Monday, June 24, 2024

Why I keep playing Murderers’ Row

Looking at my records, it’s been a few years since I’ve written about Murderers’ Row. I have played a lot of Print and Play games over the last several years. I’m always curious about finding new things. So it’s hard for a game to stay in rotation. But Murderers’ Row has. It just keeps holding up.

It’s an eighteen-card tableau destroying game. You randomly create a row of ten cards and then use the cards’ special powers to eliminate all but one card. If you can’t make a move and you have either more than one card or no cards, you lose.


The cards all have thematic names like Swordsman or Assassin and have powers that are somehow at thematically linked to that name. When a card gets used, it gets flipped over to mark it as inactive and you can’t use that power again. 

A major factor in the game’s replay value is that you only play with some of the cards and placement matters. Most cards have very specific ranges. So you end up with a ton of possible layouts and they are all functionally different. 

Not only does Murderers’ Row not take up much space, it’s pretty easy to play it as an In Hand game so you don’t even need a table. I will admit that, sometimes, when playing it as an In Hand game, I’ll drop the number of cards, particularly if I’m tired. However, the fewer the cards in the initial setup, the more luck plays a major part in making a layout solvable. With ten cards, you have enough abilities that decisions make the real difference.

And that is also why I keep playing Murderers’ Row and recommend it. It is a tiny game and doesn’t take long to play. However, it isn’t just luck and the game doesn’t play itself. You have to figure out how to solve it.

In many ways, Murderers Row reminds me of Scott Almes Food Chain Island. Similar idea and mechanics only you are just working with a line instead of a grid. And frankly, Food Chain Island is better but Murderers Row is still a damn good little game. It’s been part of my travel box for years and I don’t see it leaving.

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