PuzzleNation Reviews: Get Lucky and Kill Doctor Lucky

For as long as Cheapass Games has been around, they’ve been synonymous with the character Dr. Lucky. More specifically, the many, MANY times players have tried to help Dr. Lucky shuffle off the mortal coil, since the very first game produced by Cheapass Games was the award-winning Kill Doctor Lucky.

Although years have passed and rules have changed, people are still trying to kill that oddly fortunate fellow, and today, we review two puzzly games that will give you ample opportunity to try your luck at a touch of murder at Lucky Mansion.

In the Get Lucky card game, an adaptation of the original board game, two and six players are pitted against each other at a most peculiar dinner party. (The fact that everyone is trying to dispatch the host is what makes it so peculiar.)

Each player has two characters to work with. In each round, you have the choice of drawing a card, playing a card, swapping a character, or trying to kill Dr. Lucky. Drawing cards gives you the chance to acquire weapons, motives, or opportunities, all in the hopes better equipping you to commit the perfect crime.

Each card has a score that links up with one of the game’s fifteen characters. So if you’re playing Winstead Beadle (who has the number 5 on his card), any motive, weapon, or opportunity card with a 5 on it is doubly valuable to you, making it more likely that your attempt to kill Dr. Lucky will succeed!

As Dr. Lucky circulates among the various guests, you and your fellow players will continuously try to take his life, like Wile E. Coyote pursuing the Road Runner over and over again. The other players may thwart your efforts by sacrificing cards to foil your murder attempt.

This balance of active and defensive play creates a game of both strategy and opportunity, making it a terrific step up from deductive games like Clue. And the game is designed to be played in 20 minutes,

Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit more involved, you’re welcome to give the Deluxe Anniversary Edition of Kill Doctor Lucky a try.

Now, as you might expect, there are similarities between the card game Get Lucky and the board game Kill Doctor Lucky. The goal, for instance, is the same.

But in Kill Doctor Lucky, murder is a private matter. You have to eliminate Dr. Lucky without any player in sight. Another player can’t be in the same room as you and the doctor when you make your attempt, and being able to observe the murder from another room also foils your attempt. (There are even variant rules that allow for Dr. Lucky’s dog or cat to impact gameplay.) The beautiful fold-out game board really helps bring this mechanic to life.

Each turn, you can move and you can act. Moving is simply traveling throughout Lucky Mansion, whereas acting either involves drawing cards OR attempting to kill Doctor Lucky.

There are move cards (which make it easier to traverse the mansion), weapon cards (which make your murder attempts deadlier), and failure cards (which come in handy when you’re trying to prevent other players from killing Dr. Lucky before you do).

To make things even more challenging, Doctor Lucky moves after every turn, so you have to factor that into your strategy. (Some players stay where they are, allowing the good doctor to come directly to them.)

Kill Doctor Lucky builds on the streamlined rules of the card game, offering many more options for places to encounter the Doctor, greater challenge in offing the doctor, and deeper strategy in isolating Dr. Lucky and keeping lookyloos away. Plus, each failed attempt to kill him can help you later on, providing additional “reasons” for wanting the doc dead.

And in terms of presentation, the artwork is topnotch, adding so much to the ambiance and style of the game. It feels like an old-timey murder mystery full of colorful characters, except one where the murder hasn’t happened yet.

In both games, terrific gameplay is enhanced by hilarious cards (complete with snarky world-building and outrageous asides) that are all too appropriate for the macabre task at hand. Get Lucky and Kill Doctor Lucky are terrific ways to add a subversive bit of fun to your game night.

[Get Lucky is available through the Cheapass Games website and on Amazon.com. Kill Doctor Lucky is also available through the Cheapass Games website and on Amazon.com.]


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Kickstarter Round-up!

International TableTop Day is this Saturday, a day where we celebrate getting together with family and friends to play games! Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles…anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

But we simply can’t wait until Saturday — plus the office is closed that day — so we’re hosting our PuzzleNation’s TableTop Day event in-house TODAY! And I figured what better day could there be for a round-up of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns marking some of the newest and most intriguing projects in the puzzle-game industry today!

I’ve covered various campaigns for board games, card games, and puzzle projects across the Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms over the years, and today I’d like to share three more that could use your attention.

The first is the strategy game Tak.

Tak is a collaboration between game designer James Ernest, head honcho of Cheapass Games and Hip Pocket Games, and author Patrick Rothfuss, creator of the Kingkiller Chronicle series, to bring to life a game featured in Rothfuss’s novel The Wise Man’s Fear.

The premise sounds simple: build a road of pieces connecting opposite sides of the board. By using some pieces as parts of your road and others as walls to block your opponent, this mix of chess, Stratego, and Go is all about strategy. Plus, the game is adaptable, playable on square boards as small as 3×3 and as large as 8×8.

