Mr. Jack in New York
Time: ~15 minutes
Times Played: 60+
Mr. Jack in New York is a standalone game in the Mr. Jack universe. Before playing this game (and after), we had zero experience with the rest of that universe so this review will also be standalone in its nature.
Right off the bat I want to mention that we greatly enjoy this game. This is a game that when brought out, results in a best of three or best of five situation between Rachel and myself.
Mr. Jack in New York is strictly a two-player game and utilizes logic and deduction, in addition to variable player powers.
The background is that in London 1888, Francis J. Tumblety is arrested on suspicion of being the notorious serial killer, ‘Jack the Ripper.’ He is freed on bail and immediately flees to the United States, settling in New York City in 1889. Starting in 1889, crimes are committed in the New York area that resemble those of ‘Jack the Ripper’ and the detectives are on the case to either rearrest Francis or find the copycat killer.
The game board depicts Manhattan Island and is very tight in its design. No one place is ever truly off-limits to either player. The game includes eight double-sided Character tokens. One side is labeled the Suspect side and one is labeled the Innocent side. Each token is adorned in its own color. Accompanying these tokens are eight Character cards that represent the different characters in the game. These cards include images of how each token moves and what their special power is. Lastly, there are eight Alibi cards, one for each character. This is the pile that is used to select the killer before the game and can be whittled down to see who is innocent throughout the game.
There are also double-sided tiles for Building locations and Parks, Metro stations and Parks, and Lamp posts and Parks. There are two Crime Scene tape tokens that can block areas on the map and two Transatlantic boats, which can be used to escape Manhattan. Lastly, there is a double-sided Informant token located on the Statue of Liberty space. The Informant is used to grant a player an Alibi card but is then flipped over to the mute side, as they have squealed.
The last included components are an hourglass token to denote what round it is and one Witness card, which has a Visible and an Invisible side regarding to the whereabouts to Mr. Jack.
Mr. Jack in New York has a static set-up so each and every game will begin the same. Characters that are adjacent to other players can see them, which makes them Visible. At the start of the game, six players are Visible and two are Invisible. Mr. Jack cannot escape on the first round of the game. This is due to the fact that the Witness card starts on the Visible side and Mr. Jack must be Invisible the turn before they escape.
Just because the game has a static set-up each game does not mean the board features a lack of customization. With each movement of a character, the board is constantly evolving and becomes very dynamic. No two games should look the same.
The rules are relatively easy to learn and the game play is simple to follow, but the decisions that each player is making is complex. It’s easy to know what you are doing; it’s the why that adds the intricacy.
I will say that the rulebook isn’t the greatest. The book itself is thicker than a milkshake but that’s because it includes all variations of several languages. I did not particularly care for the way the book was written (and that could be because of translation issues) but the few rules don’t make the rulebook as bad as say, first edition Robinson Crusoe.
Here’s a brief breakdown of what will be happening though:
Each round, four Characters cards are selected and revealed face up.
If it is an odd turn, the Detective will select which Character card they want to utilize first. Then Mr. Jack will select two Character cards in a row and the Detective will gain access to the remaining card. If it is an even turn, the order is reversed.
Once a Character card is selected, players will follow the movement and special abilities listed on the card (more in-depth analysis on these powers can be found lower).
After all four characters have been used, the Detective will Appeal for Witnesses. Mr. Jack has to reveal if they are Visible (adjacent to another character or street light) or Invisible (not adjacent to another character or in the park).
This continues for eight rounds with the Character cards being reshuffled every two turns. This helps, and hinders, players as they can plan and expect what cards will be available.
The game ends if one of the following conditions is met:
Mr. Jack leaves Manhattan – this results in a Mr. Jack victory;
Mr. Jack is arrested – this results in a Mr. Jack loss; and
The 8th and Final Round ends without one of the above two circumstances occurring – Mr. Jack wins (because lets face it, having a serial killer walk free is not good).
As mentioned, Mr. Jack in New York offers a whole host of characters with unique movements and special powers. Here are those people:
Moves one to three spaces OR may move another character one to three spaces instead. The character being moved has to have the same visibility status (Visible or Invisible) as Eastman at the moment they are activated. This activated character cannot use the Metro, cannot accuse another player, or use Cloud Rider’s ability to move across buildings. They can however use the ships and/or the Informant.
Moves one to three spaces. Before or after movement, Latimer must install a lamp post on a street hex adjacent to his token. That lamp cannot be adjacent to another lamp.
Moves one to three spaces. Before or after movement, Beach must install a Metro location on a street hex adjacent to his token. That Metro location cannot be adjacent to another Metro location.
Moves one to three spaces. When moving, buildings are not an obstacle to Rider (other players require two moves to venture through a building). Before or after movement, Rider must install a Building location on a street hex adjacent to her token. That Building location cannot be adjacent to another Building location.
Moves one to three spaces. Before or after movement, one of the ships must be moved.
Moves one to three spaces. Before of after movement, she must destroy an adjacent Building, Metro, or Lamp, turning it into a Park. While in a Park, players are invisible, even if located next to another player.
Moves one to three spaces. Before or after movement, he must move the police tape to another pair of hexes. They cannot be placed where a character already is.
Moves one to three spaces. Before or after movement, Tumblety may swap positions of an adjacent character with another player on the board.
Being Mr. Jack is much harder than being the New York Detective but it’s not a discouraging disadvantage. Some of our wins as Mr. Jack have been more because time has run out as opposed to escaping. If one player is more experienced than the other, I would recommend the more experienced play be Mr. Jack for the first playthrough or two.
This is a game where every action can impact your plans: the cards being revealed (or sometimes more importantly, not revealed), the moves of your opponent, and your moves. A player’s turn comes down to leaving themselves in the best space for future turns.
While the theme deals with one of the world’s most notorious serial killers, there is no actual killing or graphic content in this game. That could be a concern for some people and I just wanted to highlight that this is strictly about trying to catch the criminal, not about the crimes they committed. Also, the art for the game is very cartoon-esque so there’s never any real immersion into the mind of a killer.
We feel that the powers are well balanced and while some individuals have powers that seem much stronger than others (Eastman), repeated plays will allow those who you overlook to really shine (Grant). The randomness of who is Mr. Jack each game also forces players to become comfortable utilizing everyone’s special abilities, not to mention the randomness of which character cards are revealed each round. You can’t just rely on one or two characters to accomplish what you want.
This game will make you think. The cat-and-mouse aspect has you trying to find ways to out-think and outwit your opponents.
I would highly recommend trying out Mr. Jack in New York if this review hits any buttons for you. The game, at the time of this writing, appears readily available on most purchasing sites. Like Patchwork, I think this is an excellent game for couples if they like direct competition. Once you’re comfortable with this game, this is a ten to fifteen minute play-while-pasta-is-boiling game and like I mentioned earlier, this would be an excellent best-of-three game since both players would get to try both sides.