Review: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong

I love a good deduction game. And I love a good social or party game. So what happens when these two loves come together? Well, you get awesomeness. That awesomeness has a name – Deception: Murder in Hong Kong.

How to Get Away with Murder

In Deception, four to twelve players come together as a team, trying to solve a murder. Each player is given four cards that represent ‘key evidence’ (like a table lamp, a cigarette butt, or a high heel) and four cards that represent the ‘means of murder’ (like a razor blade, metal wire, or a venomous scorpion).

These cards are all placed out on the table for everyone to see. Players are then randomly assigned different roles using a different set of cards, with the majority of players serving as investigators. However, hiding among them is the murderer! This player secretly selects one of each type of his or her cards to represent what took place for this particular murder. This selection is only seen by another player who is the forensic scientist, and they will serve as the group’s clue giver.

Over the course of the game, the forensic scientist uses different clue placards to help the investigators determine the two cards that have been selected by the murderer. These placards give lists of options for different categories, like the location of the crime or the identity of the victim.

The forensic scientist will mark one of the words on the list with a bullet, providing a hint for the investigators. This is the only method of communication for the scientist, and so he or she has to be very careful in their selections. Once some hints have been laid out, the discussion starts and the fun begins.

All of the investigators begin to discuss what the clues might mean and try to narrow down the options. However, the murderer is out there, too, and he or she is trying to get the other investigators off the trail. So each player is sharing ideas and making guesses, but you’re all very suspicious of each other, because you don’t know who’s really on your side. In addition, the clues are often not straightforward, so you’ll need to do a little bit of interpretation. This leads to some stretches at times to make connections, and you’ll wonder if that other player is just on the right side of brilliant, or a down and dirty liar trying to get away.

The number of clues is limited, so players have to eventually make a guess. They point out two cards, and the scientist can only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If no one guesses the correct match, the murderer has gotten away with their crime. Otherwise, they’ll be headed to the slammer.

A Deadly Conversation

The discussions about clues are where Deception really shines. You all are working together, but still somewhat flying solo because you’re not sure who is on your side. The action ramps up even more when you add in two of the other roles. If one of the players is an accomplice, they’re working alongside the murderer to try to deceive everyone else.

The witness, meanwhile, knows what happened, but they have to be subtle about it, because if the murderer can identify the witness at the end of the game, they are able to eliminate them and get away with the crime when it goes to court. All of these extra factors ramp up the tension and the enjoyability of the game. Plus, it can play up to twelve people. How many of the other games in your collection can you say that about?

Like any hidden identity game, Deception can be difficult if you don’t play with the right group of people. If a more shy gamer gets chosen as the murderer, they may not be able to play their role correctly. If you have a new or poor clue giver, everybody might be lost. There’s also an issue that can arise with more pushy gamers. The first time I ever played this game, a few of the investigators were incredibly vocal and demeaning of the other players, and it made for a pretty lousy time for everybody else. Basically, if you’re not playing with some decent communicators, you might not have much fun. However, this game does do a better job than others of providing a safety net for those who are quieter or those who may be new to the game. Whereas games like Resistance and One Night: Ultimate Werewolf throw you immediately into the fire, you do have the option to sit back and quietly ponder for a while, and then join the discussion when you are ready.

The game is somewhat limited in what age group can play – I mean, we are talking about murder, after all. But if you’re okay with the concept of solving a crime, then your kids should be fine. In fact, the teamwork approach of the game might make Deception a good introduction to social deduction for younger gamers. You just might want to take extra steps to make sure they aren’t the murderer in the first few games.

Finally, I would say that the fun starts to ramp up around six people, and it might start to get a little crowded around nine or ten. Obviously you can play with a few more or less, but I don’t think you’ll have quite as enjoyable of an experience.

Murder: It’s More Fun with Friends!

But if you get a good group of the right number of people that like each other and like a good puzzle, this is one of the better games out there. After I played this at a convention, I sought it out like crazy, and I actually spent more than double its normal price to get my hands on a used copy when the game was out of print for a while. Lucky for you, it’s down to a more reasonable price these days, so there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing a copy. So get out your fingerprint dusting kit, your flashlight, and… whatever else a modern detective would carry… and go solve a murder! Or better yet, go get away with one.

You can pick up Deception: Murder in Hong Kong at your favorite local game store or on Amazon.

Highs

  • A fun hidden identity mechanic
  • Provides a good learning curve for new or younger players
  • Plays up to a dozen people!

Lows

  • The fun relies heavily on who is playing with you
  • Clue cards can be frustratingly useless