The way to win the game is relatively simple – get yourself in the same room as Dr Lucky, make sure no-one can see you, and try to do him in with whatever weapons you may have picked up (or your bare hands). Other players then take it in turns to play failure cards to try and thwart your attempt. If you succeed, you win! If you fail, you get a spite token – which, for as long as you hold it, increases your chances of success.
The rules themselves are easy to pick up, and the game has become a staple in our games nights for being quick to learn, quick to play, ruthlessly mercenary and with a splash of gambling too. “Should I play this failure card to stop Ann, or should I refuse and make Carl use his cards… ensuring that my own murder attempt will be more likely to succeed!” This does, of course, backfire occasionally – we’ve had more than one game end early due to over-ambitious would-be-killers.
The game has nice, black humour and each failure card includes a reason for the failure – “The doctor spins around and waxes lyrical on his recent polar adventure.” The weapons in the game are also good – a monkey hand (bonus in the lobby), ‘loud noise’ (bonus in the carriage house, picture of a French horn) and killing joke are all in there, as well as simpler ones (revolver, knife, etc). Besides, competing to murder someone is a fairly funny thing to do when you’ve got a bunch of friends, a glass of wine and some takeaway pizza.
We picked up the reprint of the game in full technicolour glory, nice wooden playing pieces and big box. Originally, it was released by Cheapass Games in much less glamorous style. Cheapass Games are a frugal gamer’s friend – they believe that all you need to play a game is the rules and any unique components (such as cards). Everyone has dice, false money, pawns and counters so there’s no need to pack all that stuff in a big box and hike the price up. They argue that the quality of those components is generally poor anyway, so it’s better to leave them out, keep the cost down, and allow people to invest in one really good set of gaming accessories to use for all their games. Of course, since the big games companies are unlikely to follow this pattern, the only games you’ll really get good use out of this philosophy are other Cheapass Games. The big box version is good quality, but possibly a little over-priced looking at the content alone, and I believe that the Cheapass printing is no longer available.
There are also expansions to the game that introduce the Doctor’s dog, and a prequel game still sold by Cheapass Games called Save Doctor Lucky – wherein you must stop the Doctor drowning on the Titanic (making sure people do see you save him!) The game is slightly harder, since the Titanic is sinking while you play, and there is the potential for nobody to win!
Overall, I would heavily recommend this game – even the more expensive big box version – because it is quick to learn, doesn’t seem to get old, provides a lot of potential strategy or luck, and appeals to a wide range of people. I have even had to consider banning it, because about half the time in any games night we hold is spent playing Kill Doctor Lucky – and it usually comes out again for rematches the following day too!