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Murder of Crows: A Game of Fowl Murder Mysteries!

Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows
(All photos of Atlas Games product were taken and edited by KristaG)

Crows have long been associated with Halloween, witchcraft, death and many of the other, darker, scarier sides of things, but they are also featured in this week’s spooky game! As we continue our countdown to All Hallow’s Eve now that I’m back in town, my creepy crew and I are playing Murder of Crows by Eduardo Baraf and Thomas Denmark. Not only does the title of the game allude to the proper name for a group of crows, but also the objective of the game. In this 2 – 5 player card game from Atlas Games, players compete to be the first to reveal the complete details of a murder story by playing cards that correctly spell out the word “murder.”

Murder of Crows Cards

Some of my favorite cards from Murder of Crows

Illustrated by Thomas Denmark, Murder of Crows features some gruesome artwork similar to that which I would expect to find in a darker, more mature comic book. Considering the subject matter, this is more than appropriate for the game even if it might be a turn off for those wanting to play with their small children. Denmark does an amazing job, however, of being able to help players visualize the murders taking place with his illustrations of the setting, people involved, murder weapons, and even depictions of the motive! The artwork really helps the theme come to life instead of being like many other horror games that I’ve played where the theme is a casual skin that dissipates with gameplay. The game uses tarot-sized cards, which I feel adds to the appeal and are broken down into 6 different types of cards: M, U, R, D, E, and Wild Crows. With the exception of the Wild Crow cards, each of the cards tells a specific part of the story when placed in their proper order. Some of my favorite illustrations include the pack of poodles, chopsticks, abandoned church, rotting stench, and the portrait of Scarlet Moonbeam.

Murder of Crows Set Up

Set up for a 3-player game of Murder of Crows

After removing the reference cards (5 regular reference cards and 1 for “The Murdered Third” optional 2-player variant) and the “Winner” card, the remaining cards are shuffled to form a draw deck. Before dealing out any cards, however, the first player must be chosen. According to the rules, this should be done by choosing the most suspicious looking player, but it can also be done at random (I tend to volunteer to go first when playing this one). Once the first player is determined, they are dealt 4 cards for their opening hand while everyone else is dealt a hand of 5 cards. The rest of the draw pile is left face down and within reach of all players. As soon as everyone has had a chance to look at their cards and has received their own reference card, the game is ready to begin!

Murder of Crows is a “draw one, play one” type of card game, which means that on a player’s turn they draw a card and then choose which card from their hand they wish to play. Should a player not wish to play cards, they may choose to skip their turn in order to draw twice. As I mentioned above, there are 6 different types of cards. Not only do they contain the facts about the murder, but each card also serves a dual function when played. For example, playing an “M” card will also cause the “Misplace” effect to trigger, which allows the active player to take any one card from another player’s Murder and place it into their hand. Other card effects include “Uncover,” “Reap,” “Drain,” and “Expel.” Each of these effects is explained in the rules and on the reference cards. Wild Crow cards also can serve multiple purposes. In addition to being playable as any letter (including said letter’s effect), a Wild Crow card can also be used on the active player’s turn to remove an entire stack of cards from an opponent’s Murder and discard them. As an inactive player, a Wild Crow card may also be played as a block when a card effect would interfere with your Murder. Another way to prevent card effects is to discard a card from your hand that features the same number of crows (either 1, 2, or 3) as the card that was played. The game ends once a player manages to complete the word “MURDER” in front of them and is able to read the tale to the other players.

Wining Murder

Our winning MURDER reads: “A cool breeze danced in a weed-choked garden when Alexis Eldridge with a burning vengeance used weed killer to poison Mike Miserbean.”

We had a lot of fun playing Murder of Crows. Some of the Murders we created were downright silly while others were far more sinister and creepy, but all of them were fun. There’s definitely more strategy involved than I originally anticipated when I picked up the game during San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. While some members of my group aren’t very into “take that” mechanics, those that are were able to utilize their strategies much more effectively. Murder of Crows is definitely a game that rewards aggressive play, however, a player also needs to balance building their own Murder while still denying other players the ability to build theirs. Unlike most of the games I review, this isn’t really a game for young kids due to the morbidity of theme and artwork but is still one that a family can enjoy (especially around Halloween or horror themed game nights). I, for one, will be more than content to cook up some more murders with my friends during and after the holiday! Until next week, Happy Hauntings!

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