Mr. Jack

March 5, 2009

A strategy/deduction game for 2 players, Mr. Jack is designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc and recommended for ages 9 and up.  Plays in about 30 minutes, published by Hurrican/Asmodee. 


(images courtesy of www.asmodee.com)


In Mr. Jack, one person takes on the role of that dastardly and iconic villain, Jack the Ripper.  In opposition stands the other player who assumes the mantle of the detectives who are tracking down the killer.  The Jack player chooses one Alibi card  randomly from the 8 possible characters, determining his identity for the game.  Characters are placed on the board, half in darkness, and half in light.

Each turn, 4 Character cards are turned face up at random and the players alternate (first and last for one player, second and third for the other) choosing a character card, moving that character on the board, and possibly using that character’s special ability.  Characters include cartoonish versions of literary figures like Inspector Lestrade and Sherlock Holmes along with generic figures like Miss Stealthy and John Smith (the lamplighter) and Jeremy Bert (the reporter). 


Several types of “terrain” fill the board, from impassable buildings to lamp posts and manhole covers.  The board contains 4 exits, two of which will be blocked by one of the character’s special abilities (Inspector Lestrade who moves police cordons).  A number of manholes leading to the sewers offer fast movement as long as there is no manhole cover blocking the entrance/exit, and the reporter’s character can move those covers. 

At the end of each round comes the question – “Are there any witnesses?”  This is determined based on whether Jack is standing either next to a lit lampost or next to another character, and the player playing Jack must answer this question.  A card is then flipped to show Jack’s status until the next round (shown below), and characters are eliminated by being turned face-down depending on whether they are being seen or not.


Victory conditions are met once either Jack escapes the board (but only if there are currently no witnesses), 8 rounds have been completed without Jack being caught, or the detective player moves a character onto Jack’s space and makes an accusation (a false accusation results in a win for Jack).


The theme may sound too dark for some people, but it shouldn’t turn anyone away from such an outstanding game.  Marrying the mechanic of choosing a character and using its ability (made famous in Citadels and Puerto Rico but first used in games like Verrater) with the deduction elements from classics like Clue and Scotland Yard, Mr. Jack has a shine and polish all its own, offering game after game of tension-filled chases as the Jack player attempts to keep the noose from tightening. 

Jack’s evasion is not going to be easy.  Some luck is usually required as to when certain character cards come up on your turn.  But this only makes it more satisfying when Jack pulls out a win.  Bluffing comes in handy as well.  Choosing and moving Jack is usually hard to resist, but this can easily give away his identity if you aren’t careful.  (A funny anecdote:  One opponent claimed I was studying Jack more than the other characters, making him suspicious from early on.) 

It all adds up to a brilliantly designed game that stands up to repeated playings and that “just one more game” addictiveness coming when a great game holds you in its thrall.



Components/Presentation: 9/10 – A beautiful board, thick cardboard cards for Character cards and Alibi cards, and wooden character tokens with a charming art style in the face of its theme.  A very short and clear full-color rulebook.

Theme: 9/10 – The treatment of the theme alleviates any worries that the game may be dark or scary in the slightest.

Mechanics: 10/10 – A wonderful blend of mechanics which transcends its deduction game roots.

Replayability: 9/10 – Short enough that you’ll want to play it repeatedly in an evening.

Fun Factor: 10/10 – Unless you dislike games with the slightest bit of thinking or puzzle-solving, Mr. Jack should be utterly engaging.

Overall: 10/10


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