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Speed Review: Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows is an inoffensive little game that has sat on our game shelf for too long. Recently, I dusted it off again to give it another couple of run-throughs to remind myself of what the game is like. It was one of the first games we purchased, and so holds a special place in our hearts – that being said, it has been sidelined in recent years as we became more serious gamers.

Well, time to get it back out again.

This is a Speed Review which means, after this introduction, the rest of the article will be written in a faster time than the game is played. Murder of Crows plays in 20 minutes, and so –

Murder of Crows review

A full murder in Murder of Crows.

20 Minutes on the clock – let’s do this –

And…go…

Murder of Crows is a 2-5 player storytelling card game designed by Atlas Games that plays in around 20 minutes. In the game, players start with a hand of 5 cards, with a pile of the rest of the cards in the middle of the table.

The cards all have five components to them.

  1. A number of crows in the top corner – one, two, or three.
  2. A letter – M, U, R, D, or E.
  3. A picture of a place, person or thing. This is just artwork.
  4. Part of a story. Us, for instance, have settings.
  5. An effect – these are Misplace, Uncover, Reap, Drain, or Expel. The more observant of you may notice that those begin with M, U, R, D, and E. It’s all coming together.

Each turn the player must draw a card and then play a card in front of them from their hand. The goal is to spell the word “MURDER”. Each letter you play has one of the aforementioned different effects. These include:

  • Misplace – Choose a card from another player’s MURDER and put it in your hand.
  • Uncover – All other players reveal their hands to the player and then you choose a card to take from them.
  • Reap – Draw an additional card.
  • Drain – Call a letter, all other players must discard one of that letter from their MURDER if they have it.
  • Expel – Everyone discards their hand and draws again.
Murder of Crows cards

Cards closer up.

Multiple cards of the same letter can be played on top of one another, and card effects can be blocked by paying the crow equivalent from your hand – this is the number of crows in the top corner of the card, adding up to more than the sum of the opponent’s card. It’s like the Iron Price from Game of Thrones, but, you know, different.

The first person to spell MURDER wins. They get to read out their Murder, which may go along the lines of:

  • M – A hot wind tormented the twilight…
  • U – …in a narrow alley when…
  • R – …Eddie Taskmaster…
  • D – …staged an accident…
  • E – …and used chopsticks to impale…
  • R – …Diggory Diddle.

8 minutes 13 seconds left

So what is Murder of Crows like to play? Well, to be honest, it’s a little bit like a light version of Gloom mixed with Scrabble.

Murder of Crows is a fast flowing game that has a real “take that” attitude. No one is safe if you want to win the game, and no matter what you want to do something will always happen to someone. This makes it a vengeful game, but a funny game at the same time.

There is something incredibly funny, and almost Ad Libs-esque, about the game as you start seeing the story change before your very eyes. For instance, you may choose a story beginning (M) and start running a murder off, only for a better option to come along at a later date and change the story entirely. Or, you get incredibly close to a murder you have crafted (man, that would sound like a terrible sentence out of context) only for the whole game to change when someone steals your suspect from under your nose.

The game is more defined and limiting than Gloom but it is easy to draw comparisons between the two games. Both are storytelling experiences with gothic humour, and if you enjoy one you will probably enjoy the other.

4 minutes 17 seconds remaining

Murder of Crows is a relatively inoffensive game everyone will enjoy. The box says for ages 13+, and a good game for introducing people to the realm of card games. For a while, Murder of Crows was a game that regularly got bought to the gaming table, especially amongst less serious gamers (family members etc.), but it has been sidelined in recent years due to other games coming along.

All in all, it is a fun game that is hard not to recommend for a bit of light play. It isn’t too deep, and won’t necessarily leave you hungry for more, but it can be a good laugh whilst a game is in session.

Are you a fan of Murder for Crows? Do you dislike it? Have you never heard of it? Let me know in the comments below.

18 seconds remaining – oh yeah!

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