Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 07, 2022
Mortum: Medieval Detective

My wife and me like to play cooperative board games with a detective theme, so Mortum: Medieval Detective is one of the games I picked up at last year's Spiel in Essen. The selling point of this game is that there is no rulebook, there are only decks of cards. You go through a deck of cards, which does both explain the rules to you and play the game. That works okay, as the rules aren't overly complex, but it makes it hard to re-read a rule again later. It also makes this better played as a solo game, as with multiple players there is a lot of reading aloud involved.

Over the course of one deck/case, you will discover a map with several locations. The map evolves, as cards can get added or flipped over. You can visit each location and get information, and sometimes "choose your own adventure" style decisions to make. But your 3 characters (always 3, regardless of player count) also have certain action tokens to perform a raid, a search, or a surveillance. A regular location visit will usually advance the time, while to do a special action you put a marker on the time track for 3 hours later, and then get the result of that special action when the timer gets there. You will need a combination of regular visits and special actions to solve the case. At some point the time you get for the adventure runs out, and you will be presented with a list of whodunnit questions. You write down your answers, then get to check how right or wrong those answers were, which gives you a score.

On the positive side, Mortum: Medieval Detective is a relatively fast-flowing experience that is easy to start and play through. You get to do usual detective game stuff: Searching locations, questioning witnessess, plus the less usual violent "raid" option. While doing this, you puzzle together the overall story, which is fun. The system with the cards and tokens is clever enough, and different to other detective games.

On the negative side, Mortum: Medieval Detective doesn't give you enough time to do everything. In one location the most information would be acquired by searching it, in another location surveillance would be the best option, while other locations might require a raid, or just give you information with a regular visit. But it is nearly impossible to guess with the information that you are given which would be the best special action for each location. So the game ends up feeling a bit random, with the result of your detective work depending more on which action you did at what location rather than any clever deducting on your part.

Another negative point is that Mortum: Medieval Detective is relatively short, with not much replayability. There are only 3 cases in the box, and the first one is a shorter, kind of tutorial case. The scoring table at the end of each case spoils much of what you haven't found out yourself, so you probably won't play them twice.


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