Back in February I looked at the first game in publisher dV Giochi’s lineup of Decktective games. Now the second game in the series, Nightmare in the Mirror, is coming out in North America, along with a new Deckscape game, Crew vs Crew. The games were designed by the same pair (Martino Chiacchiera, Silvano Sorrentino) who show-run both series; these guys clearly have a lock on puzzles-in-a-box type games. So, while I continue to play through the transcendent puzzle that is The Initiative, I thought I’d give both dVG games a whirl and tell you about them.
Nightmare in the Mirror uses the same effective system as its predecessor, Bloody-Red Roses. One to six players have a crime to solve which unfolds in three dimensions as the crime scene gradually reveals itself using the box itself as a card-holder/stage. Players take turns either adding evidence cards face-down to the Archive (therefore burying that information) or playing them faceup where they can be shared. But each piece of evidence requires a certain number of cards in the Archive before it can be played, and that cost rises as the game proceeds, so players constantly have to decide which are the ones to share and which ones are the red herrings (of which there are many). Once the evidence deck is run through the group has to commit to a solution in the form of answers to a series of questions (a la Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective), scoring points for the ones they get right.
While Bloody-Red Roses suffered from some questionable writing choices and grammar issues (at least in translation), Nightmare (which was designed by the same team) is a contemporary story suffering from no such distractions and therefore is slightly better on that account. Again I was utterly led astray and am not ashamed to admit I botched the case badly–though admittedly this time I played solo instead of two-player. In any case, if mysteries are your thing then by all means you will enjoy Nightmare.
Crew vs Crew,manages to put a unique spin on the escape-room-in-a-box genre by making it a competition between two players or groups of players. It too runs along the same lines as its predecessors in the Deckscape series, with what I would say is a distinct uptick in difficulty. While some of the time the teams are racing to solve separate-but-similar puzzles in parallel, sometimes they are pitted directly against each other in minigames rather than puzzles–a refreshing change of pace. The team that solves each puzzle first or wins each minigame earns a certain number of coins, and the team with the most coins at the end wins.
Admittedly, the game feels less like an escape room and more like an episodic series of challenges tied together with a very thin plotline. However, players still get the experience of working together to solve puzzles with an added layer of in-your-face competition. So if you and your group are looking for that kind of thing, Crew vs Crew should be right up your alley.
Unquestionably, Chiacchiera and Sorrentino have carved out a niche for themselves with these quality portable, inexpensive, one-and-done games, perfect for the cottage or a rainy day afternoon. If however you’re looking for something just as co-operative and puzzly but more character-driven and long-form, Corey Konieczka’s got you covered…but you’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to read about it.
Thanks to dV Giochi for providing review copies of Nightmare in the Mirror and Crew vs Crew for this article.