seem like a gritty murder mystery, and the tension created from knowing there is a traitor among you also adds to the darker theme. The Forensic Scientist’s clues really feel like random bits of information that you need to piece together into a cohesive theory. Some of the clues and means cards are are pretty random and can be hard to picture how the crime was committed, such as a video game console as a means of murder or some of the more generic clue cards such as ‘numbers’.

Ease to Learn - 9/10

This game is very easy to teach, and you can usually get to playing after only a few minutes of explanation. However it is much easier if you have someone who has played before as the Forensic Scientist as it is the most complicated role by far, but after one game everyone will know how it works. As with all social deduction games, it is more difficult to be the Murderer your first game but it is not too far off from a normal investigator.

Conclusion:

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong was everything I was hoping it would be. It is an incredible mix of deception and intrigue as everyone attempts to figure out what the Forensic Scientist is trying to tell them while not knowing who else they can trust.The game works very well for pretty much all player counts, however I feel like it really shines between 6-8 player as it can be difficult to keep everything straight with larger player counts. Deception has quickly became one of games that comes with to every game night, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

You might like Deception: Murder in Hong Kong if you like games where you never know who you can trust, that require you to interpret clues, and that will keep making you want to play just one more round.

You might not like Deception: Murder in Hong Kong if you don't like games with darker themes, require you to deceive and lie, or if you take accusations very personal and get frustrated when other players will not listen to you no matter how logical your argument is.