Whitehall Mystery

RRP: £39.99
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RRP £39.99
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October 1888: During the construction of the Metropolitan Police headquarters near Whitehall, which would later be known as Scotland Yard, the remains of a body were found. In September, a severed arm had already been discovered in the muddy shore of the River Thames.There is another murderer roaming the streets of London in Whitehall, amusing himself by spreading the pieces of a po…
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Awards

Dice Tower
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Simple concept - it’s a cat and mouse game
  • Simple rules – but supports big thinking
  • High player interaction – between detectives and in the very nature of the game

Might Not Like

  • Simple concept - it’s a cat and mouse game
  • High player interaction – one side will win because the other fails
  • Very occasionally too much luck
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Description

October 1888: During the construction of the Metropolitan Police headquarters near Whitehall, which would later be known as Scotland Yard, the remains of a body were found. In September, a severed arm had already been discovered in the muddy shore of the River Thames.
There is another murderer roaming the streets of London in Whitehall, amusing himself by spreading the pieces of a poor woman around Whitehall, like some kind of macabre treasure hunt. The identity of this monster and his unfortunate victim are a mystery, the Whitehall Mystery.
In Whitehall Mystery, one player controls the killer, and must emerge with a new game of cat-and-mouse as they plan to leave four more limbs in unknown locations throughout the city. The other players act as new Scotland Yard, and must reach beyond their precinct to assemble a new team of experts to hunt down the monster and bring him to justice.
Player Count: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
Age: 13+

 

Whitehall Mystery is an all vs one hidden movement game in which 1-3 detective players are pitted against a player in the role of Jack the Ripper. He will leave a trail of corpses strewn across Victorian London unless the detectives can apprehend him first.

This sort of game has a well established history: Ravensburg’s Scotland Yard shares plenty of similarities, as does Fury of Dracula. Letters From Whitechapel  is most directly comparable, given it’s by the same designers and also published by Fantasy Flight. So how does Whitehall Mystery play and why should you think about buying it as opposed to the alternatives?

Gameplay

Whitehall plays with 2-4, one player takes the role of Jack and the other(s) control three detectives in pursuit.

Before the game starts Jack will record the locations of the four grisly murders he intends to commit, scattered across London with one in each of the four quadrants of the period map which comprises the game board. The detectives then place their pieces on three locations from a small selection in the centre of the board. Finally, Jack places a clear red disc on the location on the board of the murder he has chosen as his first, which his also start location, and with that, the games afoot.

Jack’s piece never appears on the game board proper. Instead his turn involves recording his moves on a pad. Informed by the mini map printed on the inside of his hidden screen. Each turn he moves one spaces along a marked route. From one numbered location to an adjacent numbered location. Plotting a course towards his next choice of the remaining three numbered locations where he has planned to slaughter his innocent victims. He has 15 turns to make it to murder number two. Marked by his Jack figure on the publicly visible turn tracker. Then another 15 to make it to murder three and another 15 to make it to the final location. This will secure his victory if he can avoid apprehension. Every time he makes it to a murder spot he places another clear red disc on the board, revealing his progress and his location.

Credit to: Fantasy Flight Games

After Jack’s has played, each of the three detectives will get a chance to move and then either search for clues or attempt an arrest. They move across the board on a separate network of joined spaces, or ‘crossings’, which intersect Jack’s web of numbered spaces. They can each move up to two spaces. Once all have moved they then can either search the adjacent numbered locations for clues of Jack’s passage or choose one  numbered spaces to arrest Jack. Should he be there.

Clue searching involves asking Jack if he has passed through each spot one after another, if so it is marked by a clear yellow counter on the map and the questioning stops. Arrest involves picking a single adjacent numbered space and if Jack is there he is arrested and the detectives win. They can also win by hemming him into a location so he cannot move, as the detective pieces block his movement.

Both sides also possess special abilities. Jack has three pairs of cards that allow modified or enhanced movement. Such as the ability to cross water, and help him throw detectives off the scent. The detectives have four powers between the three of them which either affect movement or otherwise enhance their turn.

What’s it like to play?

This is an excellent game and is definitely my first choice for playing something in this genre. The main reason is it is lean and fast playing. The mechanics are elegant and effective in consistently serving up a nail biting experience for both sides. It rattles along at a energetic pace, playing maybe to an hour and often to far less.

Jack has the puzzle of pregame planning and then once the game starts he enjoys moments of feeling king of the hill. Running rings around the dunderheaded peelers. But then there are close scrapes. Tortuous decisions of whether and when to play a special movement card. Or even change tack and head for a different murder location from the order you originally had in mind. Ultimately there is either the elation of pulling the final job. Or, alternatively, a desperate scrabble to escape as the net draws tight around you.

For the police detectives the game starts by feeling like an impossibility. So little information and so much space it seems for Jack to roam free. And then you stop, pause and start to plan. You know where he starts. With a bit of thinking over the first few turns, you realise there are a finite number of places he can be. You may then start to steadily close the net around him. Taking a steady step by step approach until you have (hopefully) brought him to ground. Through perhaps instead you plan a couple of bold plays and take a risk on him having gone one way rather than another – a big gamble but on occasion a big payout too.

