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kickstarter Game Preview: Ruse

Posted by Jim {Power Gamer} | 13-Nov-12 | 6 comments

Ruse card game

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As a suspect in a murder in the Victorian Steampunk City of St. Sebastian, can you incriminate the other players before they pin the crime on you? This quick and immersive card game will test your nerves and your creative spirit!

Ruse at its foundation is a simple card game. But in playing the cards players weave their own unique tale of mystery and murder, creating an experience that is as individual as the players themselves.

Ruse game in play

Ruse suspect card: front and back

Set up

Player first choose a character they will portray during the game. Players can choose between five different suspects and place a card representing that character with the friendly, innocent portrait face up in front of them. The reverse side of the suspect card will be explained later. The deck of cards is shuffled and five cards are dealt to each player. Then the top card of the draw deck is turned over to form a discard pile. The deck of cards is divided into four suits: Gear (red), Pistol (purple) Crystal (blue) and Lamp (green). These suits will governs card play as the game progresses.


The object of the game is to play cards on one’s opponents and have them unable to play an Alibi card that dismisses one of three accusations against them. If a player cannot rid themselves of at least one of these three accusations, they are exposed as the guilty character and the game ends with one loser and multiple winners.

A Player’s turns consists of drawing one card from the top of the draw deck, or taking the top visible card from the discard pile. Then, the player may play one card. There are four types of cards in the game, three of which are played against other players; called Accusations. These cards (Method, Motive and Opportunity) come in two suits: Gear and Pistol. Two simple rules govern the play of Accusations: all accusations made against a suspect must be of the same suit, and a suspect may only have one of each type of accusation in front of them.

Ruse accusations cards

A player may also play and Alibi (the Lamp and Crystal suits) from their hand to rid themselves of the Accusations played against them. To do so, the player must have a letter or number that matches one of the accusations in front of them. Both cards are discarded and that player is one step closer to being exonerated of the charges against him or her.

Ruse alibi cancel cards

It will eventually come down to a player not having an Alibi card to counter an accusation against them. If this occurs, the suspect has one chance to “cover up” one of the accusations. They do so by flipping their Character Card over from the colorful confident portrait to the black and white anxious side. One of the Accusations is then discarded.

If a player has three Accusations against them, cannot provide and Alibi and already covered up an accusation, then that player is revealed as the guilty character and the game ends.

Simple enough. However the real meat of the game and ingenuity of Ruse comes in the story creation aspect of the game. With each card played, the players must create a story related to the text on the cards as it pertains to their accusation against the other player. The type of method, motive or opportunity provides just enough information for players to become storytellers in the vein if Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle with dash of Steampunk flavor added in. Likewise, when a player exonerates themselves by playing an Alibi card, they must explain, in character, their innocence why exactly the accusations against them are false. Then in a very unique game end, when one player is exposed as the killer, that player must then recount their entire tale of debauchery, creating a story that follows the method, motive and opportunity aspects that have been played in front of them.


The art work is very appealing. Artist Kelly McClellan has created a digestible and charming version of the Steampunk genre, which is accessible to many player types not just Steampunk fans. There is ingenious use of art as a storytelling device as well, with one Alibi card showing in imagery as counterpoint to a specific Accusation card. The art for all the matching suits of accusations match up for the most part – creating an elegant foundation for the story creation aspects of the game. The style and feel of the game is rooted in its art, and doesn’t over power the game experience.

Ruse suspect cards

Learning Curve

Ruse offers the simples of jump in points for any gamer, card suit matching, and draw and play style. The real fun of Ruse comes with the story creation aspects of the game, and some will be less able to feel comfortable and creative with this, but it is an ability that can be learned with repeated plays and the right play group.

Who should Kickstart this?

Family Gamer {Kickstart}
The crime and violence is inferred and not specifically displayed in the game. So like Clue, it may be safe for families, the story creation aspect may challenge younger players though with some mature accusation vs. alibi pairings.

Social Gamer {Kickstart}
Not specifically a party game but it does have the feel of a ‘murder mystery party game when the story creation really gets going. It’s a good match for small parties that are in the mood for a creative story creation game experience.

