Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a 4-12 player social deduction game, published by Grey Fox Games with a play time of about 20 minutes, recommended for ages 14 and up.
In Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, players are a group of Detectives trying to solve a murder. Unfortunately, they will soon discover that one of the detectives they are working with is the Murderer. Depending on the number of players and the use of optional roles, a player may be an Accomplice, an anonymous Witness to the crime. Players attempt to solve the crime with the assistance of the Forensic Scientist, who will give silent clues to the players regarding the cause of death and evidence left at the scene of the crime, eventually (if all goes well) leading to the identity of the killer.
Each player will randomly draw four red “Clue” cards (representing possible evidence found at the scene of the crime) and four blue “Means” cards (Representing possible causes of death), and place them face up in front of themselves where all other players can easily see them. Then in a normal game, the Forensic Scientist, Murderer, and Detective role cards will be shuffled together and dealt randomly to each player. (Note: We always play with the Forensic Scientist chosen before the cards are dealt out, generally giving each player an opportunity to play the Forensic Scientist once). The Forensic Scientist immediately reveals themselves and will serve as the “moderator” and clue giver for the rest of the game.
The Forensic Scientist will then have all players close their eyes. He will then direct the Murderer to silently indicate one Means Card and one Clue Card in front of himself. These will be the cards that the Forensic Scientist is trying to help the Detectives guess. The Murderer wants to pick two cards that are both seemingly unrelated, so as to make it difficult for the Forensic Scientist to communicate both cards at the same time. He should also try to pick cards that are similar to as many other cards on the table as possible, so as to blend in and make it harder for the Forensic Scientist to give clues specific to his chosen cards.
Once the Murderer has chosen their cards, the Forensic Scientist will direct all players to open their eyes. From this point on, the Forensic Scientist is only allowed to speak when a player “bets their badge” to make a final accusation. More on that later.
Once players have opened their eyes, the Forensic Scientist may begin giving clues. The Forensic Scientist has several tiles which each have 6 different possible clues regarding the crime scene. Each tile focuses on one particular aspect of the crime, such as location, cause of death, the victim’s build, the murder’s motive, etc. For instance, the “Cause of Death” tile lists Suffocation, Severe Injury, Loss of Blood, Illness/Disease, Poisoning, and Accident. The Forensic Scientist must choose one, and only one, of the options on each tile which best fits the Means and Clue cards that the Murderer chose by placing a wooden bullet shaped token next to the chosen clue. He should do it with care, however, for once a token is placed, it cannot be moved for the rest of the game (though certain tiles themselves can be replaced later in the game).
Once the first token is placed, players may begin freely discussing who may be the Murderer
and which cards they chose. The Forensic Scientist may also freely continue placing the rest of their tokens in any order, or may choose to wait until players request additional information. The Forensic Scientist has only 6 tokens. Once all 6 are placed, two new tiles will be drawn at random and replace two of current tiles of the Forensic Scientists’ choice (excluding the Cause of Death and Location tiles). After this, the Forensic Scientist will no longer be able to give any clues or speak in any way except to respond to a final accusation by a player.
During this time of discussion, the Murderer is trying to avoid giving themselves away while trying to point out to the players other possible card combination around the table other than their own. Meanwhile, the Detectives are trying to use the clues given by the Forensic Scientist to deduce which cards the Murderer chose. For instance, if the Forensic Scientist indicates that the crime was committed in the Woods, and the Cause of Death was Poisoning, then the detectives may conclude that Joe can’t be the Murderer, since all of his Means cards are sharp or blunt objects, whereas Mike, Bob, and Allison all have Means cards that indicate some form of poison. Bob, who is the Murderer and chose “Radiation” as his Means Card and “Mosquito Coil” as his Clue card, may point out that Allison has “Venomous Snake” and “Timber,” while Mike has “Wine” and “Leaf,” in an attempt to throw suspicion on them.
To make a final accusation, a player will “bet their badge” in order to guess who the Murderer is, and which Clue and Means cards the Murderer chose. The player will state their accusation, and the Forensic Scientist must respond with either “Yes” or “No,” nothing more. A “Yes” means all of the information was correct, the Murderer was found, and the Detectives (including the Forensic Scientist) win the game. A “No” means that some or all of the player’s guess was incorrect, but players are not told how much was incorrect. Once a player “bets their badge,” they may not make another accusation again, but can still be freely involved in the discussion. If all players bet their badge, and the Murderer and his chosen cards were not yet discovered, the Murderer wins the game.
