• Rebeka Lewis

Foul Play - a murder most foul!

Updated: Apr 10

Players: 2-5 Ages: 14+ Game Time: 10-20mins (2 players)


I love murder mysteries. From the full-on dress-up party experiences, through to a “quick” family game of Cluedo, it is always a genre I’m excited to play. Having never played an entirely card-based murder mystery (which will hereon be referred to as MM so that the words “murder mystery” don’t start looking weird), I was curious to try out Foul Play - a new MM card game by After Dark Murder Mystery.


An overview of the components of Foul Play. Four equal size stacks of playing cards arranged into four piles, each with a different coloured card back. Four cards arranged above the four piles, showing the rules of the game and set-up instructions. One card-sized box with Foul Play branding. One A5 sheet designed to look like an aged document which details the game narrative and company contact info.

In Foul Play you take the role of a detective, and your aim is to use the pieces of evidence within the deck to identify the perpetrator of the Manor House Murder. The game is competitive, so your goal as the player is not only to come to the correct conclusion, but to do so before the other players. Be careful though, because if your case goes cold (if you run out of cards in your hand) it’s game over, which is an outcome I skated close to a few times, but managed to narrowly avoid. The process of discovery and accusation does vary slightly depending on whether you’re playing “Good Cop” or “Bad Cop” rules, but they’re broadly similar in that you need to see three pieces of evidence and to locate a suspect that matches the description.


In the “Good Cop” mode, three pieces of evidence equating to one suspect description are shuffled into the deck and each player competes to discover and piece together the three clues so they can finger the correct suspect. In order to make an accusation, the player must locate the correct suspect card and manage to get it into their hand - a feat which is easier said than done. I had a rather frustrating experience on my first attempt at “Good Cop”, where I had seen all three clues by the midway point and knew that my opponent had the suspect I needed in his hand, but luck was not on my side and I never did manage to take that card.


My favourite of the two game modes is “Bad Cop”, where rather than using established evidence to identify a suspect, you build your own case based on the cards you have available in-hand. The flavour text on the “Bad Cop” rules card implies that this is a sort of performative justice and you don’t care whether the accused is truly responsible, as long as you “solve” the case. In this mode there are 12 pieces of evidence in the deck, and the player’s job is to collect one piece of evidence from each of the three evidence categories and a suspect card that fits the description. This game mode feels a bit more balanced to me, primarily because you’re less likely to be completely reliant upon one specific card.


An image of Foul Play after set-up and before play starts. A 3x3 grid of cards lays in the middle of the table. Two hands of fanned cards containing five cards each sit above and below the grid. To the left of the grid is a deck of 32 cards. To the right of the grid a single card sits, forming the discard pile, and a card displaying the rules for "Good Cop".. All cards are face-down except for the rule card.

Gameplay

In terms of the gameplay itself, it’s very simple to learn and most of the crucial pieces of information are on the cards, which I like. Each player has a starting hand, whose number varies depending on game mode, and there’s also a 3x3 grid of face-down cards in the centre of the table known as the “crime scene”. There’s nothing special about these cards, but it does offer an extra mechanic which potentially slows down an investigation. A basic turn involves playing (or discarding) a card and drawing a new one.


There are three types of cards in the deck: action, evidence, and suspect; but the only ones you can “play” are the action cards. A common action card may allow you to swap a card from your hand into a player’s hand or steal a card from a player. Rarely, you may find an action card that will force an opponent to show you their hand, or for all players to reveal their hands to each other. There are a number of “crime scene” action cards which allow you to exchange a card from your hand with a mystery card from the crime scene. Two “block” action cards exist within the deck, which can be played at any time to prevent one opponent from continuing with their turn, even during a crime-solving attempt. These don’t work particularly well in two-player games, but I can see them being effective with a larger player count.


Six cards arranged into two rows. The cards show the six different actions that can be taken in the game. The two cards on the left have green backgrounds and show the two actions that cause players' hands to be revealed. The top middle card has a dark orange background and shows the block action. The middle bottom card has a yellow background with crime scene tape and shows the "crime scene" action. The top right card has a blue background and shows the card swap action. The bottom right card has a dark purple background and shows the card stealing aciton.

Evidence cards are divided into three sub-types: A, B, and C. There is no functional difference between these sub-types, but both game modes require you to use a piece of evidence from each category in your conclusion. This categorisation of evidence ensures that each set of three clues always applies to one of the suspect cards, which I am consistently impressed by. Each evidence has a short statement on it describing a suspect as depicted on the suspect cards, for example “the killer wears glasses'', to help you pinpoint the perp.


A row of three cards titled "Evidence A", "Evidence B", "Evidence C". Evidence A reads "The killer wears glasses", evidence B reads "The killer carries keys", evidence C reads "The killer has grey hair". Below these three cards is a character card, showing a woman who is wearing glasses, carrying keys and has grey hair.

There are eight suspect cards, each showing a character’s image, as well as their name and occupation. The art on these cards is bright and compelling, and I love the cartoon style. In games dealing with potentially serious subject matter like this, the art often sets the tone between silly and serious - Foul Play lies clearly on the silly side of the fence. Each character is fairly distinct and oozing with personality. I do have a fairly active imagination but I find it quite easy to visualise their personalities and voices, which is ultimately a product of great design. I particularly like Olive Mangle, who I imagine as being a post-Chicken Run Mrs. Tweedy.

Eight cards showing the characters of the game. Four male-presenting characters, four female-presenting characters.

A playing card picturing an adult character named Cillian Lynch. Show on the right of the image are scratches to the card's surface.

Production

The overall component quality is good, though a few of my cards had scratches right out of the plastic wrap. The cards are quite lightweight and flexible making them great for riffling, if you’re that way inclined. Quite a few of the action cards have dark shadowed text on a dark background which isn’t very easy to read, but if you have good colour vision you’ll start to recognise the cards by colour rather than text after a few rounds.


<