You’re on a quiet walk in the woods with two good friends when you stumble across a body. What’s worse, with no one else around and the corpse still warm, all signs point to one of you being the murderer.
Oink Games have made a reputation for designing super fun and replayable games that fit in tiny boxes. Titles like Deep Sea Adventure, A Fake Artist Goes to New York, Insider, and Troll have all been met with a great deal of praise. In A Grove lives up to the Japanese publisher’s reputation. The nice thing about Oink Games is that they’re quick to learn and super portable. The downside is that each little game is fairly pricey due to the import costs.
Each round of In A Grove, players are trying to solve a mystery. There are eight different potential suspects in a game. They’re identical on the front and numbered 2-8 on the back with a blank one. At the start of the round, three of the suspects are placed in the middle, and a fourth is laid on its side as the victim for that round. One of those three is the killer. It’s up to the players to figure out who that killer is.
To make things a little more interesting, each player is going to enter the investigation with some information. Everyone gets dealt one of the left over suspects. They look at that number and then pass them to the right, getting to see a second number. This provides an alibi for a couple of the different suspects. Each player will have a slightly different set of information.
Now it’s time to determine who the real killer is. Of the three in the middle, the killer is always the highest number, that is, unless there’s a Five present. If there is a Five in the centre, then the killer becomes the lowest number of the three. Oh, and it can never be the blank suspect, they’re much too virtuous for a murder.
One at a time, players will look at two of the three suspects in the centre and then place an Accusation chip underneath the suspect they believe committed the horrible crime. It could be any of the three potential suspects, even the one they didn’t look at. The next player in turn will look at the two suspects not accused by the previous player, and then make an accusation of their own.
Play progresses with each player investigated and then making their accusation in turn. Depending on what people see they may all accuse the same suspect or the suspicion may be spread around. Once everyone has made a bid the suspects are flipped and the real murderer is revealed.
If you accused the right suspect, then congratulations, you get to take your Accusation chip back. Any wrong accusations get flipped to the other side, becoming a Liar chip. The player who laid down the last incorrect accusation takes all the Liar chips in the pile.
Now this is one of those games with one loser and a bunch of winners. If one player ends a round with a combination of eight or more Accusation and Liar chips, they are the looo-hooo-seee-heer. A player also loses if they’re out of all their Accusation chips. If neither of those conditions are met, another heinous crime takes place for the players to solve.
In A Grove falls pretty perfectly into the Oink Games line with limited components, in a compact package. It is a heck of a lot of fun and one of my favourite by this publisher so far.