I find it hard to believe that I have never written about Mr. Jack, a deduction game for two players designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc. I purchased it back in 2008 as part of my initial jump into designer board games. Sometimes I wonder about what to call board games. I’ve used Eurogames, designer board games, and strategy board games interchangeably over the years. I’m tempted to call them Artisan Style board games, because they are carefully crafted and enjoyed by a smaller group of gamers, but that seems really pretentious.
Do not loiter in the Whitechapel District
The Whitechapel District is for ripping only
In Mr. Jack, one player assumes the role of a detective who has cornered Jack the Ripper in the Whitechapel district of London. There are eight suspects, including Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, and Inspector Lestrade. Any of these eight individuals could be Jack the Ripper. The player who takes on the role of Jack, randomly chooses one of the eight to be the Ripper. The detective must determine who is innocent to ultimately reveal the Ripper’s identity before he or she escapes. Imagine that I have a really good photo of the board here. I swear that someday I will get better at taking pictures.
The players take turns moving the suspects and utilizing their special abilities. Four of the eight suspects are activated in a particular turn, followed by the remaining four in the subsequent turn. Players follow an odd-even pattern of who gets to choose first in a round. If a character is in a hex that is adjacent to a working gaslamp or to another suspect, then that character is considered visible. Special abilities allow certain characters to move around the map in unique ways, manipulate the movements of others, light or extinguish lamps, and barricade exits. At the end of each turn, the Mr. Jack player lets the detective know if Mr. Jack is currently visible. This allows the detective to slowly eliminate possible suspects until only one remains. If Mr. Jack is not visible, then he may try and escape the map during the following round, which is a win for the Mr. Jack player.
Honey, I shrunk Mr. Jack
Mr. Jack was followed by Mr. Jack in New York and the poorly named, Mr. Jack Pocket. I’ve never played Mr. Jack in New York. I looked at it when it was released and didn’t feel like it was different enough than the original. I felt the same about King of Tokyo and King of New York. Maybe it’s something about New York? I’ve only been there once, but I made there, so I figured I could make it anywhere, so why bother?
Mr. Jack Pocket is a small space or travel version that shares the theme and overall objective of the original game, but is quite different in actual play. There are three detectives that search around the perimeter of a three by three layout of suspect tiles. Each tile has a set of open streets or alleys down which the detectives can see. This allows for the same kind of visible or hidden call at the end of each round as there is in the larger non-pocket sized version.
My only complaint with Mr. Jack Pocket, other than the ridiculous name, was the tossing of cardboard discs. Each player has access to two or four action discs per turn. These four discs are double sided and they are simply flipped over on the subsequent turn to reveal the four actions that can be chosen. There’s no real problem with this; however, at the start of every odd numbered round, you are supposed to toss the discs up into the air to randomize what sides are first available. I hated this so much, seriously, I can’t even say how much, but it was a lot, like a giant blob of icky burning hate.
Since I liked the game but could not abide with the disc tossing, I decided to create an alternative method for randomizing the four action discs. First, I scanned the disc images and then shrunk them down so that they would fit on the side of a regular die face. I printed those images on large labels and then cut them out and stuck them to the faces of four dice. Each die has three faces with one of the disc images and three with the image on the opposite side of the disc. It might seem silly to you to go to that much trouble for something that you only do at most four times in a game, but you should go back and reread the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
Mr. Jack Pocket on your phone in your pocket
The reason I decided to write about Mr. Jack this week was because my friends Josh and Patrick, recently played through the Mr. Jack Pocket game app on Pocket Meeple. You should check it out on youtube. The app looks pretty good and the only reason that I didn’t purchase it was because I spent all that time making those dice. That’s not the only reason. I really like the actual tiles and bits, but if you don’t already have a copy and you don’t feel like making dice, then just buy the app.
Thank you for reading. Keep hope alive. Resist. All that stuff. If you have a few minutes to spare, please send me some feedback, folks. Either in the comment section below or on Facebook or Twitter. It’s really nice to hear from people. You people specifically, not just random people.