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Undo: Blood in the Gutter Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Michael Palm, Lukas Zach
Artist: Lea Fröhlich, Lisa Lenz
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2–6 Players
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45-120 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

A man lies dead outside a nightclub holding a stuffed animal.  

In Undo: Blood in the Gutter, you with travel back in time to the early 1900s to stop a murder. You are an agent of the gods, so you can't simply appear at the right moment and slap the gun out of the murderer's hand. Instead, you will gently nudge the victim out of harm's way by influencing various situations throughout his life. In the end, all of the little nudges add up to success or failure as they all take effect at once. 

Ineffable wisdom dictates that you go into this without knowing anything about the person you're trying to help. You have to jump around a bit to figure out what's going on and make a lot of decisions based on quick deductions. A life hangs in the balance, so good luck!

Rules and Setup: <5 min
Undo doesn't come with a rule book. Instead, you will find two decks of cards, one tarot sized, the other tiny.

The first few cards of the large deck tell you how to set this up and play.

There are 13 clues and 13 story cards. They are laid out so their numbers are sequential. Set the four Magnifier cards, nine Time cards, and thirty-three Fate cards in easy reach of all players. The remaining large cards are Resolution cards. Put them back in the box as they will only be used at the end. Now, you are ready to play.

The rules are simple and stated clearly in the nine manual cards. Having no rulebook makes it easy to talk people into playing, but around card number four, they might feel they've been tricked.

Theme and Mechanics:

Every turn, you will return one of the nine Time cards to the box and flip over a Story (big) card of your choice. The card will show you a scene from the life of the victim and give you a chance to influence something someone does. There are always three options, each with a corresponding Fate card. Make your decision, then pull out the relevant fate card and place it above the Story card, showing the result. Some of your choices will make things better, some worse, and some will have no effect. When you run out of Time cards, add up all the fate results, and compare the total to the chart on the resolution card to see if he's still dead. If he is, try again.

The first round, you have to flip the green Story card, as it is the one that describes the murder you're trying to prevent.

It tells you where, when, and how the body was found. The backs of the other cards tell you when they happened in relation to the murder (how many days, minutes, or years before or after). Each also has a clue associated with it.

On your turn, you can return one of the four Magnifiers to the box to flip the clue of any revealed Story card. Some Clues are more helpful than others, but they all provide a hint as to which nudge would be most useful in that situation.

That's basically it. Each turn, discard Time to flip Story, read, discuss, discard Magnifier to read a Clue (optional), choose A, B, or C, reveal associated fate card, play passes.

I thought the story was well done. It's more human drama than gangster hijinks. I didn't care for the way they implemented the theme in the mechanics. Every fan of sci-fi has seen countless examples of tiny slip-ups leading to dystopian futures. Any minute change in a scene should cause a completely different story to play out. It seems monstrously irresponsible to just pop in at random times, stepping on butterflies and hoping for the best. Also, why can you only look at four clues? You're a freaking time traveler. What's the hurry? If you're an angel, shouldn't you already know the victim's story? Why can't we ask this guy's guardian angel for a quick debriefing? Maybe we're playing that angel. Are we fixing things because we stepped out for a snack and came back to find our guy dead? That would explain a lot. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the rules to imply it.   

I can't provide a lot of details without spoiling the story. It is more choose your own adventure than it is a strategy game, but the story is good, especially considering its brevity. We had fun discussing the details, how to use our magnifiers, and what times to visit. There will always be four Story cards and nine clues that don't get flipped. If you do poorly the first time, you may want to run through again choosing different scenes/fates to get more out of the story.

Artwork and Components:

The cards are of good quality. I can't show you the other side without spoiling surprises. They are simple but nice looking. There aren't any pictures.

The Good:

  • Fun, fast, light game for people who always wanted to be a time-traveling gumshoe.
  • Production quality is good.
  • Small box.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Quick to play.
  • The box says it plays 2-6, but it's cooperative, so it would probably play 1 just fine.
  • Undo is a series, so there are more stories to explore.

The Other:

  • Little replay value. I don't see many people playing this regularly, maybe once every couple of years with different groups. If you have big game nights with a lot of new people coming through, this could be a good one for the board-game-curious crowd. 
  • There are a few typos.
  • The cards look nice, but not impressive.

Final Thoughts:
Undo is a quick, cheap, deduction game that you can play with just about anybody. It's very social, perfect for a game library at a café or bar. If you're looking for an epic story with a lot of subplots and red herrings, this isn't that. I wasn't blown away, but I was entertained.

For Players Who Like:
T.I.M.E. Stories, Time Travel, Choose Your Own Destiny, Gangsters, Deduction.

Check out Blood In The Gutter on:


Stephen Gulik - Reviewer

Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.

See Stephen's reviews HERE.
Undo: Blood in the Gutter Review  Undo: Blood in the Gutter Review Reviewed by S T Gulik on August 16, 2019 Rating: 5

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