Strategy Gamer {Pass}
There is a small amount of strategy in the game based on cards in hand. Choosing an opponent to accuse is arbitrary most of the time, and sooner or later you are backed into a corner with your hands tied. Not a strategy gamers’ game.

Casual Gamer {Kickstart}
The replay value of the game should be apparent, each game will be dealt differently and the stories will be woven based on card play and the group of players individual personalities. Perfect for casual play.

Avid Gamer {Kickstart}
Avid gamers that enjoy the creativity of a game like Dixit, with RPG overtones and tactical card play will love the game. It combines a few styles of game in one 52-card deck. Almost anyone can play.

Power Gamer {Pass}
Not a challenge for Power gamers. The game is too light and unpredictable for a serious Power gamer to really enjoy.

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{Backing ends on November 16, 2012 @ 10pm MST}
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Final Thoughts

The preview copy of Ruse provided a very unique and enjoyable experience. Even though some of the rules and basic graphic aspects are still being developed as the Kickstarter campaign winds up, the foundation of the game is sound and unique.

Ruse provides a very solid and familiar card play experience with the fun twist of players trying to rid themselves of unwanted cards that have been played on them, rather than simply collect important cards that will aid them. This “single player loss” game end condition creates the interaction with the cards that is fun and challenging at times. The choice to draw or take the top discarded card can sometimes be obvious. (you don’t want to leave an Alibi card face up on the discard if there is an Accusation card that matches it in play in front of an opponent for example). Then again, picking up the discard can sometimes deny other players of an accusation opportunity, or provide one for you.

Most appealing here is the story creation. The game’s enjoyment really rests with the ability of the players to creatively concoct stories about the other players that match the accusations and alibis on the cards. To some, this will be easy and the game experience will blossom with each card play. To others, less experienced, it may take some coaxing or even coaching to draw out some unique tales of mystery and murder. Ruseoffers that chance for families and non-hobby gamers to have a taste of living outside of themselves for a brief time, hidden in the simple guise of a card game, but encouraged by Levi Mote and Sarah Sharp’s strong game design and simplicity.

The game might more easily fit in to a families game night plans, if it were not for the aspect of murder, which as mentioned above, is implied to a degree and nearly depicted in some of the cards. This then solely rests on the individual parent and their ethics when it comes to the subject matter. The art has a simple cartoon-like feel, but murder and crime as something that is a bit mature for some children (the game is recommended for player 12 and over) especially when you add in the story creation aspect. I don’t expect many parents want their children to learn or even think about how a person would want to kill another (a basic complaint of the family game Clue) so it would be best to keep the game for young players over the age of 12 or more.

Kickstart this game and add it to your collection for a fast fun filler thriller!

Quick Links:

Who should kickstart this game? >
Ruse game page on >
Ruse kickstarter page >

Comments (6)

Gamer Avatar
Gamer - Level 1

This is a fantastic review. The grouping by type is brilliant.

Gamer Avatar
Gamer - Level 8
Expert Recruiter
Count / Countess Beta 1.0 Tester

I really like the recommendations based on gamer type, as well. This is a great game by some great people, and we (the Growing Up Gamers blog) were lucky enough to get a preview copy. The age listed (12+) should be taken with a grain of salt; our 6 year old really loved this game. Here’s our review:

The only thing to be concerned about in regards to kids is theme. But I would say that for complexity, ages 8 and up is fine.

Gamer Avatar
Count / Countess Beta 1.0 Tester Beta 2.0 Tester
Cryptozoic Entertainment fan

great I love seeing kickstarter stuff on here

Gamer Avatar
Plaid Hat Games fan
Cave Goblins - Summoner Wars
I Am What I Am

I agree with coltsfan76, recommendations are a great way to judge potential interest level. I’d love to see it up at the top so I know if it’s a game I’m interested in reading about or not.

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I play purple
Football Fan
Movie Lover

Kickstarted! Nice & unique pre-review!

Gamer Avatar
I play blue
Football Fan
Advanced Reviewer

I like the recommendation to Kickstart or Pass based on gamer type. I’d like to see that stick for future reviews of this type.

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