Quick Look: Hunt a Killer: Camp Calamity
Designer: K.C. Chaney
Publisher: Hunt a Killer
Year Published: 2021
When the staff of Camp Ashburne find a counselor’s charred remains in the embers of last night’s bonfire, the authorities are quick to rule it an unfortunate accident. However, one of the counselors discovers new evidence that suggests it was something much more sinister. Something dangerous is being cooked up at Camp Ashburne, and only you can solve this burning case! Do you have what it takes?
In this all-in-one box, you’ll review suspects’ statements and comb through evidence to determine the means, motives, and opportunities of each suspect.
Solve puzzles that will test your critical thinking, powers of deduction, and code cracking skills.
Use your cunning to unlock new evidence by discovering hidden messages that progress you through a gripping murder mystery where nothing is as it seems.
Difficulty: 4/5 – Medium
I enjoy a good mystery. These days it is hard to find a good mystery that isn’t easy to figure out fairly quickly or before the reveal. The Hunt a Killer line of mystery games intrigued me. They seemed a little like an escape room in a box, so I was delighted when I opened the box and found it was going to be more of a murder mystery requiring sleuthing skills. I was immediately impressed with the attention to detail of what was included in the box; pieces of paper were not all uniform (because who has all uniform paper), the handwriting was different for the different people involved, and the props were real-world items, not just pictures or descriptions. I was even more surprised to find a website is involved in the game, and the company did an excellent job of making it look fairly real.
Without providing any spoilers, the information in the box includes a letter from the person asking you to investigate the incident, a collection of information/clues from the camp bulletin board, and a collection of information/clues from the belongings of the victim. The website provides further information and assistance with solving the mystery. The presented information provides a very good story and feels like you are really searching for clues. I really enjoyed working through the puzzles and discovering new information, and although I played this solo, playing with a group of friends could be very enjoyable. As a murder mystery, I think Hunt a Killer’s Camp Calamity delivered.
Rules & Setup:
There is no real rulebook or setup for this game; in fact, opening the box drops you right into the game/mystery. The only real setup you have is to go through all of the provided information. You choose whether to go through all of it before beginning the hunt, or just let the information unfold as you go through the hunt.
Theme and Mechanics:
One of the counselors at Camp Calamity has died. The police have ruled it an accident, but the daughter of the camp owner, and a counselor herself, doesn’t believe it was an accident and is asking you to look into the death.
Presented in true mystery fashion, you are given a set of clues, that lead you to other clues, and more clues, and hopefully to a successful conclusion.
Camp Calamity does not take place in the form of turns or rounds, the game is a real-time hunt for a killer. The game is not linear, and not all clue paths lead to a conclusion you were expecting or the conclusion of the game. The game gives you a myriad of information and clues which you need to synthesize and decide how they impact your assumptions and conclusions. Since it is a murder mystery, I can’t give too much of a description of the gameplay without also providing spoilers. You could say the game is over once you have discovered if there is a killer, but since the game is designed in a non-linear fashion, you can continue playing until you feel you have discovered everything. There is a feedback mechanism in the game that will let you know if you have guessed correct on somethings, or provide direction if you have not.
What is done well:
The game presentation is impressive. The game includes information in a form that looks real. The game also includes actual props (a fabric neckerchief, a rock arrowhead, real playing cards, and a lighter [plastic due to legal issues]). The associated website includes real photos that look like a real summer camp. There are also audio files that are very well done.
The game provides an immersive experience from the start, and kept me engaged throughout the game. I like murder mysteries and the game did not disappoint. The game will test your sleuthing skills and ability to synergize information (attention to detail always helps).
What some may find issue with:
The game is like a legacy game, you will only be able to truly play it once. You make modifications to some of the game pieces, so you couldn’t finish the game and then hand it over to friends to play.
Some of the puzzles are not truly intuitive, and truthfully I had to use their hint system to make the logical leap they were making a couple of times. With more players playing this might not be an issue as each would bring a different perspective to the information and clues.
I was a little skeptical when asked to review a murder mystery game. Too many of the mystery games/escape rooms are linear and it is fairly easy to move from one clue/puzzle to the next. Some take the opposite tack and make the puzzles so hard you need to be a member of Mensa or have an advanced degree to solve the puzzles. It is hard to get such games right. So, although I can’t say Hunt a Killer got everything right, I was pleasantly surprised by the game. It has the right amount of mystery, world building, story flexibility, and puzzle sequencing to make it an enjoyable time. Anyone who enjoys deductive reasoning, crime scene investigation, sleuthing, or a good mystery will enjoy playing this game, or potentially any of the Hunt a Killer games.
Players Who Like: Mysteries and Sleuthing, Escape Rooms, Realistic Game Play, or Asymmetric and/or Cooperative game play
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I grew up loving to solve puzzles, play games, and have fun. In my younger years I had fun playing pencil games, enjoyed the creativity of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and generally hanging out with others. My favorite thing to do was to make puzzles of all kinds, mazes, word games, picture games, etc.
Sadly my career took me in a different direction, solving computer problems rather than gaming problems.
Gaming came back into my life, though, in a big way about 15 years ago, and I have held onto it since. I still enjoy designing games and have 9 published titles, which I did through my own game publishing company, Toresh Games, prior to the Covid pandemic. Sadly I was not able to sustain the company through the pandemic.
I highly encourage people to play games, make friends, and have fun. As a game enthusiast, I would love to see a return to games as the best social media platform for the masses.
All of Thomas Shepherd’s reviews can be found HERE.