Letters from Whitechapel - Board Game Box Shot

Letters from Whitechapel

, | Published: 2010

Letters from Whitechapel is a crime and investigation game, created by the same game designers of Garibaldi and Mister X-Flight through Europe - Gianluca Santopietro and Gabriele Mari, inspired by Jack The Ripper's murders and the desperate attempts by Scotland Yard to stop his bloody killings.

Night after night, the player who controls Jack commits a new murder and tries to reach his hideout, while the other players, in the role of British police detectives, try to track him down, collecting clues that can lead to his capture. All these murders and pursuits will be represented in a board that depicts the Whitechapel neighborhood in London at the end of 19th century.

Night after night, the policemen will try to tighten the investigation's lace around the serial killer, gathering clues that can drive to his capture and attempting to use their own insights and inquiring and deduction abilities.

Letters from Whitechapel is a tense game with an accurate historical setting and very intense artwork and graphics.

Letters from Whitechapel game in play
images © Fantasy Flight Games

User Reviews (15)

Filter by: Order by:
Player Avatar
8
I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness
9
86 of 90 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Fun Board Game, Why Must You Shove History Down My Throat?”

Letters from Whitechapel is the ugly duckling of my game collection. It’s the only 1 v. Many game I own. It’s the only historical, non-fiction game I own. It’s the only crime-themed game I own. And most notably, it’s the only deduction-driven game I own. There’s good reason for it: none of these are things I like. But something (or somebodies – specifically you guys) told me I would love this game anyway, and diversity is grand… so here we are.

Observed Set-Up and Play Time
Like 90%+ of board games, there’s some cardboard to punch when you open her up. But it’s not much – just one sheet I believe. Everything else is ready to go; the rulebook is the only thing standing in between you and a night of fun making your brain hurt trying to out-think your friends. The rulebook is great; you’ll need to spend 45 minutes reading every word, but it’s intuitive and you’ll have no problem summarizing the rules immediately to the rest of your group in 15 minutes. I really appreciate that. This leads us to the play time problem. Specifically that it is incredibly erratic. The published estimated play time is 90 minutes… this is possible with an early bust. It’s also possible to get lucky on night 1 or 2 (the game is played over 4 nights) and finish the game in under an hour. But it’s more likely that every decision is agonized over until Jack makes his escape 3+ hours later. I make it a rule not to break out Whitechapel unless I have 3 hours available, and risk the annoyance of finishing in half that time.

My Learning Curve and Teach Time
The aforementioned teach time of 15 minutes works whether it’s gamers or non-gamers your teaching the game to. There is nothing complicated about the rules of the game. You won’t have much of a learning curve for playing error-free and sans rulebook either; you really won’t need to look at it again after your first game. However, Whitechapel requires a decent amount of intelligence to play (or at least to enjoy playing). You need to be thinking and observing during every single second of the game, and fine tune your ability to recognize the most probable of your opponent’s multitude of options. A game probably can’t teach you critical thinking and deduction; if you don’t have a modicum of ability in these areas, Whitechapel may just make you feel stupid, and none-too-eager to play again.

Group Sizes and Dynamics
For a game that makes you think so much, Whitechapel is incredibly easy to get people to play. I’ve played it with many different types of players and none disliked it… but it was best liked by the Social gamers. This game also works really well for non-gamers. It passed my “mom and dad” test with flying colors, and it trails only King of Tokyo on their to-play list during their quarterly cross-country visits. Regardless of who I’m playing with, it’s always several hours of enjoyable repartee mixed with occasional (hilarious) arguments.

Objectionable Material
Yeah, it’s got that. For a game with no graphic images – or images of any sort, really – there is plenty of thematically troubling material acting as a barrier for playing with children. The Jack the Ripper story isn’t suitable for young minds… he’s a monster far too real to brush off as fairy tale. You could, however, pretty easily homebrew a story around the pawns on the board and use all of the pieces, but I’m not the creative type. If you come up with something that works for children, nothing about the game pieces would prevent playing a variant with a 10-year-old. They’ll just need to ignore the names of the victims and dates of their murders scattered all over the board.

Comparable Titles
There are a few other Jack the Ripper games, but the biggest threat to Whitechapel’s Jack throne seems to be Mr. Jack. As a two-player-only game it serves a very different market than Whitechapel, and its playing time (30 minutes) puts it into a much lighter strata. Haven’t played it though, so can’t recommend one way or the other. All sorts of dungeon crawlers utilize the 1 v. Many framework of Whitechapel but the mission for the “1” in those games is never to run away as it is here. And there are many great social deduction games, such as The Resistance, that offer quicker, though not necessarily lighter, games if you’re only interested in that facet.

Despite its uphill battle against my personal likes and prejudices, Letters from Whitechapel is a game I love to play. The worst thing about it is the difficulty in budgeting for time… but once you’ve got it on the table and begin hunting or hiding from your friends it’s non-stop tension and fun until the final bell.

