Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Unmasked: Dracula's Feast Guest Preview

Unmasked: Dracula's Feast
Designer: Peter Hayward
Publisher: Jellybean Games
Quick Review - Unmasked: Dracula's Feast - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

There are getting to be quite a few social deduction games out there.  I think my first experience with a social deduction game was way back in college, probably about 1996, when someone in my dorm introduced the floor to a game called Mafia.  Played with a standard deck of cards, each one represented a specific role: a mafia member, townsfolk, or special character (like an informant or doctor).  Looking back, the game was super simple compared to the latest social deduction games, but it entertained us nightly, for hours, for several years.  Today there are a wealth of other social deduction games that use a similar model, but add special twists, like One Night Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance, Spyfall, and tons more.  There are a few great games, that really do social deduction well, but there are also a ton of knock offs that just don't have what it takes to really stand out.  When I was contacted to review a new social deduction game, I was a bit hesitant, but after reading about Unmasked: Dracula's Feast and taking a look at the rulebook, I decided to give it a shot.

Unmasked: Dracula's Feast is a very quick logical and social deduction game for 4-8 players.  There's not much to the game, just 9 role cards, 9 accusation cards, 16 yes and no cards, and 8 reference cards.  The entire game can easily fit in your pocket, even if they add a few more roles, like they've mentioned.  You can find Unmasked: Dracula's Feast on Kickstarter for only $9 (plus $5 US shipping or $10 worldwide), or get the game with the Cthulhu and Friends expansion, too for only $14 (plus the same shipping rates), starting on October 4, 2016.

Overview:
The story of Dracula's Feast is kind of fun.  Dracula is hosting a masquerade ball and feast for the townsfolk, but someone has let in a bunch of monsters.  You'll need to figure out who everyone is, without revealing your own role.
Lots of fun roles to play! 
Each game takes about ten minute to play, so it's the type of game you can play a bunch of times in an evening.  Setup is pretty simple.  Give each player both a Yes and No card, then take random roles equal to the number of players, plus one (being sure to include Dracula).  Take the same accusation cards as the roles and set them where everyone can see them.  Then shuffle and deal out one role card to each player and one face-down in the center of the table.  This is the mystery guest.
The center of the playing area will have all the role cards and the Mystery Guest. 
Now the game begins (with the player with the tastiest blood, according to the rules).  On your turn you can do one of four things.  You can question a guest, ask a guest to dance, accuse a guest, or attempt a grand reveal.  The object is to be the first to figure out who everyone at the party is and do a successful grand reveal.

To question another guest you simply ask them if they are a specific role or not.  Then they'll pass you either their 'yes' or 'no' card.  Generally, guests are required to tell the truth, but some roles have certain requirements that supersede the rule to be truthful.  For example, the Trickster always answers 'yes' to any question, and Alucard always answers 'yes' if he is asked if he is Dracula.
Who, me?  You really think I'm Dracula?
If you ask another guest to dance they can accept or decline.  If they decline nothing happens, but if they accept both players swap role cards, view each other's role, and then pass the roles back.  This gives you definite knowledge of other roles, but the trade off is that two players who have danced cannot accuse each other.  So dancing can be a double edged sword and might give your opponents that last bit of information they need to do a grand reveal before your turn comes around again.  Usually it is up to your opponent to decide to accept a dance or not, but some roles differ.  For example, the Trickster and Alucard must accept all dances.
Poor Alucard tries so hard to be like the cool monsters. 
Once you think you have enough information about a guest you can make an accusation.  Choose a guest and accuse them of being a specific role.  If they are that role they must reveal their role card and are then out of the game (banished from the party).  If you are wrong they just say they aren't that role and then you reveal your own role and are banished instead. So accusing another player is pretty risky.
"Would you like to dance?"  "I don't dance."
If you think you've figured out the roles of everyone that is still at the party you can announce that you are going to attempt a grand reveal.  The first thing you do is reveal your own role.  Then you pass every other player an accusation card that matches what you think their role is.  Then everyone passes their 'yes' or 'no' cards to the center where they are shuffled and revealed (one at a time for extra drama).  If all the cards are 'yes' you just won!  But if even a single 'no' is turned in you are banished.  Then everyone will turn in their other card, they'll all get shuffled, and everyone gets a new set of 'yes' and 'no' cards.  But remember, a grand reveal