Additional Role Cards: In a game with 6 or more players, two additional roles may optionally be added. The first is the Accomplice, who sees what cards the Murderer chose, and wins or loses with the Murderer. His primary job is to try to distract other players and lead them into making incorrect guesses.
The other role is the Witness, who requires that both the Murderer and Accomplice are used. After the Murderer has chosen his cards and closed his eyes with the Accomplice, the Forensic Scientist will silently indicate to the Witness who the Murder and Accomplice are, but not which is which or how the murder was done. The Witness uses this information to help guide players into making more accurate guesses. However, if the Murderer and Accomplice are found, they may try to guess the Witness. If they do, they still win the game (thematically, the witness was killed before they could testify in court).
The components in this game are well made. The cardboard tiles are nice and thick, the wooden
bullet tokens look cool and are fun to use, and the cards are high quality. The artwork for the game is good, but never gruesome. The rules are also incredibly short (2 double sided pages), and super easy to understand. The box also comes with a nice plastic insert that easily stores everything inside.
While there are many great games out there and readily available, Deception: Murder in Hong
Kong is truly exceptional. This is by far the best social or party style game I have ever played, and is probably the game I’ve played the most of any game ever (to be fair, I generally dislike party-style games).
The game is so easy to teach and it plays in about 20 minutes, but I don’t think I’ve ever played it
less than three times consecutively (as I mentioned in the gameplay overview, we usually have each player be the Forensic Scientist once). You can play the game with as few as 4 people, but I recommend a minimum of 6 (partially because I also recommend playing with the additional roles). Otherwise, the game plays well whether you have 6 or 12 people playing. I’ve played this game with family, friends, a youth group, and strangers, and it has never gone over poorly.
I love the fact that there is no player elimination, and that if you’re the Murderer or Accomplice,
you don’t have to be great at lying (I’m not). It will help, but even if you’re a poor liar, that still doesn’t tell players which cards you chose. Sometimes the great moment of this game is that only one player has a badge left, they know who the Murderer is, but not which cards they chose.
Another neat thing is how this game skirts the “Alpha Gamer” issue that so frequently occurs in
cooperative or semi-coop games. While certain players will naturally dominate the conversation (this is a natural part of group dynamics), each player may only guess once. Even if certain players tend to be quiet during the discussion, they must still make their own accusation at some point, and the Forensic Scientist must respond to only that individual player. This means another player cannot force them to make a certain guess or make a guess for them.
The game also doesn’t get overly personal. The Resistance is another great social eduction game, but the back-stabbing, betrayal nature of the game can get a little too mean for some people. This game doesn’t have that problem at all since there is no betrayal, and even rarely direct lying (it’s more about concealing the truth than about lying).
But it’s the puzzle of this game that makes it so much fun. The Detectives have to solve the puzzle of what the Forensic Scientist is trying to tell them, while the Forensic Scientist has to silently communicate two specific cards in the midst of 48 or more possible cards that could have been chosen. The Murderer has their own puzzle of trying to pick two cards that seem totally unrelated and can easily blend into the other cards on the table.
This game is one of my all-time favorites, probably in my top 5. If I’m ever going to bring out a
game and there’s more than 6 people, this is the game I’m bringing, hands down. It’s definitely a game you should check out.
For the Parents: (Allow me to preface this section by saying that this game could probably be rated PG-13. It is more gruesome in concept than in appearance. What I mean is that the artwork itself is fairly mild, but the game does deal with themes of murder, violence, and drugs. If you enjoy crime or mystery TV shows, you should have no problem with this game. If, however, even just the idea of some of the cards stated below bothers you, this game is not for you.)
Violence: Some of the more gruesome Means cards include Dismemberment, Surgery, and Throat Slit. As previously mentioned, the art in the game is not particularly gory or graphic. It generally just shows a picture of the Means stated on the card. For instance, the card “Axe” just shows a picture of an axe. Throat Slit and Dismemberment are probably the most graphic cards in the game, and they show a blade being held up against a person’s throat and leg, respectively. Little or no blood is shown on any cards in the game, and in my opinion, the publisher did a good job of handling the subject matter in a tasteful manner.
Sexual Content: Clue cards include Briefs, Panties, Stockings (on a woman’s legs) and Love Letter.
Drugs/Alcohol: Numerous cards include references to drugs (illegal and prescription), various forms of alcohol, poisoned needles, and injections.
Horror/Occult: Only in that Means cards include things like Axe, Cleaver, and Chainsaw (again, no gore is pictured on the cards).