There are a few other things to be mindful of. First, playing as Jack is incredibly tense. I have a handful of games as Jack under my belt, and I literally tremble with tension for hours on end while I listen to the “investigators” deducing my plans. If you struggle with anxiety as I do, you may prefer playing for the good guys. Second, in my 20-something games Jack has lost only twice (at least 5 different people have played Jack in my group). The game offers great balancing tools via alternate pieces and rules if your group finds the game lopsided in favor of either side, but I find it psychologically damaging to allow my team to play with a “handicap” to give us a better chance, so we pretty much just accept that Jack is likely to get away (as the non-cardboard version did) and enjoy the ride.

 
Player Avatar
4
Critic - Level 2
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
Strategist
7
136 of 145 gamers found this helpful
“One of the Best Deduction Games I Have Played”

I have been searching for a good deduction game. And this is one of the best ones I have played. I rank it up there with Mystery of the Abbey (however MOTA has a different feel to it than Letters from Whitechapel). This games brings together two great games styles; co-op and deduction. A

A quick overview of the game: The game is set in London in the late 19th century. One player is selected to play the serial killer Jack the Ripper. The other players will control the 5 policemen. The game takes place over four nights. Each night Jack select victim(s) to kill and then tries to make it back to his secret hideout. The policement are trying to catch Jack. Each night the policement know where the murder takes place and then they hunt him down. If Jack gets back home without getting arrested all four nights he wins the games. If the police are able to catch Jack on any night they win the game.

The Good: As I said this is one of the best deduction games I have played. The theme is great. The mechanics are well done. The artwork is great. It has some original pictures from the time period and the board is a map of the area of Whitechapel London during the time period. Once you have played the first round everyone understands how the game is played. If you love being a detective or an escape artist this is a great one to pick up.

The Bad: The bad is not so bad and are things that can easily be overcome. First, the rules can seem overwhelming at first, because there is a lot of steps. However, this is because each little step is broken down. So don’t be afraid of the 12 steps that have to take place each night. Second, the length. This game can take a little longer than it should. Especially if everyone is trying a little too hard to deduce where Jack is. When you sit down to play, I would inform everyone that this game can take awhile and to try to plan your moves ahead of time. Finally, since this game is a co-op it is prone to one person playing against Jack. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with other players, but don’t dominate the game.

Score: Overall I give Letters from Whitechapel an 8 of 10. Very well done game. And something the gaming community hasn’t seen since Scotland Yard and Clue the Great Museum Caper

 
Player Avatar
3
Gamer - Level 3
7
103 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“Fun game even if it's a little broken”

Firstly, the production value on this one is very good. All the components play into the dark theme. The board looks great and the pawns are nice and big. One complaint is that the markers used to mark “clues” are clear and hard to find if one happens to fall on the floor- which has happened a few times at my table. Also, the turn breakdown cards given to each player are a little too vague. They break down the turns, but they don’t remind you exactly what you’re supposed to do during each phase. I went ahead and printed alternates out that I found on Board Game Geek.

I love the deduction mechanics in the game. I really like the idea of a deduction game, but all the ones I’ve played feel a little broken in one way or another. If you’ve played Nuns on the Run before (or I hear Scotland Yard), you’ll know what I mean when I say that they feel like not everyone is included in the game as much as the next person. I always feel a little distant from the gameplay. In White Chapel, technically, someone is assigned first player and they are supposed to make some decisions for the police team on their own. It doesn’t fell like it really adds anything though. The role is not exactly coveted and I feel like it slows down the game a little and makes the other police players just kind of wait around until the first few phases of the round are completed. Also, I find that most of the fun in this game is being on the side of the police and helping each other deduce where Jack could have gone. Whenever we play, I never really want to be Jack. It’s kind of lonely. Though it ishighly enjoyable to watch the police wander around without a clue as to where you are on the board.

All in all, I like White Chapel. I enjoy it every time I play it. But every time I play it, I feel like something is missing. I’m still on the lookout for the ultimate deduction/mystery game.

 
Player Avatar
2
Rated 5 Games
9
60 of 68 gamers found this helpful
“He's Back...”

This game allows you to chase Jack the Ripper across Whitechapel as he commits his famous crimes. With one known player as Jack and the rest as Police, the game can get tense quickly.

Jack has several options for each murder, and then more than 100 possible spots to move through on his way back to his hide-out. It’s the police’s job to intervene as he moves through the town. Any single clue that Jack leaves behind can be used to trace him, but if the police get too close he can catch a cab or dart through an alleyway, forcing the police to close in on his hideout.

This game takes a round or two to fully grasp, but only because the tradeoffs between players are so well designed! After the first game, you’ll be dying to play again to see if you can do any better the second round.

The game comes with several nice, wooden tokens as well as a movement tracking sheet and envelope for Jack. Turns move quickly, and players are constantly engaged. My biggest complaint with the game is that it uses a paper pad (pet peeve) as a component, and that at times there are a lot of tokens, in general and on the board.

Overall, this is one that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes a thorough mental workout to go along with their boardgames.

 
Player Avatar
3
Critic - Level 2
8
81 of 92 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“A great game, that will appeal to a large swath of interests. ”

This review was originally published on http://www.nerdbloggers.com.

