We’ve all done it haven’t we? Got up, got ready for work and somehow knocked over a bank and ended up on trial for our freedom, with 12 of our peers our only real hope. Well Guy has, and his fate is hanging in the balance.
Voices In My Head is an interesting and pretty innovative game from Unexpected Games, that sees one player taking on the role of the prosecutor in Guy’s trial, and other players becoming personas that are all jostling to make themselves heard and (hopefully) do the right thing. Think of it kind of like Disney’s Inside Out – just don’t get too angry!
This is a fun game, though if someone said to you it was a lot of mechanisms thrown together into one thing, that’d be fair. But that doesn’t get in the way of fun right?
The board is quite the centrepiece itself – largely being a big picture of Guy’s head, with spaces for the key elements of his make up that affect how he’ll react and respond throughout the case – speech, instinct, observation and motor skills, with a fifth and final ‘planning’ part of his brain.
You’ll affix five transparent platforms to the board, and secure a larger brain shaped one in the middle. This is fun from the off I think and I’ve certainly not played anything else that gives off this feel from the beginning.
You’ll deal out role cards based on the number of players, with the prosecutor taking a D&D style games master screen to hide the trial deck behind. Every other player keeps their persona (and with it, their individual win condition) secret and takes a player aid, eight control markers and a player token. The control markers have different numeric values (between 1 and 3) and for advanced play, some effect symbols. Everyone except the prosecutor is also dealt two strategy cards.
Create a pile of double sided guilty/innocent tokens and place all the influence tokens face down in another pool. Finally, the prosecutor will choose one of four Trial Start cards and introduce the scenario to everyone. This will include placing some initial tokens on the six pairs of jurors who occupy the rest of the board space. Then, you’re pretty much ready to go.
Wait, What’s Going On?
A very fair question. One of the things I like about Voices In My Head is that this isn’t a one-versus-many or only-one-winner type of game. There can (and will be) multiple winners for any game you play. The game is played over eight rounds, where the prosecutor will reveal elements of the trial that personas react to and influence how Guy appears to the jury.
The prosecutor wants a majority guilty verdict – that’s an open bit of information, and logically makes sense. Your individual persona may want to have a tied or majority innocent jury, or perhaps wants to have a certain number of jurors left on the fence, whilst you finish the game with control of certain aspects on the board. Or maybe you think he did it too and you’re very much working with the prosecution.
The way this plays out in practice is that when the next step of the trial is chosen by the prosecution, part of the card is revealed just to show which areas of Guy’s brain are likely to be affected (e.g. Speech and Instinct).
There then follows a sort of area control/dexterity element where all players (including the prosecutor) will push a token from the brain platform onto one of the smaller, transparent platforms in Guy’s mind. As these all have different values, whoever has the highest total value of their tokens on a platform will get to make a decision and/or take an action that affects how the case progresses. The prosecutor tokens have no value, but are there just to disrupt the game.
At first, it feels a little out of place in a game that does have a moderately serious undertone to it. But the more I played it, the more it felt like it was a good representation of the struggle of conscience, with different, competing thoughts being pushed into our brains and seeing us wrestling with the right choice to make. I don’t know how intentional that is, but for me at least, what could almost be dismissed as something out of place, or more befitting of a large player count party game, actually felt really well tied in to the theme of the game itself.
Powers Of Persuasion
After everyone’s thoughts have mashed their way into Guy’s mind, if your persona has control of the relevant area, you’ll get to do something. There’s usually either a choice to make (did Guy do A or B?) or you’ll get to place, remove or manipulate tokens on the jury spaces to affect which way they’re leaning. Some cards also give the prosecutor actions – usually piling the thoughts of guilt into jury’s heads.
The A or B choices have different outcomes, but if you’re looking for an innocent verdict, it’s usually pretty obvious what you need to do to move things in your favour. The storytelling is nice, and is oddly cooperative in that the prosecutor is choosing the scenario card each turn, but the outcome is really affected by the other players and their own self-interest.
There are X factor moments too, as strategy cards can allow you to do something a little out of the blue, such as move an opponent’s token from a space, redeploy your own tokens or even add influence to the jury. These can be neat, and all have some nice art and a bit of a thematic backstory to them, but they can also feel like they’re shaking the game up at random.
Guilty Or Not Guilty?
The game plays over eight rounds, with the first four being the case for the prosecution being laid out, and Guy’s reactions and behaviours affecting the sentiment of his peers. After round four, the trial deck is swapped out for a phase two set of cards that represent Guy being on the stand and giving evidence in his own defence, though the token/area control/action steps don’t change – the story just feels like it’s moved on in a different way.
There are some pretty big ‘gimmes’ in terms of what happened – Guy has an option to say he’s “trying on his own gloves” that were found at the crime scene on one card, and there are various other not-so-subtle suggestions that he actually did it, but it’s everyone for themselves here!
The game ends after the eighth round. All influence tokens are turned face up and placed on either the innocent or guilty spaces, with any ‘undecideds’ just discarded. You them remove pairs of innocent/guilty tokens from each set of jurors until there’s either one type of token left, or there’s nothing left. The majority of tokens indicates a guilty/innocent verdict, and nothing left indicates they were undecided. You then compare the final deliberations of the jury to each player’s win condition to see who’s won.
Have You Come To A Decision?
So I liked it a lot. It felt innovative to play, it’s not overly complicated to follow along with or to learn, and it’s a bit of silly fun. It does feel like a few ideas have been thrown together and Voices In My Head is what’s come to fruition, but I maintain that isn’t a bad thing. Not every game has to be Gloomhaven or Scythe or Brass Birmingham. Games can be a bit silly, have a few quirky elements to them, feel a little rough in places and still be fun to sit down and play – I think that’s always worth restating.
Player order can have an effect. We played a game where two of us would have won, but in my quest to acquit Guy I took control of one part of his brain at the death which invalidated someone else’s win condition. It’s easier to plan if you’re going last, but regardless of how many you play with, everyone will be on the end of it at some point.
A game we played with my daughter ended up with her feeling that there’d been a miscarriage of justice as Guy walked free when “he’d obviously done it!”, but I think anyone who’s been pipped to the winning post is going to feel the same.
I’d say if you like games that offer something even just a little different from the norm, you should really take a good look at Voices In My Head because there’s fun in there for everyone.