Category Archives: Letters from Whitechapel

Being Jack: A Whitechapel Retrospective

We have a guest author today. Nick, a newer member of the Muskegon Area Gamers, has become a bit of a Letters from Whitechapel aficionado in his short time with us. He tried his hand at winning as Jack the Ripper several times only to be thwarted by Tasha (another member of our group). Then, when Tasha couldn’t make it on a Thursday, Nick wanted a rematch. And then he won. Here are his thoughts about that session and about the game in general…

Jack waits to kill in Letters from Whitechapel
Jack the Ripper stalks Muskegon in Letters from Whitechapel.

I was initiated into the world of Whitechapel as any good gamer should be, as a constable. I looked at the board for the black squares I could move on and not much else. My second game I started to try to think like Jack, and from that moment it was clear that I would need to be Jack in order to truly understand the game as a whole. This article is my written on my first win as Jack in the game Letters from Whitechapel. It assumes that you, the reader, know the basics of the game. If, for some reason, you don’t, I apologize. I also only have literature on my movements through the night which might lead to some inaccuracies as to why I did what I did. Again, my apologies.

Being Jack requires thinking like your opponents whether there is only one or the full complement of five constables. This comes to play in where you set your hideout, how you maneuver through the night, and when you actually decide to ‘go home’ at the end of your night.

In the games of Letters from Whitechapel I have played, I have moved my hideout around the board. My first game, I chose 141 which is in the middle of the board and as such I thought I would be able to get there easily. I was caught (by accident) on the second or third night. On my second and third games, I chose 64 and 86 respectively. At this point I figured it didn’t matter where I picked and thus picked birth date and birth year as my starting points. These are absolutely places I might go again, but it would have to be after the metagame has evolved to a point that my opponents would not expect those picks from me. On my final game, I chose the space 177. I tried to be very analytical about this location. 177 has a two square buffer on each side which makes it unlikely for the constables to lock it down unless they are fairly convinced I am hiding out there. It is not perfectly central to the board (which would probably be bad) but it is near a main traffic pattern of the board.

Map of Jack's Movement
Map of Jack’s Movement

Every night Jack’s resources reset but reduce by one. I have realized this means that using them as much as possible on the first night is the right choice. Using carriages while somewhere near a constable leads them to believe that you have walked through them. Using alleyways when nowhere near a constable casts a massive shadow of doubt over most constables. What I mean by this is: use the resources given in the proper manner proactively rather than reactively. In the game mentioned above, I used all three of my carriages one after another on the first night. This lead to only my first one or two moves being noticed by the constables by the time I was almost home. When they realized where I must have gone, I alleyed twice and moved twice in order to shake them even though they were nowhere near.

As I just mentioned, going home requires careful thought on the first night and, to some extent, on every night after. Night one, I like to be home before I’ve been tracked at all. If that doesn’t work, I want to leave a few spaces of movement unknown to the constables before I go home. This gives my hideout a buffer area that is hard to box in. On nights two and three my main focus is just to get home without leaving the constables on my doorstep. 177 allows for this handsomely. I did just barely get home both of those nights. (Never have I been more stressed than trying to walk home on hour 15.) On the fourth night my main focus was just to evade and get home as quickly as possible. It was also my shortest night.

The last real thing to mention in a game as Jack is that the people sitting across from you are specifically responsible for how you play. It’s as much a chess game as it is a game of high stakes poker. With one type of player across the table, I can carriage next to them and they won’t think I’ve done that because it’s reckless. With another (whose name might rhyme with Sasha) I have to be as far from the constables as possible at all times or lose to the random ( I say random because there are literally at least 14 places I could be and 4 I could reasonably be) accuse loss on night 2.

Proof of Nick's victory
Proof of Nick’s victory

Winning as Jack is the most stressful hours of tabletop gaming I’ve ever had. I am absolutely ready to hang up my rippin’ hat for a while and let some fresh blood take over the reins.

-Nick, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers

 

 

 

Games that fired other games: Muskegon Style!

The Muskegon Area Gamers are constantly trying new games. There are games that come along that seem to do everything a different game did…only better. Here is a post about just such games.

