Regular Tabletop Tales readers will know I have a strong affinity for accessible party games, and when they come with a little bit of twisted humour it is always a bonus. Last June, Nottingham based Jason Hibbert’s debut design hit Kickstarter and ticked all the boxes as a fast, fun and frankly immoral party game that was right up my street. It was a no-brainer to join the eventual 653 other backers in raising £21,248 to bring Death Wish to life.
Death Wish is a card driven game for 2-8 players where the object is to be the first to die from contracting horrifying illnesses, achieved through the collecting of symptom and afflicter cards. Each disease card has a skull value, depending on the rarity of the disease contracted and the first person to a certain total – depending on the number of players – dies first, and therefore wins! Gameplay is driven by hand management and set collection mechanics, with a little sprinkling of “take that” thrown in for good measure through random outbreaks.
In setting up, each player receives four symptom cards and two afflicter cards that are placed face up in front of them. The symptom deck is placed in the centre of the table and four cards are drawn face up into a pool. The disease deck is also set out in the middle, with four cards drawn to its pool. A fifth card is set aside as an incubation disease. The outbreak deck and afflicter decks are also put on the table, with the top afflicter card being turned over.
The player who looks most suitably dressed for a funeral is up first and they have a choice of four actions on their turn; draw two symptom cards from the pool or the deck; take the visible afflicter card or draw two from the deck, keeping one; spread a disease by moving the incubation card over one of the pool disease cards or drawing from the deck, covering the disease below; or finally contract a disease by taking the relevant disease card and sharing your diagnosis by playing colour matching afflicter and the number of symptom cards indicated. The last action encourages a little bit of storytelling and will likely trigger an outbreak event.
A minimal strategic element comes through the afflicters and contracted diseases being public knowledge, so opponents are always mindful of what you are up to and what diseases you are targeting and this encourages the ganging up on the leader, ultimately balancing the game out. The majority of contracted diseases will trigger an outbreak, and these cards provide bonuses that really mix up the flow of the game. What you are left with that is a deadly deliciously card game that is simple, engaging and very amusing.
All the disease, afflicters and symptoms are all highly entertaining, providing ample opportunities to piece together multiple bizarre concoctions of ailments brought about by the most random of situations. The NSFW expansion that was offered during the Kickstarter campaign takes an already questionable dark game and add a layer of explicitly that enriches the humour and randomness on offer. With over 240 cards in the base game, there is great scope for replayability and maintaining a degree of freshness in the experience.
And a special mention for the game’s design. It is beautifully straightforward; streamlined to be engaging yet incredibly easy to digest. It is a masterpiece of minimalism in board game design; bold, clear, concise and just great to look at. The rule book – or the “How to Die” guide follows the trend, very to the point and crystal clear.
Super quick to learn, it offers a broad spectrum appeal as well as serving as a fantastically light filler game for the hardened gamers. The cravat is that with a rather morbid theme, it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Despite a quest for a gruesome death being the core of the game, it never takes itself seriously for even a second, instead proving itself to be parody rich and at times just refreshingly downright silly.
Ultimately, Death Wish is a little gem of a party game. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for in laughs and superb simplicity. When I compare this to my party genre big favourites like Spyfall and Funemployed it certainly holds its own. It feels somewhat unique to other games on the market and no question it has a mainstream market out there, especially with the Cards Against Humanity fans.
If you are like me and love the party game sub-genre, you really need to check this out…it really is to die for!
NEXT WEEK: High time for some news…I’ll bring you a round up of all the latest going ons in the board game world.