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Anyone for Foul Play?

I live with the Board Game King. 11 years old and he's yet to meet the board game he doesn't like. We spent the whole Christmas holidays alternating between Monopoly and, in a timely choice, Pandemic. So, imagine the excitement in our household when I was asked to review Foul Play, a new murder mystery card game!

The brainchild of Ben and Lee (who will be better known to lots of you as the organisers of the Morecambe and Vice crime festival) the game asks you to identify the murderer in the pack using evidence cards. Depending on how the cards fall, you could find yourself interrogating your fellow players, cooperating with them, or occasionally stealing their cards, while avoiding the very annoying red herrings. And you can choose whether you play as Good Cop or Bad Cop which adds another dimension to the game!

I asked Ben a few questions about how the game came into being...

Can you tell us where the idea for a card game came from? Was this something that you had wanted to do for a while or was it a burst of inspiration in response to Covid?

The game was a complete shower epiphany moment! When the lockdowns hit and all of the income for our Murder Mystery Event's company vanished, we realised we'd have to come up with another way to keep the business afloat. We did talk about online events, but it seemed that everyone and their dog had come up with the idea to do virtual mysteries, so we'd have been entering a very crowded market. Then I realised that the mechanics of one of our live events would work as a table-top game and so me and Lee set to work planning it all out. We worked together at first making sure that it all worked before presenting the idea to the rest of the company and then we went from there.

How did you go about planning how the game would work? I’m picturing spreadsheets, post-it notes, scribbles on envelopes…

You're absolutely right! Spreadsheets, bits of paper, pages and pages of trial decks and hours of test playing the game to make sure it worked. Originally the game only had six suspects but after a few days of test playing we realised that the investigation formula didn't work properly and we had to add two new suspects to the mix. We started planning in March 2020 and the game was launched in November 2020 so that gives you an idea of how long it took us to make sure everything was perfect.

Loving the artwork – how involved in the development of the game was your designer?

We used two designers for the game. James Lawrence did all the character art and Ian Robinson worked on the graphic design and logos. We've worked with both illustrators for years and if you look at the posters for our live events you'll see loads more of their work. We decided to work with them on this project firstly because using the same art style gave brand recognition from the live events to the card game and our fans and regular detectives would see a sense of continuity. The second reason we used them is that they're both brilliant! It's good to work with people you know on a new project as you're all used to each other's style and expectations. With the character designs, there were certain elements that needed to be incorporated into the characters to make the game work so we'd have a general idea of what a character should look like and then we'd tell James what they could and couldn't have on them and then we'd leave James to work his magic and create, so most of what you see in the character designs comes from James' head and we've just tweaked them to get what you see on the cards.

One of the best bits of being a writer is getting to name your characters. I’m sensing some fun was had with your character names – Harry Hemlock the Gardener was my favourite! Do you have a favourite suspect?

We had loads of fun coming up with the names! We sat for an entire evening coming up with them. Scouring the internet for death-related names. The online thesaurus was busy that night too! One of the characters actually has the same Christian name as our 7yo, but the rest are all death or murder related in some way shape or form! It was just as much fun coming up with their backstories too (which are on the suspects' page of the website) We knew that they would all need a motive for murder but we wanted to make sure that they were as varied as possible. Cillian and Mort are my favorites, and you're actually going to find out more about both of their motive's soon because we have a new game in the works called 'Bad Deeds' which focuses on the family who lives at the house, so you'll get to meet Cillian's lover and also discover what Mort's secret is that could lead to the death of Lord D'Arque!

And finally, Good Cop or Bad Cop – what’s your preference?

I am a Good Cop! For no other reason that was the original format of the game. It was only after 2 months of test playing that we realised that there was an alternate way that could be played and we added 'Bad Cop' into the mix. Good Cop was originally the only way that we'd planned you could play the game so it has a special place in my heart. (Even though despite my best sleuthing tactics I very rarely win against my husband!)

And our review? We loved it! Less scary than Pandemic, and a good deal shorter than Monopoly, it was the perfect distraction from our current circumstances. Engrossing enough to play multiple times, the joy of stealing cards from the other players never got old, although you probably need to be a bit more poker-faced than I am and not whoop with delight when you get an evidence card! Our only quibble is that the box says 14+, and it was easily picked up by an 11 year old, so definitely don't be put off playing it with a pre-teen.

And, just like Ben, we were Good Cops through and through!

For more information about Foul Play, see here:


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