Players: 2 to 4
Game Length: 1-2 hours
Best enjoyed: With one manipulative jerk and three others who are trying to stop him!
Tragedy Looper is a logical deduction game for 4 players where one player is a mastermind trying to cause a tragedy while the others are time-travelling high school students trying to stop him. They’ll do this by playing cards to manipulate characters and locations on the board, with the goal of working out what exactly the Mastermind is trying to achieve and preventing it, before they lose all hope and stop trying. They’ll need to earn the trust of the involved characters and try to unravel the plans of the Mastermind, whatever they are.
The players will each have a sheet of paper describing a list of possible main plots (which will contain the main loss conditions) but only one of these will actually be in effect. There will also be some subplots that will mix things up and make it harder to identify the main plot. Should the time travellers lose, the mastermind simply declares that they have lost, but not why. The mastermind, if he does his job well, will feel like a real Light Yagami as he leads the time travellers to false conclusions about what the loss conditions really are.
Playing as the Mastermind in Tragedy Looper is not for the faint of heart, as you’ll need to hold within your head all of the possible options and rules. It’s easy to forget the occasional rule (such as the Shrine Maiden isn’t allowed in the city, or that if the Doctor is a traitor, the mastermind may use his Goodwill ability), and with so many options in front of you each turn, it can be paralysing – especially if you want to set up a credible red herring for the time travellers. Fortunately, the game comes with a Mastermind booklet that helps aspiring puppet masters handle the first few scenarios, complete with guides on exactly what they should be doing to introduce players to the game.
Tragedy Looper is also difficult for the time travellers to grasp the first time they play. They will have a large amount of information dumped on them immediately when they start playing, in the form of the plot and character table. They’ll need to know this table before they can start coming to any conclusions about the plot, and this can slow down the game. Fortunately, the game comes with some introductory scenarios with simpler plot and character tables to smooth over this procedure and get players used to the idea of analysing the information from the tables.
One significant obstacle when playing Tragedy Looper is that you cannot play a given scenario as a time traveller after you have been exposed to it, and there are only 10 scenarios included with the game. This means you’ll need to either play with the same group, start writing your own scenarios, or try to manage who has played which scenario to make sure the game isn’t ruined by a player’s prior knowledge.
You’ll also need to make sure to play with exactly four players – though the rules say it plays with 2-4, if you don’t have exactly three time travellers, one player will need to control two or more of them, which can be disruptive to the game.
Despite this, Tragedy Looper is a truly unique co-operative deduction game and well worth playing. If you and your friends have logical minds, it can be a very compelling game and you’ll be talking about the cat-and-mouse fight between the mastermind and time travellers long after you stop playing.