Jack the Ripper is the best known pseudonym for the serial killer who was active in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Sherlock Holmes’s first appearance in the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was in 1887. I like to think that if Sherlock Holmes was real, that he would have put all of his deductive reasoning behind the investigation to capture Jack, and end his reign of terror in London.
In Mr. Jack Pocket, you can either be Holmes and his faithful companions Dr. Watson and Toby the dog, or the elusive murderer Mr. Jack. It is a race to the finish! Will Sherlock catch the fiend, or will Mr. Jack follow his namesake and elude capture once again?
How to Play
Mr. Jack Pocket is a two player game where one player plays the investigators and the other is Mr. Jack. The aim of the game for the investigators is to discover who Mr. Jack is among nine suspects before the end of the eighth turn. Mr. Jack must keep his identity a secret long enough for him to acquire six hourglass tokens without being identified.
Each turn is played in two stages:
Stage 1 – The Manhunt
On the odd turns the investigator begins the sequence, and on the even turns Mr. Jack begins. The action tokens are thrown in the air so that they land randomly on the table with one face up. The first player (being the investigators or Mr. Jack) chooses a token and carries it out its associated action. These actions include: moving the corresponding detective one or two spaces clockwise, move one of the detectives one space clockwise (Mr. Jack can chose to leave the detectives where they are), rotate a tile by 90 degrees in either direction or by 180 degrees, exchange two tiles without changing their orientation, and take an Alibi card.
If Mr. Jack chooses an alibi card, it remains secret and may add hourglasses to his total, if the detectives choose this option, they reveal it and turn over the appropriate tile to its empty side.
The next player then gets to choose two action tokens and carry those out in whatever order they wish.
Finally, the remaining action is played by whomever was the first player, and the second stage begins.
Stage 2 – Appeal for Witnesses
Mr. Jack will now tell the investigator if his characters can be seen by line of sight by a Detective or not. If Mr. Jack cannot be seen, any tiles that are in an investigator’s line of sight are turned over to their empty side, and Mr. Jack takes the current turn token hourglass side up. If Mr. Jack can be seen, then any tiles that are not in line of sight are turned over and the detectives keep the current turn token.
Captured or Evaded
Mr. Jack Pocket is an amazing two player tactical deduction game. However, the amount of deduction that is actually done is minimal. If you are the Detectives you must reduce the suspect pool to one alibi and that is the extent of any deduction that may occur. You can’t guess who Mr. Jack is as you must get it down to only one suspect on the board. It is more about spatial reasoning, and reducing the pool of possibilities as quickly as possible.
I love the theme, however it’s not very strong and has a tendency to get a bit lost in the engrossing game play.
While having simple rules, the game still gives you a strong tactical and strategic experience. Your action tokens aren’t too powerful one way or the other, but they are clever enough to provide a decent amount of thinking and second guessing what your opponent may do and what their motives may be. Any victory will be based on skill alone; there is no luck in this game! You can’t just pick tokens randomly and hope they help you. You have to choose your moves carefully in order to best serve your ends, as well as blocking your opponent from making any useful moves of their own. You have to see the game from both perspectives, and you have to be able to see what possible tokens they would be after- picking the ones that not only benefit you, but that will make things harder for them. With the tile rotation and swapping tokens, being able to determine how many ways these two could be helpful to your opponent, and then being able to decide whether you need to stop that from happening (or if you are in a good position to let them have the move); all this is crucial to either side’s victory.
This leads to a fast paced and tense game. Both players are engaged at all times due to having to think a couple of moves ahead, and employing strategy to what pieces will be beneficial for each player. For Mr. Jack, there is the constant threat of discovery, and for the Detectives, they never know how close Mr. Jack is to victory. Any move could be your last!
Replay value for this game is very high. The board is modular and will never be set up the same way twice in a row, and it is fast enough that you can play multiple games in a session and not be bored of it. Being able to play as the Detectives or Mr. Jack also helps to increase the longevity of the game. You can play multiple times in a row swapping between the positions, and have a truly fun experience each play through.
Player personality is also a factor for how much fun this game is over time. Personally, I act and move completely differently when I am Mr. Jack versus Holmes and company, which keeps my opponent on his toes!
Regarding components, this game does a lot with how little is in the box. Everything is made of sturdy and thick cardboard, and the artwork on the tokens themselves is very beautiful and thematic. The only issue I had was slight warping of the actual board pieces, but I did get the game in a fairly humid climate. With some pressure and less humidity, they seem to have flattened out substantially.
The rules are easy to learn and well laid out, and because there are so few of them they are available in a plethora of languages making the game accessible to a wide audience, even though the game itself is language independent. It is inexpensive, and for what you pay for the game, you get an extremely portable, fast, and deep experience.
This game is a must for anyone’s collection. It has great replay value, is somewhat thematic,has depth and plays quickly enough that no one will get bored. For how inexpensive this game is, it really gives you a lot of substance. It is portable enough that it follows me everywhere in my purse, and I am always ready for a quick game with anyone who will give it a chance!