So another Kickstarter I missed (totally gutted), but have since become a little obsessed with. Not a huge surprise when I say it's a social deduction game that has plenty of weight and craziness, and it even solves the dying early problems of Werewolf; it's of course the new hot thing - Blood on the Clocktower!
Thank you to our good friend Rob for loaning us his precious grim for us to be able to take photos! Yes, we did it we give it back!
Players: 5-20 Ages: 15+ Game Time: 30-120 minutes
So Steven Medway and The Pandemonium Institute have brought us possibly the biggest most nuts Werewolf-style game ever. It has the same core themes, but with a few big twists. For those not familiar with the classic Werewolf or Mafia games, there are a small minority of players who represent the 'evil' team and know who each other are. The large amount of good players start knowing nothing... Then, with deaths at night and kills and executions during the day, the pool slowly gets whittled down until one of the teams win. Blood on the Clocktower is slightly different than these classic games in a few main ways though:
Dead players are still involved as they retain a final vote after death that can make all the difference when choosing those final kills
Each player has an ability not just those special few
Misinformation, with the drunk, madness and poison mechanics that mean abilities will malfunction.
These changes make it feel like a new beast and with its huge array of roles you'll be playing this game for a long time to come!
Blood on the Clocktower is a a social deduction game, which like many before it takes an informed minority of evil players who kill the town at night versus an uninformed majority of good players who need to secure the votes of town to try and kill off the evil players, or at least the ones who you think are evil.
The game is played in several phases:
First Night in which players learn their characters and their team if they do so, and during which the first bits of information are revealed.
Day Phase in which players get the opportunity to talk to each other and share information either publicly in the circle or in private whispers. The day is ended by a public nomination phase where the player who received a number of votes that exceeds the majority of living players will be executed.
Night Phase during which the evil team can kill and the good team get more information... those that live at least. These day and night phases continue until there is no living demon, in which case good win or there are only two people alive in town in which case evil win. The mechanics are simple enough, but the game comes alive in who you play it with and how they choose to tell you their information or not, and in slowly building the puzzle together as a group or being mired by misinformation from the evil team. I've personally loved every second of playing (and storytelling) this game, both in person and using online apps and tools to support more diverse gameplay; it's great seeing how so many different group interact with the game and different playstyles.
Each game comes with a list of the available roles in that edition, which is commonly referred to as the "script". For a full size game of 7-20 players these will have between 22-25 roles on them, and specialist Teensy-Ville scripts are available for five- and six-player games.
The retail dead tree version comes with three core scripts:
Trouble Brewing - a balanced script suitable for both beginner players and storytellers alike.
Bad Moon Rising - a more advanced game relying on a different type of information where death is encouraged.
Sects & Violets - the first introduction for players to the madness mechanic, these unique social mechanic creates a really interesting dynamic for more advanced gameplay.
You can also mix it up by making your own scripts using the online script builder provided by The Pandemonium Institute https://script.bloodontheclocktower.com/ . These custom scripts can use any of the roles available to you in your game and offer a huge range of diversity for you to choose from, especially if you have the Kickstarter edition with some additional experimental roles not released with the first three scripts.
Can't stay all game? No problem!
Want to join a game but limited on time, or can't make the start? Well, the game has you covered, as you can be one of the traveller roles. These are special roles that don't count toward the normal distribution of good and evil among town and are designed for players that arrive late or need to leave early. The travellers have powerful abilities that are known to the whole town but they could belong to either team and the player is informed by the storyteller when they join the game which team they are playing for, and if they are evil who the demon is. I love this extra level of design that makes Blood On The Clocktower such an easy game to manage within your group.
The production on this game just screams BIG wherever you look, from the enormous box that becomes for grimoire to the gorgeous luxury components. So where do we begin?..
The box, that has has been conveniently designed to double up as the grimoire using three bulldog clips to attach the front and back together to form a spine and make it like one giant book. The box is also jammed packed full of all the stuff you need to run your games from edition specific rules and tokens to the grimoire stand and town-square board and copies of your basic scripts. There really is no extra space in this box once it's all packed. It's a very efficient design, which I like a lot.
One of the big challenges they faced was how do you keep the tokens easily visible for the storyteller without them moving whilst moving the grim around at night, and I love their solution of using a felt lined box and felt backed token to stick to each other silently and strongly enough that it handles everyday gameplay. While this may be a luxury option it feels the most appropriate thematically and certainly more lightweight than any other solution I could think of.
I'd like to end production quality here with the theme and the stunning artwork that really brings a common sense of theme to each edition and really brings each character to life with such simple symbols.
So let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Replayability: Even with just the roles in the core box and none of the experimental roles that are available, and other expansion material incoming, there are so many ways to play the game and with so many different players I'm not sure you will ever get to the point that it will be repetitive.
Production Value: The quality of the product is amazing I absolutely love all those little touches that make it really nice to play.
Theme: Personally, I think the theme could do with perhaps a little more consistency overall to make sure characters are consistent within each edition but overall it's pretty solid and there's only so much originality you can squeeze into so many roles.
Complexity: This is a heavy game, both literally and figuratively. There are so many roles and having to work out if your information is even correct. Having to build so many different scenarios can certainly be intimidating for some.
Rules: This is one area where the game perhaps suffers. With so many interactions the rules are on one hand simple and only really give you the framework to build your game but then with it's own book (the almanacs) for each edition that provides more clarity of specific interactions. But even with all this information it's not bulletproof so your storyteller should be willing to work things out on the fly potentially.
Uniqueness: The concept is nothing new but the tweaks on the old classic do bring a new life into the genre for me so good work here.
Value: Big cost, big game! Is it value for money? This would greatly depend on your game group. If you plan on playing this at least monthly it will balance out soon enough.
Overall, I love this game! I could end it there but I know not everyone is a fan of the social deductions genre... Lying to your friends and family doesn't come naturally to everyone and is just wrong for others.
That being said, if you do like the genre this game is just superb and takes it to the next level with more information and more ways to play that just give you even more scope to be that little bit dastardly. But even you good folks might struggle with the price point here, and while it represents good value for the regular gamer you need to be pretty dedicated to this game as a group to benefit in full.
Your friendly DoaLG rules lawyer
George E Ohh
Want more Blood on the Clocktower content? Check out us talking to Ben Burns, the Community Manager for The Pandemonium Institute on our webshow Let's Talk Board Games: https://www.youtube.com/live/Lp2qWWWz3n8?feature=share - and if you enjoy this, why not take a look back through our previous episodes here*?