Review: 27th Passenger Hunt on Rails – a train full of killers
Train is overcrowded, it could almost burst. My senses feel similar and are stretched to the maximum. Somewhere among these people are others, who will try to kill me. But people behaving suspiciously in a moving train are no exception, and every civilian death means, that will die too. I have to weigh every step, every movement, every word. This is hardest test, I have ever gone through.
Exciting train journey awaits all players, who take box with the inscription 27th Passenger: A Hunt on Rails home. This is second game in order from Purple Games. It was designed by Christos Giannakoulas and Manolis Zachariadis, illustrations then by Manolis Frangidis. Their joint work was published in 2014 in time to be presented at the fair Spiel 2014 in Essen.
Inside the box with a portrait of mysterious figure, a train is waiting in New York City on double-sided game board. Drawn route goes through several stops. In the lower part, there is a place for dealt cards.
Basic element of gample are exactly these cards (total of 133). Of these, first in a series are passengers. Each one is represented by a character and its basic unique characteristics (appearance, smell and voice). Another 36 cards are actions and includes six pieces for each color, thereby enabling choosing actions in the game.
Moreover, there are cards of killer skills (16), but also disguise (18) and events (15). Box also contains pad with deduction pages. They offer space for notes and information, that players find during their journey. At the top is space for 27 passengers, who are riding on the train and combination of their properties combined into cross table. Downstairs, there is place for notes to directly identity rivals.
At the beginning of the game, players take board and put it in the center (with side matching number of players). Everyone picks up six action cards in color of his choice. To do this, players will also receive one identity (passenger card) initiative card, two abilities and sheet for notes. Event package should be ordered into groups according to color, shuffled and combine back into a larger deck. Number of these cards depends on number of participants in the game. But first card is always turned and players can see, what awaits them.
On the game board, players place several passenger cards into the first box. Their number is derived by numeral, that is listed above the first train station. Remaining decks (skills and costumes) are placed shuffled next to the board. Then, it is necessary to park train (round counter) into first station. At this moment, you may hit the road.
Each turn, every player plays one of his action cards and uses its options. But before really taking some actions, all have to play their action card secretly. Individual actions are then evaluated according to given order from investigation through machinations to deception. Each card has its order number printed, while three share number one. Order of evaluation, just as in the case of playing same action by multiple players, is decided by initiative dealt at start of every game.
First option is for all killers to investigate. This is the only way to learn important information about their opponents. Now is the time to pick up deck of properties. Player secretly chooses three cards belonging to property, that interests him and silently gives them to chosen opponent. He returns one card with a property, that corresponds to his character.
Enemy can resist this by using cards of disguises and furtive behavior (disposable card, which have to be discarded after use). But they must suspect attack on their character in advance, because for such a defense is intended action card titled deception and has to be played during secret planning.
Another option among action cards is scheming. Here come into play cards, that lie on the board. These cards represent passengers, who got off the train, and killer can strike them out of his list. That player gains advantage only for the time being. This corresponds to him literally watching train doors, when train stops and suspects get out. After three rounds, their identity emerges to anyone, because the cards are pushed out of the board and revealed. Afterwards, everyone will know, who is missing in the train. But machinations are not over yet, because player still has option to intimidate their fellow passengers and look at the top card of passenger drawing deck. He then discovers identity of one other passenger, who is yet to get out on the next stop and get even one more step ahead of others.
Result of all this is ability to kill a character, when player is confident of his identity. He speaks up deduced combination of features and in the case of correct identification, he can continue playing, while described character ends up dead. That player is eliminated. In the case of a murder of an innocent by mistake, referees are watching train and will not allow failed killer to continue. They end his life as well.
During whole competition, players also have option to twice break the rules a bit, thanks to capabilities, which are unique to their character. Game ends, when there remains only one of the participants inside the train and everyone else is dead. But train could also arrive at its destination with more surviving killers. In this case, players try to guess identity of opponents. Whenever is this round survived by more than one killer, game ends up by all players losing.
27th Passenger is a very interesting deduction game, in which players have more avenues to obtain information. Interesting to play is it mainly in area of direct confrontation, because speed means survival here. Who gives his secret identity away too soon, he is immediately eliminated from the game. Player elimination is often perceived as a negative in board games. And it is true also this time, because first player may be scrapped after only fifteen minutes. Possibility of murder however brings very important stress to the match.
Game is fun and with ease overcomes famous classic Cluedo. At the same time, however, it does not stop only by using classical mechanics of gradual tracks uncovering. It is essential to have more opportunities to acquire necessary information. You can watch passengers exit train, investigate others and discover their identity one after another. It depends on players, which option they choose.
Cards are the most interesting element, that brings a difficult choice into each turn. Players are also using their ability to defend themself against attacks by others, which will be used primarily towards the end of the game, when their cover is almost blown off.
Game can not be approached as a complex and intricate entertainment. 27th Passenger is relaxed fun, like the aforementioned Cluedo. Indeed, it targets at roughly same segment of customers and it definitely thrive in doing so. Whoever has fun with murder investigation, will definitely enjoy train journey with a one-way ticket.
If we watch game from family point of view, problem may be hidden in number of players. Everything starts to work well from a four player game, while it can be enjoyed best in maximum of six opponents. Just then, a true feeling of intrigue and deduction climbs to the best level.
27th Passenger is not a game for everyone. A lot of players can really take direct investigation as an opportunity to target only someone. But there is always an opportunity to defend themselves and, moreover, such aggressive player makes great target for others. It is therefore necessary to seek a balanced way to be the last survivor. And that is, why we usually travel among those 27 passengers.
Review: 27th Passenger Hunt on Rails – a train full of killers
27th Passenger is an interesting achievement in the field of deductive games. This time, we set in the footsteps of those simpler games, but as a bonus, we get several interesting features, that make the game a catchy experience. First and foremost, there is players elimination, that can be seen as the pros and cons simultaneously. It brings a lot to unprecedented tension, but at the same time, it can leave some participants sit and watch the game even for half an hour. In order to enjoy experience at its best, greater number of players is needed, which can be a problem for family games. Besides this criticisms, however, 27th Passenger is an interesting investigative game with plenty of options.