Between the years of 1888 and 1891 a series of brutal slayings captivated the media of Victorian England. Unsolved to this day, the murders that shocked and terrified the downtrodden Whitechapel district, were perpetuated by a man who, in his shocking letters to the police, assumed the pseudonym “Jack the Ripper”. To this day, the unsolved nature of the crimes and the taunting correspondence from the infamous serial killer invoke a morbid curiosity in people, generating an unending stream of novels, movies, and speculation about what really happened under the soot filled skies over a century ago.

Letters from Whitechapel is a deduction based board game, designed by Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro, illustrated by Gianluca Santopietro, and published by Nexus Games. In the game, one player assumes the role of Jack the Ripper, who commits crimes, and attempts to avoid police detection through a mechanic of hidden movement across the winding labyrinth of streets and alleys. The other players portray the police detectives historically assigned to the Whitechapel Murder cases, and attempt to search out, and apprehend Jack through the use of logic and deduction.

The game takes place over the course of four nights, with a total of five murders committed. Although these numbers make for a tense and exciting game, they certainly aren’t arbitrary. Of all of the murders that actually took place in the Whitechapel district while the police case was open, only five of them are considered to be canonically associated with Jack the Ripper, and of those five, two occurred on the same night, dubbed the “double event” by Jack’s own hand – and faithfully represented in the rules for Letters from Whitechapel.

This attention to detail in both the rules and components of the game makes it engrossing on a visual and intellectual level. So many of the rules and components have a solid grounding in the history of the Whitechapel Murder cases, and this adds greatly to the macabre theme of the game. From a mechanics standpoint, Letters from Whitechapel could have been a simple cops and robber themed game, but the art, components, and rules really bring 19th century Whitechapel to life, and really pull the player into the history.

Components:

The Board – The showpiece of Letters from Whitechapel is the enormous game board depicting the various streets and alleys of Victorian era Whitechapel. Intersections are denoted by black squares, and areas that can be searched for clues are denoted by 195 circles, each with a unique number printed on it. The illustration on the board itself is historically accurate in its representation of the geography of the area, and surprisingly, the tangled streets create a strategically intriguing play-field. The district map is pleasingly rendered in in sepia tones, the stark color choice creating a vivid contrast to the red circles that represent the victims’ starting locations, and the crime scene tokens – translucent plastic disks that seem to float above the surface as pools of crimson.

Pawns – The police, victim, and Jack pawns are large chunky wooden bits, stylized to abstractly resemble the English bobby hat of the investigating police, the tight corseted figure of a potential victim, or the gentleman’s top hat that has become so closely tied to the public image of Jack the Ripper. The pawns are enjoyable to manipulate, they have a nice heft and size. The colorful police pawns maintain an imposing presence as they move to tighten the net around Jack. And the Jack pawns, although never actually moved on the map proper (Jack’s movements are hidden), are utilized on the game board for bookkeeping functions, such as tracking the current round number, and reporting how many murders have been committed. This means that although Jack may be hiding in the shadows, he still has a definite presence on the game board.

Tokens – Both Jack and the police have a set of tokens that they place on the board during the first few phases of each night. These double-sided tokens represent the potential position of the police and the victims. They are simply illustrated, but work well to accomplish their purpose. Also in the box is a set of large cardboard tokens representing the different detectives hunting Jack down, each bears the likeness of an actual police investigator on the Jack the Ripper case, and is used to display the detective in charge of the investigation on a particular night. The final tokens used in the game feature illustrations of carriages and lamplights, and are used by Jack as resources to break some of the movement rules during his escape.

WinksLetters from Whitechapel comes packed with a handful of transparent plastic disks, or winks. These disks come in three colors: clear, red, and yellow. The red disks are used to denote the crime scenes where Jack has committed an atrocity, and the clear disks are placed during gameplay to denote clues that the investigators have found during their search for Jack. The yellow winks are used as false clues for an optional game variant. The decision to use transparent plastic disks on the game board was inspired, as the mechanism works really well. The red disks really stand out against the game board, while still allowing the players to see the numbers below the marker. My only issue with the transparent winks, is that the clear disks can be difficult to see at times, as they blend in with the board; a lightly tinted grey may have given just enough contrast to make the clue disks more noticeable, while maintaining the elegant look of the game.

Jack’s Movement Pad – Since Jack’s movement is hidden, he writes his movement down in pencil on a pad of paper. The pad supplied is simple, and easy to understand, and contains quite a few sheets of paper in it. I am a conservationist at heart, and always struggle with games that have a paper pad, because I envision the day that I will go to play, and there are no more sheets left. In all reality though, the odds of going through an entire pad are fairly low, as the game itself takes a good chunk of time to play, and there are plenty of sheets included. Plus, modern inventions such as the eraser, and photocopy machine put the power in the hands of the OCD gamer to keep his components pristine.

The movement pad is perfectly sized to slide into an included cardboard sleeve. This sleeve can be unfolded to become a screen that Jack can use to keep his scribblings hidden. The inside of the sleeve has a small version of the game board on it, which Jack can use to plan his escape, without giving away his plans through his eye movements. It would have been really nice if small maps for each of the investigators were included in the game as well. Small dry erase maps would help the investigators plan and coordinate their movements, while keeping their suspicions secret from Jack. Luckily, the publisher has made downloadable maps available on their website, so if you have a computer and a printer you are good to go. Even so, small investigator maps would have been a really nice inclusion inside the game box.

