In previous blogs, I’ve looked at plastic figures and ranked them on how well they could be adapted as characters in an RPG. In the next few blogs, I’m going to try a similar concept with a twist: I’ll be looking at board games that can be used as roleplaying playmats. More specifically, we’re looking for good ol’ haunted mansions!
This week, we’re going to focus on Cheapass Games’s Clue parody game, Kill Doctor Lucky.
Oh, he’s gonna die.
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Back to Kill Doctor Lucky! For those who’ve never heard of it, Kill Doctor Lucky is a darkly-comedic board game created by James Earnest, and first published by Cheapass Games in 1997. It is one of their most famous titles, and has been printed in numerous editions, including the original 97 version, the 2002 Directors Cut (with 2 maps), and a full-art version licensed through Titanic Games. I don’t quite know how the rights are handled, but according to their website, Cheapass Games will once again be releasing their version of the game in 2016.
What’s more, the Cheapass Games website will let you print out the 2002 version FOR FREE! (Just watch your printer settings, otherwise you might end up with a very small map.)
2002 Director’s cut Version – How Does it Rate as a Game Mat?
Objective: To have spacious haunted mansion that the characters are exploring for the first time.
I’ll be ranking the game on the following scales:
- Structured vs. Random
Structured vs. Random?: This first criteria is more of a spectrum, as Structure and Randomness are polar opposites. The game board is already preconstructed, and there’s very little you can do to alter this (save taping over the names of the rooms and adding your own, or editing the digital file.) This would rank it a straight 10/10 on Structure, but it comes with TWO boards- which means, you can choose which version you want to play with (giving you a less rigid model.) If you wanted to be weird, if the characters are in different rooms of the house, you can flip from one map to the other- suddenly, rooms that were once on the ground floor are now on the second level! As another way to introduce randomness, should you want it, on the main map, the rooms are numbered 0-19, which means you can pick a random room with a twenty-sided die; alternatively, you can just use the shuffle the room cards and have a character mysterious walk out of one room into a random one. Structure: 6, Random 4.
Mood: This is where the Lucky board does poorly. The basic set is, well, basic, with large empty spaces of white. This does give a GM a very blank canvas, allowing them a lot of variety (is it a well-preserved manor with residents, or a ramshackle manor barely staying upright?), but it also means they have a lot of work to do. The only flavorful elements provided by the board are the names of the room, which are not very scary, but provide a wonderful throwback to classic Edwardian manors. The boardgame version, which I do not own, has art that supports the mood better. Mood: 3/10
Suspense: To clarify, by “Suspense,” I am referring to the amount of information that is hidden from the players. With the Director’s Cut Board Game I was lucky to get about ten years ago, the board is broken into 6 different sections, giving the players information about 2-3 neighboring rooms, but nothing beyond (I’d give this Suspense: 8/10. For the other boards (the Titanic game board or the free print out version), the GM would either have to cover the other parts of the board or manipulate the image file (Suspense: 2/10).
Space: “Space” measures the practicality of the space. Personally, I found that the Kill Doctor Lucky rooms were perfect, especially in their slight variations. The majority of the rooms were big enough to house half a dozen figurines or markers with a little room to spare, making up a perfect fate core “zone.” A few rooms or hallways were just small enough that a few figures couldn’t squeeze in (which keeps it interesting), while the Ballroom makes for a dynamic scene for a conflict, requiring the heroes to scale up walls and swing on chandeliers to reach the top any adversary in the Gallery. Space: 10/10
Extras: The basic set doesn’t include too many extras (that was part of the point behind a Cheapass Game!) but it does include the cards. If you’re using the haunted mansion as the scene or a treasure hunt or a crime, you could use the various items as clues and red herrings; for example, a character digging around the nursery might find a Runcible Spoon. This would require taking out the room cards and all of the failure cards (although, you could leave in a few of the “distraction” themed failures to indicate that a character failed to find anything.) Extras: 7/10
What Kind of Story Can You Run with Kill Doctor Lucky?
Here’s an idea: Who Killed Old Man Miserkeister?
The city’s richest and meanest old man, Dr. L. E. “Old Man” Miserkeister, is finally dead. Despite being over 100 years old, he didn’t die of natural causes (likely too stubborn). Money would seem an obvious motive, but it not clear who would be the beneficiary; his wife passed away decades ago, and his daughter hasn’t been heard of in decades… some claim she eloped with a sailor, but loose tongues whisper about other, darker possibilities…
Old Man Miserkeister’s body he was found by his housekeeper (who only comes by once a month) in his dusty foyer, his head bashed in with a blunt object. The city forensics team have only started their investigation, but they suspect that the body was dragged, or quite possibly levitated, from another room. However, they have yet to find the murder weapon. Any officers that have attempted to investigate the many rooms of the moldy manor find themselves strangely distracted, disoriented, and driven slightly mad… almost as if something in the house, or the house itself, doesn’t want the truth to come to light. The police have turned to your team, which has experience with the paranormal, to find what they cannot. Find the murder weapon, and maybe a few other secrets along the way, and get out before you find yourself sharing Miserkeister’s fate.
That’s all for now. Join us next time for more thrills and chills!