Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Bruno Cathala &
Ludovic Maublanc


No. of Players:



Some years ago the Swiss publisher HURRICAN was able to surprise the gaming market with its two-player game Mr. Jack, a deductive two-player game in which the players took the roles of Jack the Ripper and the Chief of the London Police, and the Police player faced the task of discovering the identity of the Jack player within a total of eight rounds of play. After its initial release in 2006 the game was followed by an expansion, a pocket version and a spin-off which transferred the place of events to New York, but it seems as the game is still inspiring authors Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc to develop even more new games around the main playing mechanism which could be found in Mr. Jack.

Even though I have dug in my memory, I cannot remember having seen any boardgame which was based on Gaston Leroux' classic novel Le Fantôme de'l Opéra, an astonishing fact considering the thrilling plot and the enigmatic character of the Phantom. As it seems, this story simply had been waiting for a boardgame adaption all along, and so HURRICAN now presents us a game which takes us right into the middle of the novel's story, at the point where a lot of strange accidents is happening at the Opera Garnier, one of the two opera houses in Paris 1881.

As indicated, the game operates on a variation of the mechanisms found in Mr. Jack, and so it's once again two players who face each other in a deductive duel. One player will take the role of the evasive Phantom who tries to force La Carlotta, the arrogant star of the opera house, to leave the city by arranging scary accidents, while the other player takes the role of the Police who tries to find out who is behind all these strange happenings in the opera house.

Eight characters are available in the game, and all of them are well known from Leroux' novel. So we will find the young singer Christine Daaé and Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, the concierge Madame Giry and her daughter Meg, opera directors Moncharmin and Richards, Machinist Joseph Buquet and the strange Persian, and all of these characters will begin the game located in different rooms of the opera house. One of these characters will be randomly determined to be the Phantom who has arranged the accidents within the opera house, and - of course - the identity of the Phantom will only be known to the Phantom-player. So, the Police player will face the initial situation that all characters on the board are under suspicion of being the Phantom!

During the course of the game the Police player will have to try to find out the identity of the Phantom by stepwise absolving the characters from the suspicion of being the Phantom. However, the Police player does not have much time to do so, because each round a marker for La Carlotta will be moved a number of steps corresponding to the number of remaining "suspect" characters still available. If La Carlotta reaches the last step on her track, she will be fed up with the strange events at the Opera Garnier and she will flee from Paris, resulting in a win of the Phantom player.

During each round of the game, each player is allowed to activate two characters, and a deck of character cards is used to determine which four characters may be chosen by the players. In the following round, the other four characters will be activated in likewise fashion, and so all eight characters will have been activated after two full rounds have been played. At that point, the character cards are re-shuffled and the players start anew to activate four characters for the next round.

At the end of each round, the Phantom player has to declare whether he can appear or not. He can appear if his character either is alone in a room or if he is in the same room as a "Blackout" token (the dark is hiding his evil doings from suspicious eyes). If the Phantom can appear, La Carlotta is even more scared and is moved one additional step on her track, but regardless of the fact whether the Phantom can appear or not the Police player may use the Phantom player's announcement to gather information about the identity of the Phantom, because all characters who do not correspond with the announcement of the Phantom player now are cleared of the suspicion of being the Phantom. So, by clever movement of the characters, the Phantom player tries to hide the Phantom's identity by having as many characters as possible fulfilling the condition of the announcement, whereas the Police player tries to separate still suspicious characters into both groups in order to narrow down the number of remaining suspects with each round.

When a character is activated, the player may move the character for a number of rooms corresponding to the number of characters in the room where the character has started his movement, and in addition the special ability of the character may be used. Each character has his own special ability, e.g. Christine Daaé may attract characters from neighbouring rooms to her own location, Meg Giry may use the secret passages for movement, Joseph Buquet may move the "Blackout" token etc., and the players will strive to use these abilities to further the aims of catching or hiding the Phantom.

As can be seen, there are some close similarities between Le Fantôme de'l Opéra and Mr. Jack, and just from reading this text you might ask whether an owner of Mr. Jack really should go ahead and purchase this new game as well. The answer to this question is - like so often - based on personal taste. From my perspective, Le Fantôme de'l Opéra offers enough differences to justify its release. Here especially the "La Carlotta" track is an interesting change because it gives the game a somewhat other rhythm. In addition, positioning of the characters on the gameboard works differently due to the focusing on just a handful rooms and the different special abilities of the characters, and so even seasoned Mr. Jack enthusiasts might welcome this change to their long-standing strategies. Finally, and quite important from my perspective, the game offers a very high degree of atmosphere, and taken together these facts definitely go in favour of owning this game!

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Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany