Sometimes you didn’t know you were missing something until it comes into your life. Sometimes that thing is a person. Sometimes it’s a board game. But SOMETIMES it’s a tiny pink die, so ludicrously small as to be functionally unusable. As I stare at the tiny die, pondering the its existence, I begin to question everything I know to be true. Where did it come from? Why is it so small? Who would be so audacious as to actually include this wonderful thing as an actual game component?
As well as being an exploratory discussion about miniscule dice, this here written page is also a review of Hunt: The Unknown Quarry, published by Victory Point Games. It’s a deductive combat game for 3-6 players about bounty hunting scary monsters and trusting absolutely no one. And tiny dice. It comes in two editions: boxed, and the (very slightly) cheaper polybag version. I was sent the polybag version of the game, so the review will reflect that. Will figuring out who that pesky beast is finally unlock the secrets of the little pink cube? Do we even want it to? These are important questions.
Rules of Supernatural Engagement
The main chunk of set up in Hunt will be creating your mansion, the setting for our spooky story. Lay the three boards out on the table, representing the three floors of the house. Each room indicates how many loot items they hold, which are represented by cards, placed face down.
Each player receives a deck of two stacked cards, randomised by the whole group. All but one of the stacks are regular item cards, to be used by players to interact with each other. One person however, receives two monster cards. Unsurprisingly, this tells that player that they are a terrifying beast, who must defend against the murderous bounty hunters who have come to claim their prize. The symbols on the cards tell you what sort of monster you are, once you’ve checked them against your handy player-screen. Each player gets a screen, a note sheet and a pencil, so you can hide all of your important information.
The idea of the game is pretty straightforward: one of you is a monster. A Bounty Hunter wins when he or she makes the killing blow against the monster. The monster wins when all of the Bounty Hunters are crippled (so you can escape!). In the game, you’ll use actions to move around the mansion, searching rooms for hidden items and occasional clues. You can also ‘interact’ with other players, which often means attacking them. What a player does (usually without saying a word) in response to those actions, will give you clues about their identity, as well as potentially forcing the player to lose health points.
To interact with another player, you simply hand them a card. Before you do, you roll a die (size optional) in the middle of the table. If you’re happy with the result, pass the card to its target. The die result tells both you and the card’s target whether they need to carry out an action or take damage, depending on whether they are human or different types of monsters. For example, a certain card may require a monster to hand over one of their cards when the die result is a 4. If the player hands you a card, you know they’re a monster (and sometimes you’ll also be able to narrow down what sort of monster). Cards have a handy wheel at the top, to show you at a glance which creatures are affected.
Each player also has a character energy card on display. Players can carry out additional actions by using energy and turning their card to reflect its use. You can spend energy to change your dice rolls, carry out another action, or to avoid being harassed.
Bounty Hunters are considered crippled when they take three or more wounds. Being crippled doesn’t end the game for a player but it does make it harder. Crippled Bounty Hunters cannot spend energy, move more than two spaces, and can only use the results of a die if they’re a 1, 2 or 3. A monster is killed when it takes as many wounds as there are players. As soon as a monster is killed, the game ends. The monster announces this immediately and the Bounty Hunters must announce whether or not they are crippled. If all Bounty Hunters are crippled then the beast wins, slinking away in the night, bloody and nearly beaten. If not, then the Bounty Hunter who scored the winning blow is the victor.
Monster hunting is a fairly established theme, which lends itself well to stalking and deduction. The game looks and feels like a classic horror story: dark and mysterious, full of unknowns. For the most part, the theme is tight, making perfect sense as to the game setting and helping players to fall into character. Although, while I totally get that you wouldn’t notice a werewolf in your midst, I’m pretty sure it’s harder to hide an eight foot stone Golem under a floppy hat and raincoat. It feels like a game that would pair well with a fine sherry, cigars and furs. Its style is creepy opulence, an incorporeal spirit decked out in 1940s glamour.