This game can work with gaming novices. The rules are simple and digestible but it will also play brilliantly with experienced Euro players. (As long as you don’t allow AP.) as the depth of strategy supports big thinking. It also plays splendidly with any player count. I have enjoyed head to head as much as one vs all. Balance is also great. I have seen quick wins for both sides and also nail biting finishes that come close to the maximum 60 turn count. The quicker games when the detectives win sometimes have a bit of luck about them, but then their speed draws the possible sting from this. On those occasions we have just played another game straight off the bat.

Production values and design are of high quality, as you would expect from a Fantasy Flight release.

All in all this is a great purchase that should get a lot of play from a varied audience. I play it in fits and starts. It comes out, gets a lot of play and then goes away for a few months. But it always come back out. It’s the quintessential cat and mouse game and a worthy addition to any collection.

whitehall mystery

 

Whitehall Mystery is the second game in the Whitehall series and follows from its predecessor Letters from Whitechapel. Whitehall Mystery captures the same theme whilst streamlining the gameplay and runtime. The force at Scotland Yard are caught in another cat and mouse as a new killer is running about London dropping body parts. It’s as gruesome as it sounds! Is this a copycat or is the infamous Jack back!

Copycat Jack

To begin, players must decide which person is going to take on the role of copycat Jack. Once this has been decided the player who is Jack takes the screen and hides their movement sheet behind it. The rest of the players will choose an investigator to control.

Throughout Whitehall Mystery, Jack must place a body part in each quadrant of the map. When placing a part, they must choose a number in a white circle. At the beginning of the game this player chooses 4 locations in which they will drop the body parts. These will be known as the discovery locations. The Jack counter is then placed on the 0 of the board’s movement track. Jack then collects the red and yellow tokens and the special movement cards.

The investigators then place their figures on one of the yellow bordered crossings. These are black squares with a yellow boarder.

The Hunt

Once the setup is complete the hunt begins. During Whitehall Mystery Jack will move along the numbered circle locations and the investigators will move between the black squares. This means they will never share the same space. Each turn Jack will have to move once whereas the investigators can move up to 2 times or stay still.

Jack will begin by placing a red token on the board. This will be known as the discovery marker and will show the investigators the location of the first body drop. After this, Jack will then get to move and escape into the night. Every time Jack moves, they must also move the Jack marker on the board’s movement track so the investigators can see how many moves they’ve taken. Jack cannot move through an investigator unless they use the coach ability. But more on that later.

Then, it is time for the investigators to hunt the monster. Going in order of rank the yellow investigator will move, then blue and finally red. Once all have moved, they will then be able to perform 2 actions, clue or arrest. By clueing they can ask if Jack has gone through a space this round. If Jack places a yellow token down, known as a clue marker, the investigator cannot clue any other spaces. The next investigator will then take their turn. It is worth noting that investigators cannot clue a space which is not adjacent to them. This means the numbered circle has to be connected to the line they are on and isn’t blocked by a black square.

Arresting allows the investigator to choose one space they are adjacent to and arrest. If Jack is on this space, they have successfully caught Jack and won the game. If he is not, then the investigator’s turn is over.

This process is then repeated. Jack will have up to 15 moves to try and get to their next drop off point. Once they get to their next discovery location, all clue markers will be removed, and Jack will place a new red token on the board. The investigators will then start the chase again.

If Jack cannot get to their next location in 15 moves, they lose the game, and the investigators win. For Jack to win they must drop all the body parts and escape into the night.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

To mix up gameplay in Whitehall Mystery, players can use abilities. Jack has 3 different abilities they can use each game. They have 2 coaches, 2 alleys and 2 boats. These special moves can only be used once per game. The coach allows Jack to move 2 circles instead of one and they can pass through investigators using them. Alleys can help you move across a block of houses. A block of houses is an area that is bounded by black dotted lines. Boats mean you can travel between 2 blue circles if they are in the same block of water. A block of water is one bounded by black dotted lines. These special abilities can help with clean getaways or hiding your scent. However, you cannot use one of these abilities to jump directly to your discovery location. You must always arrive at your discovery location via a normal movement.

Each time Jack uses a special ability they must declare them and put them next to the movement track on the board. If using the coach, they must move the Jack marker 2 spaces instead of one. If you want to make the game harder, Jack can declare these movements but face down, so you do not know which transportation they have used. Additionally, you can let Jack reclaim one Alley or Boat at the start of each round, but I would only recommend this if the investigators are finding it too easy.

Investigators also get special movements they can use once per game. The red character can use the alley ability, the blue can use a boat and the yellow can move any investigator to a crossing adjacent to him. This officer cannot move, execute an arrest or search for clues if moved. As an optional rule, the yellow investigator can also use Smoker. Smoker is a Spitzbergen dog that offers 2 abilities, although you can only use one per game. Smoker can help you move one extra crossing, but you cannot do any action after that. Alternatively, you can continue searching for clues even if you have found one that turn.