Setup and Gameplay:

At the start of the game, each player is allocated a set of tokens: police tokens for the investigators, and victim tokens for Jack. The investigators take the white “wretched” pawns that will signify Jack’s potential victims, and then choose their investigator pawns; there are 5 different colored investigator pawns, and they are all used, despite the number of players in the game – so in games with less than 6 players, someone will be controlling more than one investigator. Jack then takes the winks, and his special movement tokens for the given night, and places his black Jack pawns on the board to signify the current turn, as well as the current round. Jack also takes his movement tokens, and his movement pad.

After all of the tokens have been sorted and collected, a secret decision is made by Jack. He must pick a numbered circle on the board, and write it down on his movement pad. This chosen space is Jack’s hideout. Although the game has not yet started, this decision may very well be the most important one in the game – for Jack at least. At the end of each of the four nights, or rounds of the game, Jack must always return to this hideout. The hideout that Jack has chosen for himself does not change throughout the game, and the investigators will get closer to determining its location as the the game progresses towards its climax, so Jack’s hideout needs to be strategically placed.

Although the players have sorted their tokens, and have selected pawns, there is still a lot of setup to be done before the chase begins. However, Letters from Whitechapel follows the growing trend in gaming where setup becomes part of the game proper, so this setup process is part of the fun. Turning setup into part of the game makes the game very approachable, and eliminates the downtime between deciding to play a game, and actually starting. Letters from Whitechapel offers immediate gratification in this aspect, and you won’t lose players to other games while it’s being set up.

The game is played over five “Nights”. These are rounds in which a murder (or multiple murders on the 3rd night) occur, followed by the investigators trying to track Jack down before he reaches his hideout. This first “setup” portion of each round is named “Hell”, after the real-life heading in Jack the Ripper’s famous “From*” letter. During this step, both Jack and the Investigators work to bluff, and place their pieces into the most advantageous positions. The second phase is called “Hunting”, where the investigators try to corner the fleeing Jack using only their wits and powers of deduction, before Jack can reach his hideout and end the round.

Hell:

Jack begins “Hell” by placing each of his white “woman” tokens on one of the handful of red-tinted number circles on the board. Incidentally, these circles are situated on the map of Whitechapel in locations that closely parallel the actual places that the Whitechapel Murders occurred. The woman tokens are double sided, with the front either being blank, or displaying a red dot. Jack chooses red-tinted number circles on the map, and places each woman token, face down, on a selected location. After Jack is done placing the tokens, some locations on the game board will contain a token with a red dot on it’s face, while others will contain a blank token. The ones with the blank tokens are false clues, but the ones that contain a token with a red dot hidden on it’s face will house a potential victim.

This placement of tokens with a hidden element adds a bit of bluffing to the game. In the next step, the investigators place their own tokens on the board in strategically optimal spaces, but they have limited information to work with, because they may be planning their strategy around a false clue that Jack has left. This bluffing mechanic, and hidden information, is found throughout the game, and is a real treat for those who love trying to read other players. It’s this bluffing component that really elevates the game from a pure, dry logic puzzle, to a game that really showcases the human element of detective work.

After Jack has placed his tokens, the investigators put their patrol tokens on the yellow square intersection tiles. Like Jack’s woman tokens, the patrol tokens have either a blank face, or a colored dot, and each token with a colored dot represents a specific investigator. Just like Jack was given the opportunity to bluff with his woman tokens, the police can bluff with their patrol tokens, hiding the actual positions of their investigators from Jack.

After the investigators have placed their tokens, Jack reveals the position of the potential victims, and the white “wretched” pawns are placed on the game board in those locations. Jack can chose to kill one of the wretched now, or can wait up to five turns – but on the fifth turn he MUST claim a victim. Every turn that Jack chooses not to kill, the investigators will move the wretched pawns to adjacent circles along dotted lines printed on the board, but Jack also has the ability to reveal one of the investigator tokens to determine if it is a decoy or not. This creates a nice tug-of-war between the investigators and Jack, giving the investigators more control over the tactical positioning on the board, but at the same time revealing more hidden information to Jack. When Jack does decide to kill, he can select any of the wretched pawns, and will most likely chose the one most strategically placed to avoid police detection. However, there are still a number of police patrol tokens that are resting face down, so Jack doesn’t know which tokens represent the actual investigators, and which tokens represent decoys.

After Jack has committed the murder, the wretched pawns are removed from the board, and the location of the murder is marked with a red “scene of the crime” wink. The wretched pawn that has been killed and one of the victim tokens are removed from the game entirely. This is a clever aspect of Letters from Whitechapel, because as the nights progress, the possible victims and murder locations steadily shrink, increasing the pressure put on Jack. After the scene of the crime has been marked, the investigators reveal their patrol tokens, and place their pawns in the locations indicated, and the hunt begins!

