Kill Doctor Lucky

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Murder Most Foul

Oct 16, 2000 (Updated Sep 19, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Cheap, mentally stimulating fun - easy to take along

Cons:Not exactly G-rated: some parental guidance may be necessary

The Bottom Line: Easy to learn, fun to play, toss it in a bag and take it anywhere. Great fun for adults and kids alike.

Looking for a game that's fun for adults and (older) kids alike, easy to learn and play but featuring mind-bending strategizing and maneuvering, readily tossed in a purse or briefcase and dirt cheap to boot?

Head on over to Cheapass Games (can I say 'cheapass' on Kids and Family?) at Pretty nearly any of their games will fit the bill, but if you have fond childhood memories of playing Clue, then you've just got to try out Kill Doctor Lucky (KDL).

The Cheapass Philosophy

As you may have guessed from the company's name, KDL and the other games from Cheapass, are not available in the deluxe mahogany and gold-plated edition. Nope, there's only one edition of KDL and it will set you back a rousing six bucks, for which you will receive a small packet of black-and-white printed paper. You see, Cheapass Games has a refreshingly unique philosophy.

To quote the manufacturer:

We here at Cheapass Games are aware of two basic facts about games: they cost too much, and they are, at some level, all the same.

So Cheapass does not provide dice, little plastic tokens, paper money or other paraphernalia which any respectable game player already owns (or can easily make). They do provide an idea (carefully, completely and entertainingly documented in a rulebook) and a board and cards crafted from paper; anything else you need you provide yourself. This philosophy has two consequences: (1) the games are dirt cheap and, (2) the materials are compact and easy to travel with.

One final comment on the Cheapass Philosophy: as you will see below, the rulebook isn't particularly prudish in its language. You may want to read it over (carefully) before deciding whether it is appropriate for your children.

The Pre-Mystery Game

KDL follows the basic Cheapass formula. The 'board' is provided in eight sections. If you want to mount them on a piece of stiff cardboard, you'll have a 17" x 22" game board. But why bother? The sections are easy to carry around and you can just lay them out on any table surface and you're ready to play.

The premise of KDL is deliciously evil and turns the game of Clue on its head: this is a pre-mystery game in which the object is not to discover who committed the murder, but rather to succeed in committing the murder (I did warn you that you might not consider this appropriate for the kids). Each player (the game can be played by 2-8 players) is a guest in the sumptuous, 32-room mansion of Dr. Lucky:

You have hated Doctor Lucky for as long as you can remember ... And now you absolutely can't wait to take the lying old bastard down. And, though you don't know it, everyone else in the house wants to kill him too.

The gameplay is very easy to pick up. Players move around the house according to fairly simple rules; except for a few special cases, they can only pass from room to room through a connecting door. Dr. Lucky travels through the house according to his own rules: each room is numbered and at the end of each turn, Dr. Lucky proceeds to the next sequential room (whether connected by a door or not).

The object of the game, of course, is to kill Dr. Lucky before anyone else does. You collect various weapons by drawing cards. Each weapon is capable of doing a certain amount of damage and some weapons work particularly well in specific rooms. In order to attack Dr. Lucky, you and he must be in the same room at the same time and no other player can have a line-of-sight into that room (through doors or windows, but not solid walls). Once you attack Dr. Lucky (if you happen not to have a weapon in hand, fear not: you can always 'poke him in the eye' for a single point of damage), the other players may play special cards to deflect the damage and save Dr. Lucky. If he's saved (as he nearly always is -- he's not called Dr. Lucky for nothing!), he escapes into the next room.

The rules are deceptively simple, but the strategies are complex. The movements of players and of Dr. Lucky can be manipulated by the use of special cards, so positioning yourself (and Dr. Lucky) for a murder attempt can require very careful planning. This is not the mindless game it may appear to be at first glance and skill definitely counts more than mere luck.

I've introduced friends to KDL and, without exception, they've picked up the game quickly and enjoyed it. The strategic flavor of the game is best learned by experience: people understand the rules immediately, but it takes a few turns to start to get a feel for the implications of the rules. That's when it gets really fun.

Bottom line: at $6.00, you should buy it just for the entertainingly witty rulebook. Toss it in your purse or briefcase and bring it out at your next social gathering. You'll thank me.


Update (Sept 2005): It seems worthwhile to note that our five-year-old son loves this game. The game requires minimal reading and the mechanics are easy enough for a young child to understand. Whether or not the game's theme is sufficiently appropriate is left as an exercise for the individual parent.

Where to buy it:

Direct from the manufacturer:
While you're there, check out some of their other games. At these prices, how can you go wrong?

Recommend this product? Yes

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