 

1. King of Tokyo (Iello Games) fired Roll through the Ages (Gryphon Games)

New Picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roll through the Ages is a fun little game. Players build cities which give them more dice which in turn give them more resources to score points. It uses the age old Yahtzee mechanic of roll-reroll-reroll. There was little player interaction in it, however. Then along game King of Tokyo. This game has virtually all the strengths of Roll through the Ages but also always player to interact meaningfully. The deck of special powers gives the game tons of replayability. Roll through the Ages: you’re fired.

 

2. King of New York (Iello Games) fired King of Tokyo (Iello Games)

Muskegon loves King of New York even more
King of New York fired King of Tokyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then along came King of New York. This game allows players even more way to interact with military units in each quadrant. Furthermore, the board position is important, an element mostly missing from King of Tokyo. The dice offer more meaningful choices than 1-2-3 which were half the sides of King of Tokyo. King of Tokyo: you’re fired.

 

 

3. Letters from Whitechapel (Fantasy Flight Games) fired Fury of Dracula (Fantasy Flight Games)

New Picture (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fury of Dracula was a fine game during its day. A group of four hunters are chasing down the Dark Lord across Europe. Dracula leaves behind minions and other encounters to thwart Van Helsing and his helpers. Unfortunately, Fury of Dracula often comes down to how well you roll the dice. There are few ways to mitigate bad dice rolls and bad dice rolls dictate the outcome even when you have a strong showing. What’s a gamer to do? Well, give Letters from Whitechapel a try. The game has almost no randomness (only the turn order which is minimal). Fury of Dracula is mostly a chase game with a little bit of deduction and bluffing. Letters from Whitechapel is all deduction and bluffing.

 

4. Axis and Allies (Milton Bradley) fired Risk (Parker Brothers)

Muskegon likes Axis & Allies more than Risk.
Axis and Allies (1983 edition) versus Risk (any edition from 1959 to present)

 

 

 

Risk was the game I cut my teeth on when I was in 6th to 8th grade. Armies waged constant battles across the globe in an effort to wipe the competition off the board. Risk was never a good game however. It was simply the only game in town. When I discovered Axis and Allies in 11th grade: I was hooked! Instead of waging wars across the globe with Roman numerals, I was waging wars across the globe with aircraft carriers and bombers! Axis and Allies is at least a decent game and deserves some consideration.

 

5. History of the World (Avalon Hill) fired Axis and Allies (Milton Bradley)

History of the World is an old standby at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
History of the World versus Axis and Allies: no competition

Axis & Allies is at least a decent game. Unfortunately, it is also at most a decent game. It deserves no extra consideration. It has not stood up to the test of time. Other games are much better. Small World comes to mind. But if you like plastic-y goodness and an historical theme, try History of the World instead. History of the World is a good game. And at times, is a great game.

 

 

6. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Fantasy Flight Games) fired Stratego (Milton Bradley)

New Picture (2)

 

I got a copy of Stratego for my 10th birthday. It was a nice twist on chess: two players, capture the flag/king, each piece has a special move or capture rule. Stratego is much more approachable than chess because chess is a hobby unto itself. But Stratego has not stood the test of time. So many other games are much better than it. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is the quintessential example of this. Tons of replayability, more strategy and shorter playtime are the advantages of playing Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation over Stratego.

 

 

7. Gulo Gulo (Rio Grande Games) fired Candyland (Milton Bradley)

Muskegon Area Gamers recommend Gulo Gulo over Candyland
Gulo Gulo (Wolverine Wolverine in German) is sooooo much better than Candyland

Candyland was never much of game. In fact, it wasn’t even a game so much as it was an activity. And as an activity, it was a right boring one. Gulo Gulo is a much better alternative. Gulo Gulo is actually a fun game for kids and adults. The primary mechanic of color recognition that was present in Candyland is present in Gulo Gulo. But Gulo Gulo pulls it off much better. Throw Candyland away. Buy Gulo Gulo. Candyland: you’re fired. Pack your bags.

 

 

8. Betrayal at House on the Hill (Wizards of the Coast) fired Mansions of Madness (Fantasy Flight Games)

Muskegon Area Games plays and enjoys Betrayal at House on the Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill is much better than Mansions of Madness…and that’s saying something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thrilled to find out FFG was releasing a game called “Mansions of Madness”. The art work and components are top notch. The theme is Lovecraftian. What’s not to love? Then I tried it. This game is more horrific than a train wreck. What an absolute travesty this game is. After playing it three times, I realized I had to go back to the old standby: Betrayal at House on the Hills. While not perfect, Betrayal at House on the Hill is typically enjoyable–a trait that even Mansions of Madness cannot meet. Mansions of Madness: you’re fired.