The Hunting:

The Hunting phase is where the cat and mouse portion of the game unfolds. Jack moves along the dotted lines connecting numbered circles, and always ends his turn on a circle. The Police, on the other hand, move between solid black squares on the board. This means that Jack and the police can never share the same space, and they travel different paths, but this dichotomy can create some very interesting interactions, in sometimes unexpected ways.

Jack kicks off the hunting phase by moving first. He writes his current location in the appropriate space of his movement sheet, and selects an adjacent numbered circle to move to. Jack is allowed to move along a dotted line to any adjacent numbered circle, but he cannot travel along a path that would have him pass through a police officer’s pawn. This is often a difficult decision, as the position and future movements of the investigator pawns can make certain moves risky, and if Jack doesn’t get back to his hideout by turn 15, he loses the game. After Jack has carefully selected his new position, he writes it down in his log. Although Jack’s movement is hidden, he still gets a chance to manipulate his chunky black pawn, by moving it to the next space in the “move track” denoting the current turn.

Sometimes there is just no way around the police. Luckily for Jack he has a couple of aces up his sleeve. The movement tokens that he acquired at the start of the round can be used to help him in a bind like this. The movement tokens come in two flavors: alley tokens, which have a picture of a lamplight on them, and carriage tokens, which display a carriage illustration. Both kinds of tokens let jack bend the movement rules in different ways. The carriage tokens let Jack move two circles in one turn, and allow him to pass through a police pawn on the way to his destination. The alley token on the other hand, lets Jack veer off of the dotted lines that he is normally tied to, and allows him to cross a solid block of buildings to a numbered circle on the other side. Both of these options can be very powerful, but can also give an insight to Jack’s location. If the police think they have Jack cornered, and he uses one of his movement tokens, they can be fairly confident that they have Jack on the run. Either that, or Jack is bluffing.

After Jack moves, the police get their turn to tighten the net around him. The police can move up to two black squares in any direction, as long as they follow the dotted lines. Once they have reached their destination, they have two options: They can search for clues, or they can attempt an arrest.

If an officer chooses to search for clues, he can name a numbered circle that is adjacent to his current location. Jack then looks at his movement sheet, and checks if he has been to that location. If he has been to that location during the night, he places a clear “clue” wink on the circle to notify the police that he was there. If a clue is found, that investigator’s turn ends. However, if a clue is not found, the investigator can continue to name adjacent circles until either a clue is found, or he runs out of circles.

If an officer attempts an arrest, he has just one chance before his turn ends. The officer must name a numbered circle that he thinks Jack currently occupies. If he is correct, Jack is apprehended, and the police win the game. If not, the officer’s turn ends, and he cannot take any more actions until his next turn.

This process continues, with Jack and the police moving and searching for clues, until Jack is apprehended or reaches his hideout. This process of “hell” and “hunting” takes place over 4 separate rounds, each round the number of victims shrink, and the police get a better and better idea about where Jack is hiding out.

It’s important to note that the third night has a bit of a twist to it. On Sunday September 30, 1888 the mutilated bodies of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were both found by police in the District of Whitechapel. The next day, the Central News Agency received a note in the mail, dubbed the “Saucy Jacky” postcard, in which Jack the Ripper took responsibility for the Murders. In this infamous letter, he called these two slayings the “double event”; and on the third day of gameplay in Letters from Whitechapel, parallel to the “double event” on that late September evening, Jack takes two victims. At a time in the game where jack is getting squeezed harder and harder by the police, having two crime scenes gives Jack a bit more breathing room, as he gets to chose which crime scene he will flee from, leaving the police the task of canvassing two regions of the map where Jack might be hiding.

Conclusion:

Letters from Whitechapel is a very enjoyable game that plays well anywhere from two players, to it’s maximum of six. As the number of players increase, the advantage begins to tip more in Jack’s favor unless the investigators can work well together to formulate a workable plan to deduce Jack’s location.

Letters from Whitechapel is full of theme, and serves up a good bit of history through its artwork, rule book, and gameplay. Some may find the content objectionable, as the manual contains snippets from the actual letters sent by Jack the Ripper, with quotes such as “I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope. ha. ha.”; and the very first time playing as jack can be unsettling, when you realize that you have to choose someone on the board to murder. In a way, though, Letters from Whitechapel humanizes the tragedy of the murders, brings it out of the realm of stories and movies, and puts the reality of the events into focus in a very personal way.

The bluffing mechanics in the game also enhance its logical, deductive nature, by adding a human element as players try to read each other, and determine their actions through behavior, as well as deduction. The players can almost put themselves in the shoes of a Victorian detective, interrogating witnesses, and trying to determine their inner thoughts. This is a really nice departure from a lot of deduction based games that rely entirely on building a spreadsheet to find the solution.

The components in Letters from Whitechapel are truly sublime in their muted simplicity. From the chunky pawns, to the beautifully and historically accurate board, the components scream quality. When the blood red crime scene winks begin to pepper the board, the contrast is both striking and beautiful, in a strangely sinister way. Jack’s movement pad is well designed, and easy to use, and makes the movement process painless for Jack. Some mini-maps for the police players would have been nice, but the fact that Nexus Games supplies downloadable maps on their website takes large strides in making up for it.