That's the game in a nutshell.  Many roles modify these rules also, like the aforementioned Trickster and Alucard.  Other roles have additional win conditions, like the Zombie who wins if he dances three times, or the Werewolf who wins if he correctly accuses two guests.  Other roles modify other aspects of the game, like Doctor Jekyll, who gets to play as the mystery guest after being initially banished, or Dracula who gets another turn after being banished.

Final Thoughts:
As I mentioned earlier, I really like social deduction type games, and recently my friends and family have been enjoying them more, too.  We've been playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf quite a bit since I received it for Father's Day, and I've been wanting to get The Resistance: Avalon to the table again.  So I was really curious to see how Unmasked: Dracula's Feast would go over.  And it went over amazingly well!  We played a bunch of times and they didn't want to stop!  And this was after a few games of One Night Ultimate Werewolf!  At first I didn't think this would be able to trump ONUW, but everyone said they liked it even more!  
Dracula's Feast is a winner!  They wanted to keep on playing!
Unmasked plays quickly, in about 10-15 minutes, and where ONUW is more about social deduction and a little about logic, Unmasked is mostly about logical deduction and a bit about social manipulation.  Because roles never change everyone has the opportunity to take on their roles and develop a strategy based on their role's unique abilities.  This turns the game into quite the brain burner!  You can learn as much on other players' turns as you can on your turn.  So paying close attention to what everyone does is critical.  Did Seth just ask people to dance twice in a row?  Maybe he's the zombie.  Oh, no, Kevin is hunting for Dracula, maybe he's Van Helsing.  

Unmasked is really a great time that can be played over and over, and the roles become more nuanced the more you play.  Right now there are only nine roles, but the plan is to have more roles (there will be a few promo roles available with the Kickstarter), and even more themes in the Unmasked series (on the schedule are Monster's Ball and Night of the Mummy, plus you can get the Cthulhu and Friends expansion right now).  The artwork in Dracula's Feast is outstanding (very reminiscent of Edward Gorey's or Charles Addams' artwork), and I'd love to see what they do with more roles and new themes.  Also of note, the Kickstarter version of the game will also include colored tokens so you can remember who you already danced with.
The artwork is great!  Just as much fun as the game itself!

Unmasked: Dracula's Feast is definitely worth checking out if you like social games, but want something a little thinker.  I was afraid it would be too similar to the One Night games, but it turns out I actually prefer Unmasked: Dracula's Feast!  If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign.  You can get Unmasked: Dracula's Feast for only $9 (plus $5 US shipping or $10 worldwide), or get the game with the Cthulhu and Friends expansion, too for only $14 (plus the same shipping rates), starting on October 4, 2016.

Preliminary Rating: 8.5/10
This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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George Jaros is a board game player and designer from DeKalb, Illinois. He has loved board games for years and played all the classics when he was younger. He loved Civilization (the Avalon Hill version) back in highschool and college, and played tons of card games, board games, and more for most of his formative years. He didn't play games much after he got married and had kids, until 2014. Now his boys are old enough to play most games and he has found that tabletop games are a huge hit in his household. Their collection keeps growing and they keep playing. Over the last few years, he has been getting more and more engrossed in the gaming community and started GJJ Games to both showcase his own game designs and review others' games. He does a lot of Kickstarter previews, occasionally review published games, and has been adding more content to GJJ Games, like the People Behind the Meeples series of indie designer interviews, Eye on Kickstarter, and more. Find out more about George at http://georgejaros.com/GJJGames

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