Stats at a glance
Ages: 14 +
Publisher: Grey Fox Games
We’ve all got that one friend that has something a bit-serial-killery about them. If you’re thinking you don’t, then it’s probably you. And that might prove a bit of a problem in the game of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. Let’s dive into the review.
Table of Contents
Brief Overview of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a social deduction game for four-to-twelve players. You are a team of investigators and have arrived at the scene of a murder. There’s just one big problem: the killer is among you, but no one else knows their identity!
Using a series of clues given by the Forensic Scientist, the other Investigators must attempt to solve the crime by identifying two key pieces of evidence. However, the murderer will do all they can to send them down the wrong path. If the investigators take too many wrong turns, the murderer gets away scot-free.
The investigators probably get bumped onto traffic control.
Versions & Expansions
Deception: Undercover Allies
There’s one expansion for Deception: Murder in Hong Kong called Undercover Allies. It bulks out the original game with 54 new Means cards and 90 Clue Cards.
Most notable, though, are the three new role cards: the Lab Technician, Protective Detail, and the Inside Man. The flow of the game remains the same, but players now have new powers, which can greatly up the angst in the room.
The eight new scene cards also add a whole other avenue of discussion to the base game.Deception: Undercover Allies
Unboxing Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Social deduction games are, generally, all about the chat, rather than the components. But, despite that, many of them often go the extra mile by adding some flair to the components that are included.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is one of those games. Inside, you’ll find:
- 12 role cards
- 200 Clue cards
- 90 Means cards
- 32 Scene tiles
- 11 badge tokens
- 6 wooden bullet markers
That’s right, there’s a whole lot of cards in the box, and they’re all nicely designed. The tiles and tokens look really good, too, and are all made of really strong stuff, so they will easily be able to last many a high-energy game. The wooden bullet markers are a nice touch, as well.
In particular, though, I liked the artwork. Having recently spent some time in Hong Kong, the dank, urban graphics on the box really took me back to wandering the musky and narrow streets of Sham Shui Po at night.
There’s a real film noir feeling to the game, too, which helps draw out the theme. Just be careful if you’re the murderer, as any self-reflective monologues breaking the third wall might give away the game.
How to Play Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
To start, deal every player four Means and four Clue cards, which should then be laid out, face-up, in front of them.
Next, build your Role card deck depending on the number of people playing and shuffle it. There should be one Forensic Scientist and one Murderer, while the other cards should all be Investigators. (Note. there is also the option to play with the Accomplice and Witness roles in a game of 6 or more.)
Then, secretly deal out the role cards to each player. It is vital that, other than the Forensic Scientist, who runs the game, players’ identities remain known only to the person holding them.
The Forensic Scientist then discards their Means and Clue cards, and instead takes out the Scene tiles, along with the six bullet markers. They place the Cause of Death and one Location Scene tile in front of them, then do the same with four other random Scene tiles.
Finally, each Investigator should take a Badge token and put it in front of them. This tells everyone that they have not yet tried to solve the crime.
Committing The Crime
To start the game, the dastardly crime must first be committed. To do so, every player except the Forensic Scientist closes their eyes. Then, when everyone has DEFINITELY closed their eyes, the Murderer opens their eyes and points at one of each of their Clue and Means cards, making sure the Forensic Scientist can see them.
These are the evidence cards that the other players must identify.
This is the bulk of the game and is made up of three Investigation rounds. If the Investigators haven’t identified the Clue and Means cards by the end, the Murderer wins. A round has these two phases:
- Evidence collection – the Forensic Scientist places one of each of their six bullet markers on the six Scene tiles in front of them. They should put the marker on a word they think relates to the nature of the crime to tip-off the Investigators. The Investigators can freely discuss the evidence as it is laid out before them, while the Murderer must try and subvert their investigation.
- The players all then get 30 seconds to present their opinions on the evidence and convince people to their way of thought.
The next round then begins. However, this time the Forensic Scientist draws just one Scene tile and replaces one of the existing Scene tiles and its marker on a new piece of evidence.
This continues for three rounds. If the crime has not been solved by the end (see next section), the Murderer wins.
Solving The Crime
At any point during the game, an Investigator can shout “Let me solve the crime!” and have a go at winning the game. Once they have declared an attempt, they then choose one Clue card and one Means card in front of a player.
If they are correct, the Investigators and Forensic Scientist win! If one or both of the cards is wrong, the Forensic Scientist says “no” and the game continues. That player must hand in their badge and can no longer make an official attempt to solve the crime, however, they can participate in the discussion and present their ideas.
Should all players have made an attempt to solve the crime and failed, the Murderer wins.
Witness And Accomplice
The Accomplice is on the side of the Murderer. They know the Murderer’s identity and the Clue and Means cards relating to the crime. They must help the Murderer to win.
