Crimes & Capers is Renegade Game Studios’ brand new cooperative murder mystery style board game series, with 2 titles already available. Both titles have been designed by the duo of Juliana Moreno Patel and Ariel Rubin, and feature artwork from Roena Ivana Rosenberger. High School Hijinks sees players determine who has framed their fellow student Romi. Lady Leona’s Last Wishes, as the name suggests, is more about figuring out who gets what in her will. Both games play with a minimum of 4, with additional characters allowing up to 6 to play. However, will you want to find out who dun it?. Let’s find out!
In true murder mystery style, each player is assigned a character. This can be done ahead of time or when opening the box to play. Coming with a small description of the character and a hint towards what they are often found wearing, it allows players to get prepared and into character if they so wish – though this is optional. Both of the adventures feature six playable characters; with four mandatory characters and two additional roles used to allow more players to get involved. Importantly, none of the players are a murderer hiding things from the others, there’s no hidden traitor character.
Sitting down around the table, the character booklets are passed out to the players playing them – with any additional unused character books returned to the box. Two envelopes marked as A and B are put within reach, though are left unopened until instructed. A padlocked box, Romi’s Locker in High School Hijinks or a locked chest in Lady Leona’s Last Wishes, is put in the middle of the table. Player’s first aim is to work together to crack the code of the padlock – which is a physical lock. This is achieved by working through the opening materials, an envelope that can be opened when players are ready to begin.
All of the materials and information, aside from pens and paper, are included in the box – with no prior knowledge needed going into the experience. With a mixture of puzzles from determining words, map locations and more, the players will eventually determine a 3 digit code. This gets the team into the locker / chest and onto part two where players will try to determine who framed Romi or what’s happening with Lady Leona’s will.
When making a guess players will open the door associated with their suggestion. For example in High School Hijinks the players open the door of who they think framed Romi. Beneath the window, which is somewhat like a flat advent calendar, it’ll instruct the team to open either Envelope A or B – which were put to one side at the start of the game. One will be a win and the other a fail – though regardless of which is opened it’ll let players know why, with what facts they could have used to piece the mystery together.
Neither of the Crimes & Capers boxes were full of complex puzzles, though out of the two Lady Leona’s Last Wishes had the easier things to solve. The puzzles won’t be a walk over, allowing players to stumble their way through them but never get completely stumped – and if you do there are hints available on the Regenage website. Being murder mystery not escape room in style, there’s more to the experience than just puzzles. There’s deduction in terms of what scraps of information might reveal and determining motives, which are as useful at times as the clues from cracking the puzzles.
Getting into the locked box in each murder mystery adventure felt different, which was something of a concern going into the second game of Crimes & Capers. Lady Leona’s Last Wishes was more of a group effort piecing information together, while High School Hijinks had a number of small puzzles to crack. Everyone was still working together, though it was less of a team effort and more individual efforts for the team, as bits were passed out to individuals to crack and then pieced back together to get the answer.
Time wise both games have a recommended time on the box of 90 minutes, though with 4 adults we found this to be over exaggerated. Lady Leona’s Last Wishes lasted around 45 minutes, whilst High School Hijinks took almost bang on an hour (both were played with 4 people). Of course, tripping up and getting stuck on a puzzle or two could easily add 5 – 10 minutes here and there. Still, for one box to take only half the recommended time seems off.
Getting Crimes & Capers to the table is an easy task, with players not needing to do anything ahead of time if they don’t want to. With very few rules the game box is opened, booklets handed out, initial puzzles revealed and people are already in the experience. For the most part the brief rules enable this smooth play experience. Alas, there is one line or sentence missing from the rulesheet. It isn’t instantly clear when players can open their character booklets or if they should. Players should get reading from the start as they will be part of the puzzles, and just a note in the rules to open them up, after finishing the background story sheet, would have removed some minor confusion.
Crimes & Capers is far from the only board game that is a single time play. Nor is it the only one to have destroyed components that means it’s straight into the recycling once finished. Coming with such a large box, full of little bits and pieces, makes it feel a bit wasteful. It doesn’t detract from the experience when playing but afterwards there is certainly a moment when it’s hard to look past it all going into the bin. Some of the puzzles wouldn’t work without being “used”. Regardless, there surely was a way to either make the game replayable so it can be passed onto friends, reduce the box size or perhaps use only recycled materials – something that might be being done but is not obvious if it is.
Renegade Game Studios has taken the murder mystery genre and given it somewhat of a fresh cooperative twist. Gone is the awkwardness for one player to not reveal they were the murderer and it allows different stories to be told. Neither Lady Leona’s Last Wishes nor High School Hijinks took the full recommended time to play, yet both Crimes & Capers experiences thoroughly entertained everyone around the table. They are great for a gathering or a game night, just try to recycle as much of it as possible after playing.
(Editor’s Note: Both Crimes & Capers sets were provided to us by Asmodee for the review. They are currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)