Although there may appear to be a lot of rules to digest in Letters from Whitechapel, in practice they flow together seamlessly, and are easy to remember. After the first few turns, the rules become second nature, and play flows smoothly, allowing players to focus on their strategy. There are some optional rules and components included to help players tune their game experience. There are variations included to tip the game in favor of either Jack, or the police, depending on the needs of your gaming group. It’s nice to see that the variations aren’t just tacked on, as they include the same sense of history and theme as the core rules.

Hardcore analysis of the Letters from Whitechapel map, can reveal hideout placements, and crime scene locations that can make the game extremely difficult for the police to track down Jack. If your game group plays very competitively, and you have members that will spend hours analyzing strategies, then Letters from Whitechapel may break under certain scenarios. There are some workarounds to avoid this, such as generating a random location for Jacks hideout, although I think that this removes some of the fun of the game. If you have a cutthroat game group, then you may have to resort to tweaking things a bit, although the vast majority of gamers will find Letters from Whitechapel extremely rewarding as it is.

Gameplay can often extend past the 2+ hour mark if Jack is being very sneaky, but the structure of the game allows the players a fulfilling experience, even if they only choose to play only one or two rounds, instead of the complete four. The progression from night to night does offer a wonderfully tense experience though, with the number of victims shrinking, the “double event”, and the police gradually honing in on Jack’s hideout. This dramatic swell of tension, that climaxes on the fourth night, can be hard to beat.

All in all, I think that Letters from Whitechapel is a great choice for any game library. It is enjoyable by casual gamers and experienced gamers equally, has a wonderful theme that only compliments the tense and exciting gameplay, and smartly tackles the deduction genre while avoiding the dry nature of some similar games. Even if you might not be drawn to the deduction genre, the bluffing aspect alone should give you reason to give it a play. Letters from Whitechapel is a great game, and will appeal to a large swath of interests. I definitely recommend it.

 
Player Avatar
5
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
9
56 of 64 gamers found this helpful
“Hide & seek, with extra stabbyness”

Letters from Whitechapel is based on the very real and horrific serial murders committed during the 1880′s in olde london town, which to this day remain one of the most discussed and theorized upon unsolved mysteries of our time. Personally I’ve always been enthralled by this dark moment in UK history and have absorbed much of the literature and media that surrounds this event with each author adding their own distinct theories of who how and what. Alan Moores seminal comic masterclass From **** probably stands out as one of the greatest, the less said about the Jack Sparrow movie loosely based on his exhaustively researched and written work the better.

But you may ask this is all very nice, however do I really want a board game based on the serial murders of prostitutes, well in an answer yes, yes you do. Designed by Gabriele Mari & Gianluca Santopietro Letters from Whitechapel is a deduction game which tastefully avoids the more graphic elements of this event and focuses on giving us a tense and gripping game of cat and mouse played out in the fog shrouded streets of Victorian London.

The game itself is relatively simple to set up and play, someone gets to be Jack and everyone else is a copper. Played out over four turns each depicting a night when Jack will strike killing and then bolting back from the site of his most recent crime to get home. The Police are charged with working together to try and find where Jack is and catch him before he completes his murderous spree on the fourth evening.

Now here is where it gets really interesting, all of Jacks movements are hidden, they are secretly recorded behind a screen by the player who is Jack, so other than when he strikes the police don’t know where he is. All Jack has to do every night is make it back to his home before he runs out of moves or is caught.

This being a Fantasy Flight release you can bet it looks beautiful, and yep it does. Surprisingly for them its relativity component light but all of them are lovely and subtlety thematic. The board is a huge map depicting the tangled streets of the Whitechapel district this is where all the action occurs. It has a clean but very effective design appearing like the plans of the desperate police force, pinned on some wall somewhere in a station house.

Aside from the board there really is little else other than the pieces and counters that are used to track the hunt. The rule book is excellent and can be used to play through the first turn to get everyone up to speed. There are also some player aides that can help as a simple memory jogger to whats happening.

This game plays from 2 up to 6 and in my opinion the more the merrier with this, the smaller games are still a great deal of fun. But I have found this really becomes the tense and nerve jangling race against time it should be when there are a table full of amateur detectives.

GAME PLAY

So lets dig into how this all works. Before anything else happens Jack gets to pick where his house is and notes it on his special move track sheet that he keeps hidden behind a neat little screen that comes with a handy smaller map of the board. This is his goal for each night and its selection will dictate how Jack will play the rest of his game.

Part 1: ****

Each night follows the same pattern. First the board is set up. The player who is Jack goes first and places 8 white tokens depicting the women onto the board, 5 of these have a large red dot hidden beneath for where the victims will be and remaining 3 are blank. These can be placed out over any of the 8 murder locations on the board highlighted by a red number wherever Jack wants and only he will know which one is real and which is a decoy.

The police do the same thing but with their 7 police patrol tokens 5 being real the others decoys.

Then the white tokens are revealed and the ones with the red dots are replaced by the wretched pawns, so now we know were the intended victims are but as of yet the police patrols are still a mystery.

