I thought I hated deduction games. A friend of mine had purchased The Resistance and we played it till kingdom come. Everyone loved it, except me. It was too much a social exercise and too little a game. This is not necessarily bad, it just made the game extremely different with different groups, and it didn’t work with some of them. I assumed that this was true for all deduction games; 27th Passenger proved me wrong. 27th Passenger is about a group of assassins on a train. They all want to kill each other, but not the civilians. Of course, all players have a disguise ranging from a tough gangster to a sweeter schoolgirl.
27th Passenger starts off the same way as a standard fare deduction game. The player is dealt a card and assigned a personality; a personality which must remain hidden for as long as possible while trying to find out the opponents. Personalities come out with a few details: who you are (the nurse or the cardsharp) and your description (your scent, your appearance, and the way you speak). Each card has a unique combination of those three, and you use a paper with all the combinations (not unlike Cluedo) to try to find who your opponents are, and assassinate them before they assassinate you. Players can find out about their opponents by carrying out investigations. The player hands the set of ‘scent cards’ to the person they would like to investigate and the person being investigated returns the cards with the correct scent card on top, revealing which of the scents applies to him or her. The same applies to the other descriptive qualities, such as the way you look or speak. Investigations can be countered using disguise cards or playing an action that disallows investigation.
One of the most exiting moments of 27th Passenger is when players have collected enough information to be able to attempt an assassination. More often than not, an assignation is played by more than one player in the same turn, which means they must announce the character they would like to assassinate simultaneously. If they name a player character that player is out, if they get it wrong and ‘kill a civilian’, they are eliminated themselves instead. This gives assassinations a certain amount of weight. Many times though, you would have gained enough information from one player to be able to kill him, but you don’t, because you know that he has been investigating the player who has been investigating you. So you wait, until your target conveniently eliminates the only player who knows enough about you to kill you, and then you rid yourself of him—eat your heart out Brutus.
27th Passenger is an approachable yet satisfying deduction game. Since last October I’ve played this game more than any other game. The game allows for a social experience, with plenty of banter and table talk, but with enough mechanisation to accommodate a larger variety of groups. It’s familiar yet fresh, relatable yet challenging. I went to the game convention Essen last year hating deduction games, but three games called Alchemists, [redacted], and 27th Passenger changed my mind. 27th Passenger is a delightful game, enjoyable with almost any sort of group—as long as you can handle a little stab in the back, or two. •