Editor’s Note: This is a Rundown Review, a subset style of review that allows us to provide an Archetype breakdown on games when a normal comprehensive review isn’t possible or necessary. You can read more here for details.
Note: This review pertains to the 19.5th Anniversary Edition of Kill Doctor Lucky
On a fateful eve, players finds themselves a guest of Doctor Lucky at his palatial country manor. However, unbeknownst to one another (and to the host), each player wants to see Doctor Lucky dead because of, quite literally, Reasons. And tonight seems as good as any other to make that happen.
At the beginning of the game, each person is dealt 5-6 cards, depending on the number of players. Cards come in three types: Movement, Weapons, and Failures. Players all begin in the same room, and the first player is determined randomly.
Each turn contains two phases: Movement and Action. During Movement, the player may move up to one room away for free. In addition, they may play Movement cards that either add to their movement value or allow them to jump directly to the room listed on the card. If after Movement neither Doctor Lucky nor any other player has Line Of Sight into their room, that player may draw a card. Alternatively, if no one else can see them and they are in the same room with Doctor Lucky, they can attempt to murder him. Characters have a base attack strength of 1, plus an additional 1 for each previously botched murder attempt. They may also use Weapon cards to add to their strength. Then, demonstrating his uncanny namesake, each other player in turn order may discard cards (including Failure cards) containing Luck icons. If the other players collectively discard enough Luck to match the player’s strength, the murder is averted.
At the end of each player’s turn, Doctor Lucky moves to the next room in numerical order. If he enters a room with another player, it becomes that player’s turn. Otherwise turns proceed clockwise.
This continues until one player ensures that Doctor Lucky’s luck has finally run out. They are the winner and may seek comfort in fulfilling whatever rationale they had for snuffing out the old man.
Architects: Regardless of whether they may have a grudge against Doctor Lucky, don’t expect this group to accept his invitation; there is very little for Architects to enjoy here. Kill Doctor Lucky is a brisk game of deterioration, from a slowly dwindling hand of cards to an ever-shrinking window of time for attempts at foul play. Otherwise known as their complete antithesis. Kill Doctor Lucky is slightly random, quasi-combative, and lacks nearly all the mechanics that this group looks for in their gaming.
Tacticians: Don’t expect this group to be all that interested in the fate of this particular wealthy socialite as Kill Doctor Lucky is, quite evidently, a game that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of heavy planning. This game is far less about strategy than it is about short term tactics, though even that is on the tepid side. Between the game length, the impact of card draws, the manipulation of when you get to take your turn, and that the only guaranteed outcome each turn is where Doctor Lucky will move to next, Kill Doctor Lucky is a game that is far more susceptible to the capricious whims of luck and other players than this group prefers. To some Tacticians, there may be enough substance to put their course adjustment skills to use, but for most there just won’t be enough to hold their interest for long.
Socializers: Kill Doctor Lucky has quick turns, a simple ruleset, low complexity, and a fair amount of player action thanks to non-traditional turn order and the way the table must collaborate (or not) at stopping one another’s assassination attempts. All of which makes an ideal Socializer game. Yet the most laudable trait of all is that Kill Doctor Lucky ends precisely when it should, coming to a close before the entertainment value of its humor and ‘screw your neighbor’ style gameplay wears off.
Much of this comes as a result of this edition’s new streamlined rules that tighten up the pacing and length of the game significantly. Kill Doctor Lucky now scales surprisingly well from 2-8 players – though it works best with at least four. With fewer players certain rooms get blocked off, keeping the board size compact to maintain tension. Moreover, because of its fixed deck size, higher player counts don’t add much to the play time due to the fact that once the deck run out a rule kicks in expediting the ease of making murder attempts, thereby ensuring a play time around 30 minutes and preventing the game from dragging out.
Daredevils: Daredevils rejoice, for this game is your kind of mischief. Due to its short play time and lightweight nature, there isn’t a bevy of different strategic angles for this group to experiment with, but that fact is offset thanks to the game’s often unpredictable outcomes. Whether or not someone succeeds is largely contingent on the ability of the table to thwart one another, leaving open the possibility to make gambles with that knowledge. And Daredevils probably will, as it plays right into their penchant for the unexpected. Perhaps you’re early in the turn order during a murder attempt but choose not to spend Luck cards in the hopes of forcing other players to do so instead. Or maybe you just want to see what happens. Kill Doctor Lucky isn’t a deep game, but it will definitely scratch their itch for goofy, chaotic hijinks.
Immersionists: Despite the comedically dark premise and an affable amount of tongue-in-cheek flavor, there isn’t a deep wellspring of theme for theme lovers to latch on to. Instead, the game is propelled almost exclusively on its screwball conceit of essentially trying to kill off a 1920s version of Mr. Magoo. The character cards provide minor backstories but serve no mechanical purpose, and most of the physical components are fairly basic, keeping the theme rather surface-based. The thematic elements it does evoke are done well, such as sassy flavor text on cards, the board’s near-homage to the classic game Clue, and the way Luck becomes an increasingly difficult resource to maintain as a reflection of one’s Luck literally running out. Yet these attributes alone aren’t enough to maintain the long term interest of this group.
Strikers: For irreverent titles, Kill Doctor Lucky is the kind of light, fast, quirky game that Strikers generally enjoy playing, as the purpose is direct, the rules are concise, and the only real focus is killing the infuriatingly fortunate Doctor Lucky. However, their enjoyment will be mixed. On the one hand, victory can be more unpredictable than they prefer. Shifting turn order and luck of the draw concerns aside, in Kill Doctor Lucky they won’t love that it’s quite prevalent for someone to attempt to win, have the table spend resources to stop them, and then have another player slip in and win once everyone is out cards. Yet while it may be chaotic, Strikers will appreciate that everyone is trying to do this at all times, and that careful use of timing and card plays can still directly influence their odds.
Kill Doctor Lucky is a cordially sardonic inversion of the classic whodunit genre, where players focus instead on who gets the glory of the kill. Yet rather than shying away from its black humor-tinged theme, the game wholly embraces its own preposterousness – to everyone’s benefit. With a healthy dose of witty card flavor, new artwork, and an overhaul of the core rules, the 19.5th Anniversary Edition creates a shorter, more efficient Kill Doctor Lucky experience while never losing sight of what it’s aimed to be over its 20 year lifespan: a silly and entertaining filler game that caters to a wide audience range and ends after just the right amount of shenanigans. This version embodies that vision.
Kill Doctor Lucky is still not for everyone, however. Luck plays a large factor, and as the crux of the game revolves around players sabotaging one another until Doctor Lucky finally kicks it, there’s a solid streak of impish player conflict disguised as lighthearted fun. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a wacky and engaging half hour exercise of murder and mayhem, head on over to Lucky Mansion.
Kill Doctor Lucky is a product of Cheapass Games.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4.5
Replay Value: 4
Physical Quality: 3
Overall Score: 3.5