Jack chooses his action first and that can be to either strike and kill a victim or wait giving him more time to get home. If he has waited then the police get to move the wretched pawns once. So while this may give Jack precious extra moves it also means that the police can start to maneuver the victims closer to a police patrol effectively increasing the odds that Jack can be discovered. Once the victims have moved Jack gets to choose one of the patrol tokens and flip it to discover whether that is real or a decoy.

This process can be repeated up to five times, but on that fifth turn he has to strike.
When he does strike Jack writes that number down on his sheet in the corresponding box and then the games afoot.

Part 2: The Hunt

So this is where the real fun begins.

Jack goes first and secretly moves one location and records it down on his sheet.

Then all the police get to move, and this is where it becomes a game of cat and mouse. After a policeman has moved they can perform one of two actions either to search for clues at any of the neighboring locations by calling out the number or making an arrest by choosing a site they believe Jack is at.

If they search for clues and call out a number that jack has visited then a clue marker is placed on the board a yellow chip, these become a trail of breadcrumbs that start to uncover where he is moving across the board.

And so this is repeated, with each turn marked off on the time track, so it becomes a ticking clock for Jack to make it back undiscovered to his home. And if he does then he’s safe and we go back to the top and start the whole process again.

So this is a really tense game. If you are playing as Jack, as the nights progress you have to come up with deeper and smarter ways of outwitting your foes. The first couple of nights are a breeze for this dapper prostitute murdering gent about town, the police will bumble around desperately prodding about in the hope of catching a whiff of where you’ve been and usually coming up short. But even now mistakes can be made, because by the end of the second night unless the investigation is being led by Inspector Clouseau they are going to have a pretty **** good idea of where your sneaking off too each night and so the net will slowly close.

Suddenly every decision is a nail biter, do you hold off for those extra turns to give you more time during the chase. But every extra turn will put those wretched pawns closer to a patrol and potentially further from your front door.

Now Jack has a few tricks up his sleeve to help in his nocturnal activities. He gets two special moves the amount of which decrease as the nights draw on. One is a carriage which allows him to move two spaces and sneak through the policeman’s drag net, which can be very handy. But this is also announced to the investigators and a marker is placed on the time track to show when it occurred. This will cause a new flurry of discussion to start, how close were they, did he sneak passed. Jack can also use an alleyway that will allow him to sneak to any other location on a blocks perimeter he is standing at that time, again a very useful move but its use will tip off the hunters as to Jacks shadowy movements.

It may sound that Jack has a pretty boring game, make a move and sit and watch. But no no, that is not the case. As you hunch there eavesdropping on the initially clueless observations of your pursuers you try to stifle a smug smile, their not even close snigger. And then they find a clue, and then some bright spark starts to piece it all together.

To sit there as fingers are waved or discussions are made about where you could be is tension inducing, especially when they are discussing your possible location without knowing that you are indeed standing exactly where they think you are. And by night three when you have to kill two victims and your special moves have been limited and the full weight of the force is centered on your location, its suddenly a whole new game.

If the police are smart they will form a dragnet about your suspected home, and suddenly it becomes some devilish game of hide and seek as you try to slip through their net without them noticing.

Its not all beer and pizza for the good guys, the first two nights its true that you’ll going to be playing catch up and the worse is although every clue found is brilliant, its easy to forget as you scurry about trying to find where he’s gone Jack is moving further away from your grasp. And especially when a carriage or alleyway is played you know with a sinking feeling that he can suddenly have disappeared into the fog and the trail has gone cold.

I love this game and its theme, it just oozes off the board. Yes its long with most games at least running to a couple of hours, every minute is a thrill, of either elation at outwitting your opponents or nerve jangling suspense as they close in on your location, block your escape routes and all the while that round timer is counting down. You sit there doing the math knowing you have a handful of turns left and need at least three of them to make it back, a costly detour can mean the end of your game.

And who is playing and how will make or break your evenings entertainment, the dreaded alpha player can rear its head, and potentially derail the whole investigation. But even that is kinda thematic, it won’t have been the first Police investigation fouled up by poor theory’s or deductions. There can be nothing more thrilling for Jack to hear a blowhard announcing they know where your house is and prodding a finger down in the completely wrong location. This will slow them down but sooner or later it will become clear that Mr Know It All was wrong and then **** probably grow awful quiet when he see’s that his blustering may have cost the game.

And if everyone is getting too good at one role then the game also comes with a bunch variants that can be used to tip the balance to one team or the other. Replay-ability is huge, with my group gagging for the opportunity to play Jack and try their hand at outwitting the others. I fully recommend you give this one a shot its theme and mechanics work seamlessly together and its simple enough to teach that any level of group can quickly pick up the rules, and the inbuilt learning curve will mean they will understand the nuance and strategy of the game at exactly the point they need too.

A great game with a brilliant integrated theme.

 
Player Avatar
5
Book Lover
Video Game Fan
10
16 of 20 gamers found this helpful
“Darkly Fantastic”

Finally got to play this, played 3 times so far, and it is amazing. It seems more complicated than it is but can be awkward the first few rounds because turns are multi-step but once you get into it, it isn’t so tough.

