This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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# of Players: 1-7 (with Expansion)
Time:15-20 Mins (Per Player)
Game Type: Exploration/Cat and Mouse
Gamer Type: Casual to Moderate
It is not often that you see a cat and mouse game hit the market (unless you count Tom and Jerry games). most of the time cat and mouse, or chase, games are overly simplistic and not very exciting. These are generally regulated to children’s games or games to teach a specific point. Blueprint Gaming has changed that with H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle. This game places you in the terrifying world of the murder castle as an employee trying to help the police to arrest Holmes.
The story of this game is drawn from one of the darker eras of American History. H.H. Holmes, for those of you who do not know the story, was a man who made his money by defrauding insurance companies and selling bodies (on the black market). When he had sufficient funds, he decided that grave robbing and street thuggery were too much in his advancing age, so he built a hotel to lure in victims. The hotel was rife with traps and dangers that were designed to disorient, disable, and even kill the guests at the hotel.
In this game, you play the part of an employee that has discovered Holmes’ secret and is working with the police to uncover evidence to lock up Holmes. The only problem is that the evidence is in the Murder Castle itself. Players move through the castle dodging traps and Holmes as they try to be the one to bring down this villain. Story 9 out of 10.
The artwork for the game is somewhere between neo-Gothic and Batman Beyond. This gives a dark setting for a dark story. The aerial views of the game give the players the “eye in the sky” aspect, which really draws them into the game. Because the game is three dimensional, the art does sometimes make it a little confusing when you think in perspective, however, if you treat it as a two dimensional scroller it plays quite well.
The box is a standard size and all of the parts fit into the box quite well. The tokens, the pieces and all aspects of the game feed into a good experience. The artwork does not add to the game, nor does it take away from the game- it becomes the game, which is what you want in any good game. 8.5 of 10.
The game itself focuses around the players finding evidence to give to the police while avoiding Holmes. With blocked off passageways, trap doors and other tricks to slow you down, this can be a difficult challenge. The game has a randomizer and a semi-randomizer which allows both casual players and strategy players to have their fill in the game.
The randomizer(s) are the cards. With players not knowing which cards they will draw, this keeps the game moving so that people cannot “pick to win.” Conversely, this game uses a unique “Ferris wheel” approach to where the evidence (represented by cubes) will be found. The evidence is placed on the Ferris Wheel randomly, but players can see what is coming up in future rooms to think about placement.
Combined, the random cards and the semi-random evidence allows for strategy to be built, all the while keeping the game moving. 7.5 out of 10.
Cat and mouse games do have one drawback, the strategy is a little challenging to develop. There is no “rush” strategy in this game, which would really draw away from the suspense, you need to wait agonizingly as Holmes moves around the hotel, not knowing if you will be targeted by him next. Engine building is also not readily available in this game; however, one of our testers pointed out that if you plan where you put the cubes right you can stymie your opponents while building up your own supply.
This leaves offense and defense. You can choose which cubes to take and which to leave to “leave” your opponents wanting for what they need. This brings the strategy score to 5 out of 10, not bad but leaving a desire to do more with the cards.
Novelty and Conclusion
I can honestly say that there are not a lot of “eccentric millionaire builds hotel to kill people at the world’s fair” games on the market today. That alone earns major points for novelty. What makes it better is the randomizer- semi-randomizer methodology used by the game. This game is unique, it has limited rooms (which limits the problem of most tile floppers) and there is limited scope to what you need to do as you avoid Holmes (many cat and mouse games try to add too many things.) This earns a novelty score of 8 out of 10.
With a total score of 38 out of 50, this game is a monster right out of the box. When you add the “2nd floor” expansion, you have a game with multiple possibilities, a solo mode, and a tendency to make you hope that this devious building has a third floor for a future expansion. This is a great, fun, suspenseful game that is easy to pick up and players differently every time. Definitely something that you should look for in your private collection.