This is a new pub game that feels like a timeless classic, and it looks perfect for puzzlers of all ages.

Now let’s move from the pub to outer space with another Kickstarter campaign, Avoid the Void.

This is a different sort of strategy game, since it’s all about outlasting your opponents, not completing a task first. In Avoid the Void, whole sectors of space are being replaced with black holes, and everyone is scrambling to gather resources and elude these hungry death traps.

You’ve got an ever-changing gameboard, intriguing alien races (including one resembling a piece of cake), and all the reason in the world to deceive, outmaneuver, and betray your fellow players, just so you can stay in the universe a little while longer.

This is a game designed for replayability, allowing you to indulge in all of the diabolical selfishness of games like Monopoly, but without the huge time commitment. After all, the universe is collapsing and there’s no time to waste!

And speaking of replayability, the makers of this last Kickstarter campaign are known for puzzle games with high replay factor. Let’s talk about Pyramid Arcade from Looney Labs.

We normally talk about Looney Labs card games like Fluxx or Loonacy, but their original product line revolved around the Looney Pyramids system: various games you can play with their signature colored pyramids.

Now, they’re launching Pyramid Arcade, covering TWENTY-TWO different games and encompassing 90 pyramids of various colors. It’s their largest release ever, and with all the variants and mini-games they’ve created for these game pieces over the years, this promises to be a game set with endless possibilities.

Pattern-matching games, chess- and Tic-Tac-Toe-inspired games, bluffing games, strategy games, and even a tower-building game…Pyramid Arcade literally has something for everyone.


These are three intriguing and very worthy projects, and I hope you contribute to one or more of them. As someone who has become a regular donor to various Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I am proud to have funded some marvelous new ideas and watched them take shape over the months that followed.

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Kickstart Halloween edition!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’m returning to the subject of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns!

Two weeks ago, I spread the word about several puzzly Kickstarter campaigns that I thought might interest my fellow PuzzleNationers!

But with Halloween fast approaching, two more campaigns with a more humorously macabre style caught my eye.

The first is Kill Doctor Lucky, by our friends at Cheapass Games.

In this relaunch of the original board game, players compete to dispatch Doctor Lucky before the other competitors, but to do so, you must sneak around Lucky Mansion, acquiring weapons and securing a solid hiding place.

You see, not only are your fellow players conspiring to ruin your plans, but Doctor Lucky is surprisingly difficult to kill. (They don’t call him Doctor Lucky for nothing, after all!)

This is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek take on whodunit games like Clue, and 19 years of playtesting since the original release have resulted in tighter rules, more flexible gameplay, and a wickedly fun puzzle experience.

And Kill Doctor Lucky has already blasted past its initial goal, so if you support it, you’re guaranteed to get the game!

The second game is Don’t Die, the card game where death isn’t the end of the world, it’s just inconvenient.

Players in Don’t Die take turns pulling from a deck of hazard cards that could easily kill them, and try to avoid dying by passing cards to the other players or rolling the dice to escape that particular demise.

The game is over when one player has died ten times, and whichever “surviving” player has the fewest deaths is the winner!

I am a huge fan of games that play with established conventions, and a game where dying is just part of the play experience is a terrific twist. (It reminds me a bit of Gloom that way, both in some of its mechanics and in its lighthearted take on a grim subject.)

Don’t Die is more than a third of the way toward being funded, so it could definitely use your support.

Both of these games look like great fun, and represent the board game and card game crowdfunding renaissance we’re experiencing right now. I highly recommend taking a little time to surf the puzzle and game pages of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, because you never know what terrific and unexpected products you might help bring to life.


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Indie 500, Titan Series, and 100 Games updates!

Today’s blog post is all about what’s going on in the world of puzzles and games, and let me tell you, some awesome exciting things are afoot for puzzlers in the days ahead!

First off, The Indie 500 crossword tournament is this weekend!

There are only a few days left to sign up for this new puzzle tournament spearheaded by constructors Erik Agard, Peter Broda, Neville Fogarty, Andy KravisEvan Birnholz, and Finn Vigeland. And if you can’t make it to Washington, D.C., this weekend, don’t fret! For just $10, you can participate from home, receiving the puzzles by mail or email. (There are even bonus puzzles being offered, and you name your own price!)

You better believe I’ve already signed up for both sets of puzzles. I can’t wait to see what the Indie 500 crew has in store for its inaugural event.

Secondly, there are only a few days left to contribute to the incredibly ambitious Titan Series Kickstarter campaign. A three-year, nine-game program masterminded by the folks at Calliope Games, the Titan Series involves some of the top names in the field of board games and card games, including James Ernest, Paul Peterson, Zach and Jordan Weisman, and Eric Lang.

