I should start by saying Darkridge isn’t for everyone and this isn’t the type of game you will probably pick out on a whim. This is more of an experience. Now the idea of a murder mystery party surprisingly comes up a lot but it always like a bit too much work and they are often very specific and one and done type of games. This is different. I love the variety of this, I love that there are specific goals, that there’s an actual weapon and of course I love the ghost team. This is just a lot of fun. The dagger is a nice touch, to have a physical weapon to conceal and actual kill with is genius. What a fun and chaotic way to play a game.
Obviously there are a few cons to this game, it won’t appeal to everyone and that’s okay. You will need a lot of people which can be hard to wrangle. Lastly you will need space. The killings and goals have to happen one on one so you will need multiple rooms. I live in a tiny condo so that is an issue. However it doesn’t make this impossible. You will just have to schedule this game when you know you will have the space. It’s not like you’d pull this game out all the time anyways, you’ll just have to keep that in the back of your mind.
With the space issue in mind, this is definitely a plan ahead situation. If you are playing this, you are planning a party, so it’s important to get people on board ahead of time, that way they can choose what they want to wear and also you’ll get a feel for the people who aren’t interested. You’ll make sure you have enough room and time to get through the game without feeling rushed. Also if you are me, you’ll want to make sure there are enough snacks to make it through the evening.
Darkridge is a 6 to 12 player game ages 12 and up and played over 3 rounds. Players act as jocks, geeks or rebels attending their high school reunion. Each character has their own choice of goals, a secret mission and an artifact that gives them a special power. One player will be the slasher and carry a dagger. If that player kills you it’s okay you will become a ghost with some ghost objectives.
To setup the game, choose if you want the beginner or advanced mode. In the beginner mode you only play the first two acts and you don’t turn into ghosts so its really just to get the basic rules. I can’t imagine a situation where I would want to play without the ghost team so advanced is my only option.
If you want your guests to dress up you’ll need to assign your characters beforehand. Everyone will need to dress in a way that they’d be able to conceal the dagger if they are the slasher. The dagger is fairly large so really make sure people understand that ahead of time.
Once you’ve assigned characters prep the secret mission cards. Set aside the slasher and the sheriff cards then draw cards equal to the number of players minus two, then shuffle in the sheriff and slasher. This is just to guarantee the slasher and sheriff make it into every game.
Place the “Are You Dead” cards at the top of the Ghost card stack. That should stay in a central place.
Once your guests arrive, they will receive their character cards. They will determine who their character is now which will define their goals for the game. Each act has a different goal and can score points for the team.
Everyone draws a Secret Mission card and chooses one mission. The harder the mission the more points its worth. Once the game starts you cannot change your mission and can only score points once.
Each player then draws two Artifact cards from the pouch. Rules and effects are listed on the cards. Pick one of the cards to use in the game. That card can only be used once.
Slip all your cards in the id holder and you are ready to start.
Place the dagger in the center of the group. Everyone must close their eyes, plug their ears and count down from 30. During this time the slasher will take the dagger and hide in on themselves.
The game is set up in three acts.
Act 1 – Meet and Greet
This act is about everyone getting to know the different characters. It’s an opportunity to mingle and you’ll especially want to connect with your teammates. The teams are Jocks, Geeks and Rebels. In the end the team with the highest combined score wins so pay attention to who’s on your side.
Act 1 is 20 minutes and you can’t use artifacts, accomplish goals or secret missions. More importantly the slasher can’t kill anyone. This is just for everyone to get to know each other and it very relaxed.
Act 2 – The Real Action
A lot happens in act 2 and it will run anywhere between 30 and 50 minutes depending on what you want to do.
It’s time to accomplish some goals. Each goal is worth a point each time it is accomplished with a new character and can only be fulfilled in private with one other character. That’s sort of the awkward part of the game, these side conversations everyone has in separate rooms can be hard to orchestrate.
If you’re the slasher or have the poison artifact, this is the time to kill. To kill someone either show them the poison artifact or touch them with the lit dagger. This also can only be done one on one in private and it’s important to be stealthy, if they catch you trying to kill them, they can run away or scream and you do not want to found out so you need to be sneaky. If a player is killed, they must immediately be silent and they cannot give you away.
If you die, you lose your points and join the ghost team. Which is what I love about this game, nobody leaves the game early. You will earn two points if no one notices you are dead until you retrieve a ghost objective card. This is a great idea, that way it encourages the ghosts to not be obvious about dying so in a busy game it will be harder to track down who they were with when it happened. To collect a ghost card, pick two and choose one to keep. You can only complete a ghost objective once but you can return for more cards as you accomplish them. Each time you succeed you score two more points for the ghost team. Place accomplished goals in front of your ID holder. Ghosts can only speak in whispers but can cry loudly.
Act 3 – The Final Act
Everyone will meet in the starting area. Used artifacts will be returned and you can regroup with your team to catch up before the round starts. When ready to begin start the timer, this round is 20 minutes. This runs like round 2 except now you have an act 3 goal.
After act 3 it’s time to tally up the scores. Teams will add their individual points together. The ghosts will add their objective cards up. Then each living team gets to accuse one player of being the slasher. A team can accuse one of their own but will score no points. All teams will announce their current totals. The team with the highest point score will decide how many points they are willing to bet and will make their accusation first. After the living teams have made their accusations the slash will come forward. Teams can then gain or lose the points they wagered.
The team with the most points wins.
This truly is a party in a box. I love going to escape rooms and it’s really cool to have an option to create an experience like this at home. Even though it won’t get as many plays as your favourite board game it will create a few memorable nights.