The Witness, on the other hand, is on the side of the Investigators and, during the Committing the Crime phase, is told by the Forensic Scientist who the Murderer and Accomplice (if there is one) are. However, at the end of the game, the Murderer and Accomplice can attempt to guess who the Witness is. If they’re correct, the Witness mysteriously gets killed and the Investigators lose the case. So they must be coy.
Your First Game of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Social deduction games can be a little confusing for those new to the game. And, by their very nature, can be quite difficult to teach ‘as you go along’, as if anyone reveals their identity, the game is ruined.
It’s important, therefore, to have a very frank discussion beforehand, making it super clear that there is a social contract involved in these games. And, if you do even the tiniest thing to reveal your identity in a way not in keeping with the spirit of the game, the whole thing becomes a waste of time.
This places a big responsibility on the Forensic Scientist. So, at least for the first game, it’s worth putting someone in the role who has played social deduction games before – or, failing that, at least commands some kind of authority…
Then, during the Committing a Crime phase, don’t rush it. Be extra clear about your instructions. And, my goodness, make sure that anyone who has to open their eyes is absolutely silent when they do so. And then has their eyes firmly shut and their hands in a normal position when it’s time for everyone to open them again.
Also, as the game master, the Forensic Scientist sets the tone of the game. Don’t be afraid to ham it up a bit and take some time when placing the bullet markers. That is basically all you get to do, after all. And besides, the discussion that ensues as you do so will give you guidance as to the thinking of the group and might perhaps help you to push them in the right direction.
Otherwise, as advice for all players: talk to each other.
Pros & Cons
- Good first-time social deduction game
- Engaging discussion and deduction
- High replayability
- Forensic Scientist role can be a blessing or a curse
I’m a huge fan of social deduction games like Avalon or Werewolf, simply because the bulk of the gameplay comes down to group discussion and theory. Relationships can be built up and come tearing down over the course of just half an hour. Trust destroyed. Hearts broken.
What matters when it comes to the game is how it facilitates and regulates this, and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong gets this down to a tee.
When I initially read about the deduction part, it sounded quite bland and straightforward. But, in reality, the evidence and scene cards are written in such a wonderful way that conversation and wild deductions can’t help but flow out.
Different people approach problems in different ways, and I loved some of the wild theories that got thrown around. Not to mention, the passionate cases people make for them when presenting their case, reminiscent of some of the greatest courtroom dramas seen on screen.
And the good thing is, you are provided with nearly 300 evidence cards that can get dealt out in a myriad of different ways, so the risk of repetition is really very rare.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a great gateway game for those that have never played social deduction games before. The concept of the genre can be a little confusing and the mechanisms of a few other titles, such as Secret Hitler, can be a little difficult to follow for newbies on the first couple of plays.
In this case, though, the game is very simple. What’s more, the Forensic Scientist is keeping tabs on things and, if necessary, can take someone aside to explain any questions they might have without giving away the identity of the other player.
That said, I did find the Forensic Scientist role to be either a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, it is incredibly fun to sit silently and deduce clues that will tip off your team as to the solution of the murder – there’s a reason this role is so popular for players of Mysterium. But on the other hand, the Forensic Scientist can take no real part in the discussion or group deduction. For me, I ended up feeling quite isolated.
Also, considering how easy it can be for these games to go wrong thanks to someone accidentally giving something away, it adds an extra layer of risk.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong brings together all the best aspects of a social deduction game to create a fast-paced and fascinating whodunnit.
The group discussion and theorizing that underpins it can be extremely engaging, and especially rewarding for those that like to use their imagination.
Being one of the more simple to learn social deduction games, it’s perfect for a group with a mixed bag of experience levels. And with minimal set-up needed, the accusations will soon start flying.
If you’re a fan of social deduction games, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a no brainer to add to your list. It plays brilliantly well, pulling out all my favorite facets of a social deduction game: wild theories, impassioned speeches, betrayal, deep discussion, and a whole load of making up to do at the end.
It takes a slightly different twist on the genre by including a game master. They still have a role to play and can help keep the game on track if playing with a new group, but ultimately this role can end up being a little isolating.
Overall, though, it’s incredibly fun and probably one of the best social deduction games out there. Players of all experience levels can’t help but get drawn into the theorizing, and it’s incredibly easy to learn, making it a great option for a mixed group.
Have you tried Deception: Murder in Hong Kong? What are your favorite social deduction board games? Drop a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.
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A passionate traveller as well as a gamer, Joe is trying to play board games in as many countries as possible. No surprise, two of his favourite games are travel-friendly Tiny Epic Galaxies and Coup. But when in his home town of London, Libertalia and Secret Hitler are currently top billing.