Congratulations are already in order, as the campaign passed its initial funding goal of $135,000 (!!!), and is now pursuing additional games as stretch goals! Although the entire lineup of games created for the Titan Series won’t be completed until 2018, there will be plenty to talk about in the months ahead.

Finally, you may recall the video I posted above, featuring a forum hosted by game creator and puzzler Mike Selinker (mastermind of The Maze of Games and member of the aforementioned Titan Series team of designers).

In the video, Mike listed the 100 Games You Absolutely, Positively Must Know How to Play. Spanning card games, board games, video games, and roleplaying games, it’s an impressive list, to be sure.

And Amber Cook has accepted Mike Selinker’s challenge. She’s launched a blog called The 100 Games Project, and she intends to tackle all one hundred games on the list!

As a member of the Looney Labs team, Amber has contributed to some terrific games herself, so I’m looking forward to reading her thoughts as she experiences all sorts of new games and puzzly challenges.

With so much going on in the world of puzzles and games, it’s hard to keep up, but immensely worthwhile.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Kickstarter Round-up edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’m returning to the subject of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns!

I’ve covered various campaigns for board games, card games, and puzzle projects across the Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms over the years, and today I’d like to share three more that could use your attention.

The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Culturally timely clues and entries are a hallmark of this marvelous variation on his long-running Fireball Crosswords brand, and Gordon has a knack for melding flowing grid design with sharp, topical entry words.

He’s in the home stretch (only hours left in the campaign!) and Gordon’s history of topnotch puzzles is all the incentive you need to contribute.

But he’s not the only puzzler going straight to the puzzle audience with a new collection.

Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley has a new collection of Marching Bands puzzles, and he’s offering a great deal! Twenty-six Marching Bands puzzles. Talk about value!

The last Kickstarter I want to highlight today comes from the board game end of the spectrum.

The folks at Calliope Games — responsible for Tsuro, one of my new favorites from the last year — have masterminded a three-year, nine-game program with some of the top names in the field, and they want your help bringing the Titan Series to fruition.


These are three intriguing and very worthy projects, and I hope you contribute to one or more of them. As someone who has become a regular donor to various Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I am proud to have funded some marvelous new ideas and watched them take shape over the months that followed.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Puzzle Day Kickstarter Round-up!

Happy (Inter)National Puzzle Day, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

As I explained on Tuesday, today is a day dedicated to all things puzzly, and lots of puzzlers are joining the celebration!

For instance, our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles are running a timed Word Seek challenge and encouraging solvers to share pics of themselves doing the challenge on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #PDPPuzzleDayChallenge!

And, in the spirit of the day, I thought I’d do a crowdfunding round-up of some of the interesting puzzly projects on Kickstarter right now.

First off, I want to talk about Unspeakable Words, a Scrabble-style word-building game with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft.

The game went out of print a while ago, and remaining copies have been in high demand since the game was featured on Wil Wheaton’s board game webseries TableTop. The goal is to print a deluxe version of the game (originally allowing for seven players instead of six, but with several stretch goals reached, they’ve expanded to eight!), with additional stretch goals allowing for better game components.

Now, this is already a Kickstarter success story, because the game funded the first day, so you’re guaranteed to see a finished game before it hits stores.

For a taste of something different, Facets is a wood-and-magnets constructing puzzle toy that allows you to make various shapes based on the Platonic solids. Whether you’re interested in 3-D geometry or just like wooden building toys with a twist, Facets is right up your alley.

Facets has just crossed its funding goal with less than two weeks to go, and it looks like this might be the start of the next generation of Tinker Toys-style constructing toys.

Now, there are a LOT of other campaigns I could mention, like the small 3-D printed puzzle ship (pictured above) or this campaign to make the fake game Cones of Dunshire from NBC’s Parks and Recreation a real Settlers of Catan-style game, but I want to focus on one campaign that’s using puzzles to spread a deeper message.

Alyssa’s Puzzle Project is the brainchild of a young lady named Alyssa who is 12 years old and wants to educate the world — and her fellow students — about the dangers of moral and governmental corruption. So she’s created an awareness-building activity around a jigsaw puzzle, designed for classrooms and students to assemble together. It’s symbolic group problem-solving to raise awareness and spark conversation.

You can read more about Alyssa’s project and her ambitious goals here.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the phenomenal success of Exploding Kittens, a strategy card game that launched with a goal of $10,000 and has raised over 4 MILLION dollars in its first eight days.

It is now the most backed Kickstarter campaign in history, with more than 100,000 backers, and the sky truly appears to be the limit for this card game based on art from The Oatmeal.

I’ve been watching and funding Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns for a few years now, and I (and the rest of the world) have never seen anything like it.

Did I miss any puzzly Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns you’ve seen launched recently, fellow puzzlers? Let me know!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!