Tragedy Looper from ZMan, last of the Halloween games review

One last horror game for this season: a run-through of Tragedy Looper.

Mid Game
Mid Game

A fairly unique puzzle/deduction game that pits the 3 players against a single GM-like “mastermind”. The mastermind needs to bring about a calamitous event of some sort, the nature of which is written down in that particular scenario. The players need figure out what the roles of all the NPCs are in this scenario then prevent the disaster from occurring.

There’s two hooks to the game: first, the heroes don’t know what the disaster is. Just that it will happen. They also don’t know what roles are in play. Their power is in the second hook: they can rewind time in order to try the scenario over again up to a certain number of times (4-ish). This lets them experiment with things like “Did the murder happen the Office Worker was left alone with the Patient? Ok, that narrows down what’s going on to these possible scenarios…”

A sample Tragedy Looper board state
A sample Tragedy Looper board state after the mastermind played 3 cards

The actual gameplay is done by playing cards face down. The mastermind plays 3, then each player plays 1 (without consulting with each other). Each card either moves an NPC or alters the number of tokens on them. The tokens then let players activate their powers, or in case of negative tokens, bring out about disasters and “incidents”.

It’s a genuinely good game, if very stressful to run as a mastermind as you need to strike a very good balance between bluffing enough to trick the players into guessing wrong solutions, and playing aggressively enough that you don’t let them win by default.

Also, while the players need to be able to deduce the nature of roles from what’s happening on the board, the mastermind needs to make sure that he or she never makes a single mistake with the rules. A single screw up like forgetting an mandatory behavior for an NPC with an offbeat role would make the game logically unsolvable for the players. No pressure.

Here’s, incidentally, what the player notes looked like for the three protagonists in our game:

The player notes
The player notes

They successfully stopped the cult and kept the doctor from dying in both the attack on the hospital, and at the hands of a paranoid patient.

So Halloween is finished and I suppose this means we should put away our horror themes and move to our autumn / harvest games. Village I suppose? We sorta hate Agricola here.


old photo by Angelica, circa 2011. just me and my fur chicken, from a game of Android with Lex, Corey, and Shawna

Android, with Loki
Android, with Loki