Murder of Crows, from Atlas Games, is (to me) a ridiculously adorable, fantastically morbid card game. For 2-5 players, it’s listed on the box as taking 20 minutes. I can assure you, that box time is not a lie. Depending on players and how well they pay attention, 2 players might be able to speedily demolish this game in 15 minutes. Maybe even less. The game is set at ages 13+. In terms of rules, I think kids much younger than that could play the game with ease; the rules are easy to grasp and the rules sheet that’s included is written very simply and clearly. It’s definitely far easier to follow than the average furniture directions.
Due to subject matter, I could see it as being a very mileage may vary situation for parents. The violence and murder isn’t described or illustrated in an overly detailed manner, but death and violence are subjects that may need a lot of care handling if you let kids under 13 play.
Players are pitted against each other to be the first to spell out the word MURDER with their cards. Each letter contains a small fragment of a story; spelled out, the 6 letters tell a story of murder most foul. If you like Gloom in terms of storytelling and subject matter, Murder of Crows could definitely appeal to you. It’s not as centered on player storytelling, and there’s no improve-the-lives of opponents cards in play. But there is the spell-out-the-murder storytelling (best told in ridiculous voices when end game is reached), and going after other player’s cards went fast.
Instead of trying to decide what way to filch or mess up someone else’s hand, those offense moves are letter coded. You can force people to discard entire hands, remove a letter from their MURDER in progress, draw extra cards or force other players to reveal their hands and pull a card from theirs.
Defending against card effects put in play by opponents is done by discarding one of your cards. There’s a neat little mechanic to it involving the size of the murder of crows on the cards, and the amount of defense vs offense moves in the game feel pretty solidly even. Maybe less defense capabilities, but it certainly didn’t take away from the game for me.
In terms of appearance and storage, the cards are separated into two stacks inside the box, and the rules sheet slides into the box (can be stowed behind or in front, I find in front keeps the cards from getting too messy in the box.) The box tabs have taken a beating in my purse and suitcase during the holidays, but the body of the box is still holding up. I think the art on the cards is charmingly creepy and a little deranged, and the basic box illustration front and back does a good job of being an up front representation of the game. Definitely a good warm up game or fast time killer between long games, fairly inoffensive unless you have serious death in entertainment and games issues, and one of the first card games I could understand and teach after one play. It’s a keeper, and I see decent replay value.
I love creepy, winsome games like Murder of Crows and Gloom. If you know of any games that are a little on the spooky side, leave suggestions in the comments!