Detective; City of Angels
Designed by Evan Derrick | Published by Van Ryder Games
1-5 Players | 30-150 Minutes
Welcome to the dark and dangerous world of 1940’s Los Angeles. The streets are full of hustlers and mafia thugs where everyone is either a suspect or a victim. As a detective it’s your job to gather the evidence and ask the tough questions to solve the crimes. It isn’t always easy though. Sometimes you may have to shake down the right people, conceal evidence and reach out to snitches in order to break the case and make a name for yourself.
In Detective: City of Angles, you’ll be competing against other detectives in a race to solve a series of crimes before anyone else. The detectives won’t be the only opponents. One player takes on the roll of the Chisel, working hard to misdirect the players and ultimately keep them from their goal.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Players begin the game by choosing one of the 3 game modes offered: Classic Mode, Sleuth Mode or Head-to-Head. Classic Mode required 3-5 players and pits at least 2 detective against the Chisel. Sleuth Mode can be played solo or cooperatively and Head-to-Head is a 2-5 player mode where one or more detectives work together against the Chisel.
The base game features 9 unique cases to choose from that vary in difficulty.
Detective: City of Angels is a story driven game where each player begins by receiving a briefing of the current case and its facts. Each case varies, but you’ll typically get an overview of the crime committed, the victim, any available evidence and a list of potential suspects.
The game board features a beautifully rendered map of 1940’s L.A. with 100 different locations of interest to visit. Based on the information, players will choose one of the police headquarters on the board to start their mission.
Players begin each turn with 4 actions to spend. Players can use these actions to move around the board, search locations, search suspects, question suspects, analyze the situations or receive a kickbacks while visiting one of the seedy mob locations. Suspects will be scattered across the city and you’ll need to physically visit the location to gain more information.
Over the course of the game, new evidence or suspects will be revealed, but often exclusively to the detective savvy enough to uncover the information. Other detectives will have the opportunity to bribe goons and other detectives for the information… given they have enough scratch to foot the bill.
Each player has an investigation sheet where they can take notes as they uncover new information and begin to piece together the case.
Each case features a specific number of “days” or turns based on the player count given to solve the case. Players also have the opportunity to solve the case once during game play and again at the end of the game. In order to solve the case, you will need to accurately identify the suspect, the weapon and the motive.
The job of the chisel is to guide the detectives forward, revealing new characters and evidence. The chisel also reveals any information uncovered when a detective searches a suspect or location or questions anyone. The chisel will get to choose how each suspect responds to an interrogation with the option to be 100% truthful, less than truthful or just plain lie. The game then allows a chance for the detectives to call out the chisel when they feel the suspect might not be completely truthful. Successfully challenging the chisel reveals the truthful answers and gives the detective leverage over that suspect in future interrogations.
The ultimately goal of the chisel is to misdirect the detectives, curbing their investigation and ultimately winning the game when all the detectives fail.
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
Detective: City of Angels is a visual masterpiece. The care put into the illustrations and presentation immediately transport the players to 1940’s Los Angeles. Each individual case has its own unique artwork, packaged separately to ensure the solution stays secret. The game board is a gigantic, visual marvel – a great setting for the story to unfold. Character illustrations look fantastic, all keeping with the strong theme. The only semi-negative are the detective miniatures used to navigate around the board. They aren’t bad, but the renderings aren’t quite proportional and could have been done a little better. Overall, the artwork and components are top-notch. You won’t be disappointed with the look when everything is sprawled out across your table. This is a big game, so plan your space accordingly.
The heart of Detective: City of Angels is in its strong storytelling. The cases are all really well written. The setting and characters come to life making the game really engaging and thematic. It’s not just the in-game writing… this game has a TON of literature! The game comes with a comprehensive Rulebook, Tutorial Book, Detective Case Books for each detective, The Chisel Casebook & Solutions and a Sleuth Casebook. Each one is uniquely presented and dripping with theme. The game never seems to break character even if you’re just reading the standard game rules. You’ll be immersed in this one from start until finish.
This is a bit of a legacy game. While there is a limited way to recycle the game, you’ll never truly be able to play a single case twice while serving as a detective. That being said, a lot is packed into the 9 individual cases. I thought they were all a blast to play. Each one is cleverly presented with a series of twists and turns to challenge the detectives. As you investigate, you’ll find your suspicions swaying as often as you read a new card or new response from a suspect. Just when you think a certain case will take the easy way out, it introduces a new wrinkle forcing you to rethink everything. Each case will challenge your reasoning skills as well as your game play efficiency.
As for the actual gameplay, Detective: City of Angels owes much of its success to classic games like Clue and the Playstation video game, L.A. Noire. In fact, the designer is forthcoming with how much of the interaction in the game is inspired by L.A. Noire. These aren’t negatives in the least, as Detective not only draws from these sources, but does so in the best way possible – often exceeding the original material in nearly every way possible.
This isn’t a game where you’re exerting effort trying to remember all the rules or digging through the rulebook. The play is easy, leaving you to focus on what’s important: using your personal deductive skills to solve the case. It is more complex than the classic board game, Clue, but there are certainly similarities… traveling, investigation, making wild accusations. Detective will require you to have hard evidence so there’s no cutting corners.
Players are equip with 4 cubes, representing the 4 actions of that turn. I can’t understate how valuable each action is. While there is some room for missteps, having to retrace your path to interrogate a suspect for the second time or revisiting a location can really put the pressure on. Not only are you racing against the other detectives, but you’re also racing against the clock to solve the case. This all adds up to a very tight game where each action has reprocussions. I haven’t even brought up the need to gain and spend “scratch” or cash to bribe a detective or snitch. There are so many potentials approaches and decisions with so little time.
Detective is a great, engaging game, but for, me the real beauty is playing the Chisel. Overseeing the game and toying with the detectives gives the game an entirely new dimension of enjoyment. I love watching the case unfold and choosing the right time to attempt to spread false information and throw up road blocks. Playing the Chisel with my group allowed me to pre-play each case solo allowing me to experience everything the game had to offer. The different game modes allow you to play that game that fits your needs – rarely losing too much from mode to mode.
• The theme is incredibly immersive… this isn’t just a game, but an experience
• The storytelling in the individual cases carry the game and always keep you guessing
• The artwork really sets the table and draws you in
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT?
• The game does have limited replay-ability… there is currently two expansions, but I’m hoping for plenty more
• The mini’s aren’t the best
• There is a mild amount of harsh language
Detective: City of Angels is easily one of my favorite games of the year. While it works as a solo or cooperative game, playing with a group really makes this one sing. The writing it top-notch and the presentation is fantastic. After the first case, I was concerned I might zipped through all 9, but they progressively get more challenging and you really get your money’s worth. Each case never wants to hand you anything, making you work for you victories… and that is truly satisfying. Detective: City of Angels is a great experience I can’t recommend highly enough.