Preview: Dead Drop

Dead Drop is a game that involves elements of memory, deduction, and crafty maneuvering. As secret agents working for different organizations, players scour the globe seeking information that will help them find the location of a hidden explosive device. Agents must trade information and sell secrets in order to learn the location of the device and grab it before it falls into the hands of another agency!

source:  Board Game Geek

“Sometimes we have to do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions, not answers.”
― John le Carré, A Perfect Spy

Dead Drop Game Box Cover
Dead Drop by Jason Kotarski. Published by Crash Games

Dead Drop

Players: 2 to 4
Age: 13+
Playtime: 10 minutes
Game by: Jason Kotarski
Published by: Crash Games
Art & Design: Adam P. McIver, Various

Growing up, I read a lot of books, from many different genres, but I would probably put the spy thriller as my favorite amongst this web of genres. When it comes to playing games, my favorites drip with a rich storytelling theme. Strongly following that are games that involve trying to unravel a puzzle, and that includes puzzling out the actions of an opponent, often seen in bluffing games.

Dead Drop is the third in Crash Game’s Pub Series. Basically small box games, that can be played in a pub environment (although of course, you are welcome to play them in whichever establishment you so desire). In this instance, Dead Drop consists of just 13 game cards.

In Dead Drop, 2-4 players will take on the role of Secret Agents, and use the limited information available to them to be the first to decipher and reveal the identity of the Dead Drop. At first the only information that a player has available to them is the cards in their hand, and the cards revealed to them as shared information in the center of the table.

However on each turn, an Agent can attempt to increase the amount of knowledge that they have (whilst trying not to give too much information to their opponents). This is done through one of the three compulsory actions available to them: Share Info, Hack The Cache, or Sell Secrets. Once an Agent has completed this task, they can choose to try and Grab The Drop, in order to be the first agent to correctly identify the Dead Drop.

So how does this work?
Each of the 13 cards are made up of two pieces of information. The main information on the card is a number from 0 to 5. The second piece of information is how many instances of cards exist within the deck of 13 cards. There are 4 instances of a card with 0, 3 with a 1, 2 with 2 and 3, and one each of 4 and 5 (although it should be noted that the 5 card has a 0 on it too for optional use during a specific action).

The deck is shuffled, and one card is set face down and represents the “Dead Drop”.
A number of cards equal to the number of players is then placed face up in the center of the table as shared knowledge (known as “The Stash”).
The remaining cards are dealt to each player.

Players then take turns to take their actions.

  • Share Info: allows a player to trade one card in their hand with one card from any other player.
  • Swap The Stash: allows a player to trade one card in their hand with one card from The Stash.
  • Sell Secrets: allows a player to reveal two of their cards to a target player. That player then either answers “yes”, or “no” to the question of whether they have a card in their hand that equals the sum total of the two cards that were revealed to them. If the answer is no, nothing happens. If the answer is yes, the target must give the player that card, in return for one of the two revealed cards.

A player may then Grab The Drop, by placing 2 cards face down next to the Dead Drop, and then secretly checking the Dead Drop card. If the sum of the two cards they played is equal to the value of the Dead Drop, then they have won the round. However if they have guessed incorrectly, they are eliminated from the game. (It is here where the “5” valued card may also be used as a “0”).

The game continues for additional rounds until the ultimate winner is revealed, being the first person to win three rounds.

As you can see the game is as simple as it is quick to play. I was actually nervous before I started the first game, as I thought it would be easy to work out the value of the Dead Drop, and so I proceeded to try and “break the game”, winning my first round straight away. However I quickly failed in the following round, and my initial anxiety for the game was quickly pushed aside.

For a 13-card game, Dead Drop quickly becomes a cross between a game of chicken, and cat and mouse. You need to reveal the Dead Drop quicker than your opponent, but at the same time you need to ensure you have enough information to be correct. Of course waiting out to ensure you have enough information has two consequences. Firstly it gives your opponent a chance to guess themselves and steal the card from you that you need to make up the sum of the Dead Drop card, and secondly that there is always the chance that as you gain information from your opponents, you may just be providing them with the final piece to the puzzle that they require.

The addition of two cards being required both as a way to sell information, and also as a way to decipher the Dead Drop, is probably the most important factor to this game, as it adds that certain twist that this game absolutely needs, taking information deduction to the next level.

I have to say, as a puzzle, trying to out fox my opponent, this game HAS IT! 
I LOVE it. 
As far as micro games go, I may actually enjoy it more than the queen of all micro games, Love Letter.

I am still slightly concerned in a two-player game that two specific cards are key to unraveling the mysteries of the Dead Drop quicker than your opponent, but I will not reveal which those are.

At the beginning of this preview, I mentioned that puzzle and bluffing games are amongst my favourites. This game scratches that itch for me. I also mentioned that I love games that can tell a solid story. How does this game fair with regards to that?
Well, in my opinion, the title and artwork of the game to add to the theme that you are trying to decipher a code. However it is very much up to the individuals to provide any form of story. Some people may be inclined to say that the theme has been somewhat slid (like a mysterious black glove?) onto the game, and the fact that Crash Games has been able to commission a number of different card packs with variant artwork, would indicate this too.
HOWEVER, lets just ignore that for a second, and bask in the glory that is these additional artwork game packs. From the luscious fully painted artwork of board game artiste extraordinaire Naomi Robinson’s Viking deck, to the cartoonish wonder that is Ashley Davis’ Birds deck. To my knowledge, birds nest, and Vikings raid and pillage, I’m unaware of either being covert spies, BUT I DO NOT CARE. These (currently) 7 alternative artwork decks are available as stretch goals only; even without these the game is solid fun. These are just extra flavoring.

Contents of Dead Drop basic game
Dead Drop $12 pledge level contents

The game is currently funding on Kickstarter (through to November 1st 2014), and comes in two variants. A regular $12 version; which includes the 13 cards, 4 reference cards, and 9 wooden victory cubes. A deluxe $22 version; which includes the 13 cards, 4 reference cards, 9 silk screened victory tokens, a drawstring bag (for travel) and an exclusive slipcase cover sleeve.

Where these two pledge levels differ most however, is in regards to the stretch goals. The regular version of the game will only receive the first alternate Monster artwork deck as a stretch goal, whilst the deluxe version will receive each stretch goal, becoming better and better value for money with each goal smashed.

Wait! Let’s just look at that again. The game costs you only $12 (plus shipping outside of US). $12! What’s not to like. Add into the equation that for backers from within the EU, the games will be shipped from within the EU, and you really are looking at a great value little game, that is portable and quick to play.

If you twist my arm to be negative about anything relating to this game, the one thing I personally am not a fan of, is the logo design, which to me looks a bit like a 3d image when you don’t have the 3d glasses on (on or off is irrelevant to me, as I can’t see red/blue 3d images). So if that’s all I have to complain about, and it really is picking at nits, then really do you have an excuse not to look closer at this game to see if it is something you are interested in helping fund (or purchase if you are reading this after the Kickstarter)?

Now, I’m off to decipher the code, to find the next drop.

Links

Board Game Geek 51.53.58.21
Kickstarter 2.7.27.64

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