Detective Work Is For The Birds
Murder of Crows
Publisher: Atlas Games
Number of Players: 2 - 5
Playing Time: ~20 minutes
MSRP: $14.95
Copy Provided By Publisher

Murder of Crows, by Atlas Games, is a morbidly funny party game where each player uses clues - which are provided by crows for unknown reasons - to uncover the story of, as their own tagline puts it, “a murder most fowl.” Murder of Crows was designed by Eduardo Baraf and (appropriately enough) Thomas Denmark.

Get it? Because “murder most foul” is a line from Hamlet, and… and Hamlet takes place in Denmark...

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The crows will soon reveal how I killed that joke.

Murder of Crows is quick to play and quicker to learn. The entire rulebook is only seven pages and can be read through in a couple of minutes. A game goes like this: each player is dealt a hand of cards with letters on them, and the object of the game is to spell the word “MURDER” by drawing and playing one card per turn. Simple enough, right? Maybe even a little too simple.

The fun comes from the fact that each letter has a particular effect associated with playing it: stealing cards from opponents, removing letters from their field, and so on. However, you can also protect yourself from your opponents’ cards by discarding a matching card. You have to balance spelling out and protecting your own word with disrupting your opponents’ attempts to do so. It's quick to pick up, fast to adapt to, but still has that layer of back-stabbing your friends around the table.

Murder of Crows feels and plays like a trimmed-down version of Gloom (although you’re trying to solve a death instead of create one). Gloom isn’t a terribly complicated game to begin with, so that should give you some idea of how simple this game is. Even with first timers learning the rules, which usually adds to the game time, each game took less than half an hour to finish.

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Attempted murder.

Though it’s meant to be played in a group, there is also a two-player variant called The Murdered Third where you’re joined by the “ghost” of the murder victim, played by flipping random cards off the top of the deck. I suppose, in theory, you could even house rule a solitaire type of game by doing the same thing with two “ghosts.” It's nice that they added more variation in this second edition, so there's always a reason to pack the tin in your game bag.

A Good And Simple Game For This Time Of Year

If you have friends or family who don’t do board games, this is a good one to break out. The small box, which contains only the cards and the very thin rulebook, is unlikely to scare away even the least experienced of gamers. Just make sure that whoever you’re playing with will appreciate the dark theme and gallows humor.

In short: the simple rules, low price, and short play time make Murder of Crows a perfect addition to a casual game night or a Halloween party. I completely recommend picking this one up.