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Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Review

“You have to play this game,” I said in excitement, my girlfriend wary, “It’s like if Spyfall met CSI!”

Okay, so that may not be the best example in the world, but it is pretty good. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a deduction game, but not like any we have ever played before and that is really exciting. I’ve played this game half a dozen times now, and look forward to each new rendition – in fact, this is a close contender for the crown in the category of “best social or party games we have played”. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this Deception: Murder in Hong Kong review in a bit more detail, and allow me to share with you why I think this game is worth playing. This is a board game/card game with a real difference.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong review - investigator card.

The Investigator role card.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Review: The Premise

There are a lot of colons in that subtitle.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a hidden roles deduction game, designed by Tobey Ho. In it, players will play as various parts in an investigatory squad split into key components. These are the Forensic Scientist, Investigators, and the Murderer, with the two additional roles of the Witness and Accomplice for a richer experience with more players.

Layed out in front of all the players, bar the Forensic Scientist, are four methods of murder and four clues. For instance –

Deception Murder in Hong Kong Review - Player 1 Evidence and Clues

Player 1: Methods/Means of Murder and Clues

Looking at the above image, the brown cards are the clues, and the blue cards are the murder methods. This means, if I am the murderer, I could have used Mercury to poison my victim, with Blood being the clue (as an example).

Throughout the game, it is up to the Forensic Scientist to reveal key pieces of evidence to the players in the form of cards that have six pieces of information on them. The Forensic Scientist dictates which one is the core piece of information by using a bullet marker – one per card. This will be done in three rounds, starting with revealing the cause of death and location of the crime first, then four random pieces of information.

At the end of the first round, players will each have the chance to state their case to the other players about their suspicions (and the murderer can try shifting the blame onto someone else), and one of those four pieces of evidence is switched out with a new card.

Deception Murder in Hong Kong review evidence

Evidence tiles in Deception

The players are given more time to contemplate what went on with the new information they have been given. Then the same thing happens again. Each player states their case, and once again a card is switched with a new piece of evidence.

After that is over the players have their opportunity to discuss and accuse. To win the game, the players need to accuse the murderer as well as get the murder weapon and the crime scene clue right.

So how does the Forensic Scientist know what the murder weapon and clue are?

The game begins after the roles have been dealt out, with a very simple set of instructions, given by the Forensic Scientist. He/she is above the game and facilitates everything going on. They start the game asking the following:

  • “Everyone close your eyes.”
  • “Murderer and the Accomplice open your eyes.” – This is the opportunity for the Forensic Scientist to recognise the Murderer and the Accomplice (assuming the optional role of the Accomplice is in play), as well as for them to recognise each other.
  • “Murderer, pick and point to your murder weapon and clue.” – This is for the murderer to identify the murder weapon (or “means of murder”) and clue for both the Forensic Scientist and the Accomplice.
  • “Murderer and Accomplice, close your eyes. Witness open your eyes.” – The witness, if in play, will then open their eyes and the Forensic Scientist will point to both the Murderer and Accomplice. This is to identify who they are, but not which one is which.
  • “Witness close your eyes….everyone, open your eyes.”

And the game begins. So, in essence, the Murderer chooses the means of death and clue, and identifies it to the Forensic Scientist, who will then try to out them with the evidence. It is a very well played game of cat and mouse.

But who are the Accomplice and the Witness?

The Accomplice and the Witness are two optional roles that, we believe, create a richer player experience. The Accomplice is in cahoots with the Murderer and acts in such a way as to try and throw the players off the scent. He/she wins if the murderer fails to be identified.

The Witness is the exact opposite to the Accomplice. They know who is involved, but they don’t know who exactly committed the crime or what they used. It is their role to direct the others towards the Murderer/Accomplice. Why not come out and just tell the other players that they witnessed the crime? Well if, at the end of the game, the Murderer (even if outed) can name who the Witness is, then they “kill” the witness and go free.

Deception Murder in Hong Kong potted plant

Player 2: The potted plant – a murder weapon most foul!

What is it like playing Deception: Murder in Hong Kong?

Gameplay:

Writing a Deception: Murder in Hong Kong review is really easy and that is because it is such a delightful game to play. Deception is a Social Deduction game with a difference, namely because you are not trying to out a player based on their own ability to bluff, but rather the evidence that has been presented. Players can then bluff all they want, but it is not so simple as saying “look, guys, I’ve seen my card, I’m not the murderer”. Instead, it is not good enough to use flimsy excuses, and you have to put some real thought into who else you could implicate instead.

Gameplay is generally quite fast, with each game lasting 20-30 minutes depending on how much time the Forensic Scientist wants to give the players to discuss between each round. That means it is very easy to play two or three rounds in an evening. Within the box, there are hundreds of weapons, clues, and around 20 different evidence cards to use – meaning the game is hugely replayable. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of different combinations that could come out. It is because of this that Deception: Murder in Hong Kong may be one of the most replayable of all the Party games (and Social Deduction games as well).

When discussing Deception with my girlfriend – she puts her enjoyment down to the level of interaction between players. It encourages outside the box thinking, with very few restrictions on player conversation, meaning there is always a lot of speculation going on around the table at any one time. It allows for more time to figure things out, as well as a complex puzzle put before you. She then went on to say the following –

I like figuring things out and winning. I can do both in that game.

Yep.

Back to Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, part of the enjoyment comes from a similar place to that of Mysterium, and the games are probably more similar in feel than either would like to admit. Where in Mysterium, you are players trying to figure out your own dreams from a unified ghost, in Deception you are trying to figure out who the collective murderer is (and what they used) via the evidence of the unified Forensic Scientist. The biggest difference is that in Mysterium you have your own goal, in Deception, you have a collective one.

If Mysterium is Cluedo done right, then Deception is Mysterium with more player interaction. Whether you are the murderer, accomplice, witness, or just an investigator, it is down to the collective group law enforcement to decide.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong Review Conclusion

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (and this is where we draw this review to a close), is a well-crafted game and, I have to admit, I think it is one of the best games for both player interaction and deduction around in the tabletop gaming world. It is, probably, the closest you can get to playing detective (in board game form) without actually getting a badge. The game is full of mystery and guile, with the additional roles creating an incredible dynamic.

The only thing I can think of that may put people off is that it requires at least 4 players to play. I have played it with 5 and 7 and I have to admit that I think it is better with 7 and with the additional roles thrown in. All in all, it is a great game, and one we all thoroughly enjoy every time it comes out.

Finally, it is also worth noting that Grey Fox games have also released an expansion now called Deception: Undercover Allies that was Kickstarted. Also, if you haven’t heard of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong then it is worth noting that in some countries it was published under the name CS-Files by the company Jollythinkers.

So, what do you think? Have you played Deception? If so, what do you think of the game? If not, then what are your favourite Social Deduction games? Let me know in the comments below.

12 Comments »

  1. I have watched some reviews on this board game but I feel you went a little deeper without making it drawn out. I like the Mysterium comparison which I did not want to play because it seemed bland whereas this seems more up my alley theme wise. I agree with the 4 player minimum being somewhat of a drawback from the go but I am interested in playing the game. Thumbs up from me.

    Liked by 2 people

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