Letters From Whitechapel

If you have played a lot of Whitehall Mystery and you want to increase the challenge, you can add in components from its predecessor – Letters from Whitechapel. In this bigger version, Jack has access to false clues. If you have this version, you can incorporate that rule into Whitehall. For every 5 clues discovered each round, Jack gets a false clue. Once Jack has moved, they can place a number of false clues down on the board. These tokens mean investigators cannot execute an arrest or search for clues on this space for the remainder of the round. Jack cannot place these on their next discovery location.

Furthermore, if you own the expansion Whitechapel Dear Boss, you can incorporate the Green and Brown investigator into Whitehall and switch them with yellow, blue or red. These characters come with different perks you can use once per game. The Green investigator lets you execute an arrest on all adjacent circles. Whereas the Brown investigator can call out any white numbered circle, if this circle is a discovery location, Jack is yet to reach, the investigators win the game.

And that is how you play the Whitehall Mystery! Best of luck out there. Will you catch the killer or will you outfox them all and escape into the night.

Set in 1888, Scotland Yard’s new recruits have a tough case on their hands. Based on the real-life Whitehall mystery, there is a copycat Jack on the loose dropping body parts around London. Can investigators follow the trail and catch Jack before they disappear into the night.

Setup

To begin, players in Whitehall Mystery must decide which person is going to take on the role of copycat Jack. Once this has been decided the player who is Jack takes the screen and hides their movement sheet behind it. The rest of the players will choose an investigator to control.

Throughout the game, Jack must place a body part in each quadrant of the map. When placing a part, they must choose a number in a white circle. At the beginning of the game this player chooses 4 locations in which they will drop the body parts. These will be known as the discovery locations and Jack can visit these in any order. The Jack counter is then placed on the 0 of the board’s movement track. Jack then collects the red and yellow tokens and the special movement cards. These include carriages, alleyways, and boats.

The investigators then place their figures on one of the yellow bordered crossings. These are black squares with a yellow boarder.

Jack then drops a red marker on their first discovery location and moves. They will have 15 moves to make their way to the next drop point. If they manage to drop all parts successfully, they win the game. If they run out of moves or get arrested the investigators will win.

The Hunt Is On

Over 3 Whitehall Mystery rounds, Jack will have to navigate their way around the map to make it to 3 discovery locations. They must survive a round of cluing and arresting before they can make their drop. This sounds easy, but after each drop you narrow down where you will be heading next which shrinks the board. When it comes to the final drop, the investigators know which area you will be going to and can surround it. This makes slipping through the gaps challenging and tense!

As an investigator, it is exciting when you finally catch a clue and start to pick up where Jack has been. Yet, it’s easy to second guess yourself and move out of formation on a whim that Jack may have tried to flank you. Most of the time, Jack is stood in front of you hoping you don’t arrest them on a last-minute hunch. This role works well with one person playing the investigators and with 3 people controlling them individually. When you play this role with others, it is fun to bounce theories off one another and strategise.

The way the game balances gameplay for both parties is satisfying. However, it is hard to be Jack in this game. Due to the small board, there aren’t many places to go where the investigators cannot easily follow. You have to use your abilities wisely and try not use them up too quickly. If you drop a body part close to an investigator, and you don’t have carriage, it makes escaping near impossible as the investigators can close in quickly for the arrest. I have yet to see Jack win this game.

Final Thoughts

Whitehall Mystery is a great deduction game for 2-4 players. One player plays Jack, and the rest must try and deduce where they are and catch them. It’s a great setup for cat and mouse gameplay with palpable tension throughout! Unlike its predecessor, Letters to Whitechapel, this game is streamlined which makes it punchier. The setup is quick and the rules easy to teach. Also, the chase is quicker which means you can polish a game off in about 80 minutes at a push. A few new abilities help scale difficulty, and you can add in elements of the first game to help Jack out. You get the same hide and seek feeling that you do with Whitechapel with half the runtime and setup.

The theme may be a bit grizzly, and the developers haven’t shied away from this. The detectives are based on those from the unsolved case and the testimonies from it can be found throughout the rulebook. The board is less bloody than the original so could be seen as more child friendly.

Despite building on Whitechapel, Whitehall does have some shortcomings of its own. This game only caters up to 4 rather than 6 and it doesn’t offer as many unique elements which make Whitechapel so dynamic and tactful. Whitehall, at times, can seem a bit skin deep as there are only so many things you can mix up before you feel like you’ve tried everything.

Overall, this game is perfect for those that want a quick, heart pounding deduction game. It’s easy to play, setup, and delivers a great chase as one player tries to outmanoeuvre the others in any way possible. Even if you have Whitechapel sat on your shelf, Whitehall has a place as it offers a similar experience in a smaller package which is great for when you don’t have hours to game or for holidays. This is a well-produced game which will have you biting your nails to the wick as you try to catch Jack, or as you barely make your escape.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Simple concept - its a cat and mouse game
  • Simple rules but supports big thinking
  • High player interaction between detectives and in the very nature of the game

Might not like

  • Simple concept - its a cat and mouse game
  • High player interaction one side will win because the other fails
  • Very occasionally too much luck