Mystery Rummy – Jack the Ripper: Rummy with zing
London- The streets are dark in the gloom of an overcast evening. The now immortal Whitechapel Murders have begun and the hunt is on for the elusive Jack the Ripper. Marshall the evidence, interview the suspects, and get to the bottom of it before these murders continue!
I was initially skeptical that a game which is essentially marketed as a variation on the classic card game rummy would have any sort of flavor worth mentioning. I’m also not a huge fan of the game of rummy in its basic form. Granted, there is some strategy there, but to me the game feels largely mindless. You can imagine my lack of enthusiasm when we initially got a couple of review copies of this alongside some other game by publisher US Game Systems, but I thought that I should do my duty and give it a go. After all, their classic trick taking card game Wizard has been in my standard gaming rotation since I really started to get into this stuff in high school. I can tell you now, I’m glad I gave it a chance.
At its heart, Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper is rummy, but instead of just re-skinning a deck of cards to fit the theme, the deck is a total departure from the standard deck. It consists of two broad types of cards: evidence (which are what you play as spreads similar to normal rummy), and gavel cards (which are cards that represent victims, suspects, and scenes). You are still trying to play out your hand first and stick your opponents with negative points for cards they have in their hands. Each turn you may play one gavel card and any amount of legal evidence cards (as in standard rummy). The gavels cards let you steal specific cards from the discard or draw additional cards, depending on the type.
As you play, you are essentially collecting evidence against various suspects. Each set of evidence cards is keyed to a color, which is also keyed to a certain suspect. Naturally the player with the most points tends to come out ahead, but the game goes upside down and backwards when you take into account the scoring. This added complexity is what really made me enjoy this game, and which conversely made at least one fan of classic rummy dislike it.
Within the deck, there are five gavel cards which are victims of the Ripper. No one can play any evidence cards until the first victim is in play. Once a victim is in play, people start dumping evidence. The interesting part here is that the suspect/color with the most points on the board between all players will be declared the Ripper at the end of the hand. When this happens, the cards of the matching color (including the suspect itself, if you are lucky enough to have it in play) are doubled. The strategy there seems pretty obvious, right? Try to use everything at your disposal to get most of those points in your camp. Well, one more piece completes this puzzle. The addition of an alibi card to match each suspect. Only one alibi can be in play at any time, and when the alibi for a specific subject is in play, they cannot be declared the Ripper at hand end. You’ll find that you will be playing a fair bit of cat and mouse with everyone at the table as the game heats up and you try to get your suspects propped up without painting a target on their head.
This is all well and good, but in the tale of the Ripper, he killed his victims and vanished, right? Well, he might do that too. In the deck, there exits a Ripper Escapes card. This card is a blessing and a curse. Worth 35 points, if you get caught with it in your hand at the end of the round, its sure to throw a kink in your plans. The only way you can play it, other than discarding it, is to see all five victims in play before the hand closes. If this ever happens, whoever is holding the Ripper Escapes card can play it immediately. None of the suspects are named, and no matter how grand your evidence collection is, it will be essentially worthless, as the escapee makes off with a pile of 35 points at the very least.
This way of playing out looms through each hand. As more victims hit the board, players get cautions and the table gets tense. Escaping can make or break the game for some people. This all or nothing, low chance alternate play out method really makes Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper shine.
Without going on for too much longer, let me sum this up: if you love a good casual card game, there are several out there that might it the bill. If you like rummy, your mileage may vary. Even so, the fact of the matter is that this is a solid game that stands on its own legs without needing the rummy crutch to be playable. It is deceptively simple and each hand is fun and fast. I highly suggest picking this one up for casual gamer friends, and with the holiday season coming up it makes a fantastic stocking stuffer.
Next time I’ll tackle another US Game Systems game, one which has been a favorite in our group for years.