I really enjoyed the interaction mechanics in particular. It’s a great feeling to silently hand a card to another player, only for them to be forced to silently confirm their identity as a big stinky monster. The silent interaction is quite wonderful. It’s important not to let information slip to your opponents, so it’s really a necessity. But it means you get these wonderful “I know, but do you know I know?” moments of intense eye contact. ‘Oh, you’re handing me a card, ey? Well I’ll just take that from you, Mr DEFINITELY EITHER A FAIRY OR WARLOCK.’ You’ve got to be careful about playing your hand too early. As soon as the other Bounty Hunters get a whiff of a positive monster ID, they’re straight in to try to get the winning blow.
The scratch sheets that are supplied with the game are a good addition, though I wish the game had come with more of them ready-printed. They’re very handy for tracking your monster clues and making notes of which rooms hold which items. Problematically though, I noticed some players barely using theirs at all. When I pushed them to find out why their pages were so sparse, their feelings were that it’s simply not important enough to track that much information. Players felt like so long as they figured out who the monster was then they had a good enough chance of winning as anyone else. And I’m not entirely sure I disagree with them. While I felt like I was doing well by filling my scratch sheet with scribbles and ticks, the reality was that it wasn’t helping me win.
This is kind of where it falls down for me. The interactions are great fun, the card-passing deduction was very satisfying but the majority of our games were won by a Bounty Hunter killing the monster on their first shot, because the work had already been done by someone else. As soon as it becomes obvious you’re going for the kill, everyone wants in on that action, and the game rewards luck and opportunism as much as it does deduction and strategy.
There’s also a bit of a brutal learning curve. There aren’t a lot of rules really, but the nature of the game means that you only get the best out of it when there is no ambiguity about the rules. Almost any rules query will give away your identity, even when working with hypotheticals. It makes the first handful of games a little hard-going, while you wait for everyone’s’ familiarity to level out.
The components are a mixed bag. As mentioned, I received the polybag version. It ships without a box and, as I understand it, slightly paired down components. I’m not really into the whole concept of un-boxed games but that’s a personal preference. I like to display my games and identify them quickly, which isn’t easy to do with an A4 baggy. However, the art is absolutely gorgeous. Just wonderfully produced loveliness, carrying on the deeply coloured, elegant theming of the game. The board and character art is some of my favourite that I’ve seen on a board game. It’s stylish and attractive, while being clear and easily distinguished. The room boards are lovely looking but certainly too thin to last.
While the card art is nice, the card quality is very patchy. The corners are rough and irregular and the edges and already showing enough wear that upon receipt, I sleeved them immediately. The edge wear on the cards shown in the pictures is as it when the game was delivered. The cut quality is so poor and irregular that it could be a real issue with such a strong focus on hidden information.
The rule book is solid and well-written, if not up to the printing standards of others. The game comes with plastic standees for the player tokens but it also comes with cardboard ones which look better in my opinion. The player screens are nice. They’re certainly as good as other games that use them and they’re much more generously sized than many.
And then there’s the die. That tiny die. That tiny, 5mm d6. Having never had a Victory Point Games game in my collection, I was thoroughly bemused when this little thing tumbled onto my floor. What is it? Is it there in error? Is this some sort of horrible joke? Why does it only roll threes? I’ve got to say, it’s a ballsy move. It’s certainly a statement to put something in with the game that doesn’t make sense visually or technically. But you know what? I love the stupid thing. It’s going to live in my wallet, following me across the world on my travels. I’ve got a whole house full of dice that I can replace it with.
Hunt: The Unknown Quarry is an interesting idea with a unique mix of mechanics but it’s also got a lot of problems. It has heart but it is unpolished, feeling like it might need at least a couple of house rules to make it enjoyable. I would not consider this a solid game, which is a shame as it had so much potential.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Victory Point Games for sending us a review copy of Hunt: The Unknown Quarry.