Many here have gone into describing a blow-by-blow of the turns and mechanics so I am not going to repeat what others have said better than I would. Let me just say that this game is engaging and a ton of fun. Playing as one or more of the police officers hunting Jack and coordinating with the other officers leads to all sorts of banter and laughing as you all try to close the net and find the killer. I found a lot of camaraderie amongst the players as they tried to figure out where Jack was and how best to trap him for an arrest. Playing on the side of the police, I felt the pressure of wanting to stop this killer before he could harm another woman. It was a blow when he made it to his hide-out.

Playing Jack is nerve wracking in the best possible way. The tension as the police first move in toward the original crime scene and you try to slip the net surprised me. As they pick up your trail and try to figure out where your hide-out is… nails were nibbled. So far we have not managed to have Jack make more that 2 kills before being caught or conceding but I expect some of us will figure out how to better evade law enforcement as time goes on.

Fun to play as either police or Jack, worth the fairly high price tag and definitely going in the permanent collection. Recommended for mid-teens and older who don’t mind dark subject matter.

 
Player Avatar
5
I play yellow
Tinkerer
Gamer - Level 4
8
30 of 50 gamers found this helpful
“Hidden Movement Gateway”

I have to agree with Jamie form the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast, this is a pure hidden movement game. Having introduced about 10 people to the game all have grasped the mechanics within minutes and all have wanted to play the game again. For the Alpha personalities the role of Jack is best. Some of the more quiet players in the groupings have been drawn into the conversation with the Head of Investigation role, and we make sure to ask what everyone’s thoughts are. This game has fired Scotland Yard for hidden movement games for me. I have not played Nuns on the Run or Fury of Dracula, but this game runs very similar without the extras. There are several means to tilt the game towards the police or Jack depending on how the trends have been running in your group. So far we have not had to use them out of necessity. We have used the false clue tokens but it didn’t really hamper the police in that particular game. If you’re looking for an intuitive hidden movement game to introduce people to this is the game. It is dripping with theme and can be absolutely nerve wracking for Jack. The winning side always delights in the payoff of euphoria when they execute a successful arrest or finally escape.

 
Player Avatar
3
I Own a Game!
Rated 25 Games
Critic - Level 1
8
74 of 146 gamers found this helpful
“Players make this game”

I have only gotten to play this from Jack the Ripper’s perspective however I have played this game about 6 times now. It is a great game…if you play with the right people it has excellent replay value and the theme is fantastic. This game is great to play at a game night or club meeting or with people who do not know your reactions all that well at least from Jack’s perspective. It is nearly impossible to win as Jack if you don’t bring your poker face..and even then my family/girlfriend were able to figure out what I was doing fairly early on. However like most games if you play with someone who over thinks their every move it can get long and tedious, however I would strongly recommend owning this game at the very least trying it out.

 
Player Avatar
4
Gamer - Level 4
Junior
Novice Reviewer
Knight
8
44 of 95 gamers found this helpful
“Nerve racking fun”

Although some people might be put off by the dark nature of this game, once you get over that hurdle it makes for quite an interesting game. This game is not fun in the traditional sense; you won’t find yourself giddy at racking points or anything of that nature. This game will have you pulling out all your hair, squabbles may erupt, you’ll stress over every single clue, and bite all your nails off as the pursuit gets close.

 
Player Avatar
3
My First Heart
6
66 of 144 gamers found this helpful
“Fun game but...”

Investigation style games aren’t my favorite.

This game is fun though.
It can be frustrating when you lose ‘Jack’ but then that’s the point I guess!

The game is well designed, artwork is good, theme is cool.

————————————————————–

Pro’s -
Easier on setup.
Can be quick to play.

————————————————————

Con’s -
Movement can be tricky sometimes for the villain.
A mechanic to mark the buildings checked could be handy, it is a big environment.

————————————————————

Overall, a fun game but not one I would personally return to often.

 
Player Avatar
3
My First Favorite!
8
49 of 122 gamers found this helpful
“Similar to Fury of Dracula”

I was looking for a game similar to Fury of Dracula. I stumbled across this one and picked it up. I have been happy I did. I like it better than Fury, as in Fury you not only had to find Dracula but defeat him in battle which lead to some frustration on my part. In White Chapel you only have to find Jack or stop him from getting to his hide out.

 
Player Avatar
2
Gamer - Level 2
8
44 of 127 gamers found this helpful
“Fantastic deduction game”

Love this game! Great components and a real brain burner, one of the best deduction games I have come across. It plays up to 6 and is fun with any number but I think this game really shines as a 2 player with one person controlling all the police.

 
Player Avatar
4
Rated 25 Games
9
27 of 84 gamers found this helpful
“Fun deduction game!”

Chase Jack the Ripper through the streets of London. Our group has a blast everytime we play!

 
Player Avatar
9
USA
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
9
31 of 129 gamers found this helpful
“Best Deduction/Co-op Game”

We have a great time playing this game. Being Jack is the best, but the right group can outsmart him… with a little luck. The theme drips off this game… it is not for little ones.

 

Add a Review for "Letters from Whitechapel"

You must be to add a review.

× Visit Your Profile