 

9. Villagers and Villains (Studio 9 games) fired Thunderstone (AEG Games)

Muskegon loves Villagers & Villains (Studio 9 Games)
Villagers & Villains is easily better than Thunderstone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry is probably the strangest entry in this article. Villagers & Villains fired Thunderstone. What in God’s name do these games have in common? Both are fantasy city/village themed. Both require you to “build” heroes and accouterments to defeat monsters. The drafting mechanic in Villagers & Villains is not dissimilar to the monster drafting mechanic in Thunderstone. But Thunderstone is so time consuming to set up. And there is little payoff in this deck-building game. Villagers & Villains can be played in the time that it takes to set up Thunderstone. And with tons of cards (and an expansion), Villagers & Villains has lots of replayability.

 

10. 10 Days in the USA (Out of the Box Games) fired Rack-O

10 Days in the USA: a nice diversion at Muskegon's Gaming Annex
10 Days in the USA is a good game; Rack-O is not

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rack-O is an old family game that was about as much fun as Rumy or Gin. The game was a diversion but not much fun. Out of the Box’s 10 Days in the USA is a much better choice. Players attempt to rack up 10 consecutive days of traveling a la the rack in Rack-O. But drafting and set collecting is much more meaningful than in Rack-O. Pick it up if you are looking for a family game. Rack-o: you’ve been fired. Good riddance.

 

 

“Shut up and take my money!” Muskegon style!

shut up

 

The Gaming Annex will be updating its gaming library to include the following releases. If these publishers would simply shut up and take my money, I’d already own these games!

 

 

Cyclades Expansion: Titans

Cyclades titans

Cyclades is a decent game. With the Hades expansion, it becomes a great game. I cannot even fathom how good this game will be with Titans! Scratch $60 from my wallet right now.

 

Kemet expansion: Ta-Seti

Kemet

Kemet is a decent alternative to games like Small World where you want the combat interaction of a game but don’t want a 3+ hour marathon like a GMT offering. The expansion will add a fourth pyramid color (black) which I can only imagine will be necromantic in nature. The replayability of this game will increase and the strategy considerations will jump. I can hardly wait. Scratch another $50 from my wallet.

 

Star Trek Fleet Captains: Dominion

ST FC

The Romulan expansion turned this game into one of my favorite 3 player games. The Dominion expansion? That should make the 3 player meta of this game even richer. This game has so much potential that I hope Wizkids nurtures it. Scratch another $40 from my wallet. How much is that now?

 

Expansion for Letters from Whitechapel

LfWC

Letters from Whitechapel is like Scotland or Fury of Dracula. Except I like Letters from Whitechapel a lot more. I love playing the detectives and trying to out think Jack. Others love playing Jack and trying to slyly slip past my dragnet. The game is a solid “9” (if not a “10”) in my book. I’m really curious what the expansion could add. I trust the design team enough to scratch $30 from my wallet.

 

Clash of Cultures: Civilizations

Clash of Cultures

Clash of Cultures is a game that I do not get to play enough of. The expansion promises to make each player’s starting civilization unique. I already love this game. And the expansion gives me more plastic, more replayability and more theme. And you know what that means: scratch $50 from my wallet.

 

 

Merchants & Marauders expansion

M&M

The same publisher and designer as Clash of Cultures, Merchants and Marauders is a swash-buckling adventure on the high seas. Despite its swingy dice and card draws, this game is a welcome addition to my collection. The expansion? I don’t even care. Just take my $50.

 

 

Star Wars Armada

armada

Does Fantasy Flight Games offer a direct deposit program whereby I can have my paychecks go directly to them? That would save all of us some time. Because at this rate, my Fantasy Flight purchases will be outpacing my mortgage and student loan payments. Star Wars Armada will be to grand scale space combat what FFG’s X-Wing miniatures were to space dog fights. Same universe, same quality of components–BETTER THEME! Scratch approximately $500 from my wallet.

 

Can anyone think of any other games that The Gaming Annex is going to need? Please comment below.