Rear Window Board Game
WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 3-5
You’ll like this if you like: Codenames, Mysterium, Decrypto.
Published by: Funko Games
Designed by: Prospero Hall
Rear Window is a classic film released in 1954 from legendary English director, Alfred Hitchcock. I studied at University, and hated it. I am a fan now, its an amazing film! But as an impatient 20-year old, it was a little slow for me. I preferred The Simpsons version. I now get that the pace builds the tension and is often why so many people regard this film so highly. To attempt to convert that into cardboard form intrigued me. Could it be done? Well, you're about to find out in the next few paragraphs. But if you're impatient and want to know now, the answer is yes. And in a really good way too. Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
Now, this is a lot. But all comes together easily and it much easier to do than it sounds. One player will play as the Director, and the rest of the players will act as The Watchers. More can be the Director if you prefer, this is a good way to incorporate younger players into the game in a stress free way. Set up the screens for both sides of the table, separating what each group can see. Next, place the four day boards between the two groups of players, with the first "day one" board face up in the top left, and the other three face down in numerical order forming a large square. Give the solution board to the player acting as The Director and ensure they place it face down in front of them in the same orientation as the main game board. Upside down if necessary. The Director will also take one of each of the Resident tokens, the three Cut tokens, four wooden cubes, the Trunk box, and then shuffle the Window cards, placing them into a face-down deck in front of them. Lay down the four Watcher placards so the Watchers can access them easily along with the Investigate token and the pointer token by the four day boards. These Watcher placards give the Watchers four very interesting special powers. More on that later. Then give the Watchers the two Murder tiles and four of each of the Resident tokens.
The Watchers will now choose 12 of the Attributes, taking the five tiles for each, placing them face up next to the day boards. One of the Watchers will then take one of each of the Attribute tokens, adding one Murder tile, and will pass them to the Director face down, with a little shuffle.
From these 13 Attribute tokens, the Director will draw four at random. Meaning that the Murder token is only in the game roughly a third of the time. They will then place the four selected tokens face up onto the attribute spots on the Solution board. The remaining tiles are placed into the Trunk box, hidden from all players. Do not reveal to any of the Watchers what four Attributes are in the game. Especially if the Murder tile is in the game or not.
The Director will now choose four residents to live in the four apartments, placing their tokens face up onto the four Resident spots on the Solution board. You can pick any four you like, it doesn't affect the game. There are some Attribute tiles that add additional Resident tokens. These are the purple tokens and clearly identified. They add additional complexity to the game when you are ready for that. I would say from game three and onwards once a few people have had a chance playing on either side of the table. Then, place any remaining tokens into the Trunk box and set it aside. Finally, the Director will draw eight Window cards to start the game with. You are now ready to play. Phew! In all seriousness, this all takes under five minutes, there are just lots of little steps, but it is all very intuitive.
How It Plays
The Director will now look at the eight drawn Window cards and assess how they could work for the four chosen Resident and Attribute tokens in the game. If the murder token is in the game then the Director is aiming to give good clues, but avoid the Watchers correctly guessing there has been a murder. They need for the Watchers to correctly guess six or seven spots on the final forth day, but not correctly guess the murder tile is in the game. The Watchers need to correctly guess seven or eight spots, including the Murder tile. If the Murder tile is not in the game it is a little easier, and everyone wins if all eight spots are guessed correctly at any point.
This is achieved by the Director placing the eight cards they have into the eight spots on the face-up Day One board. There are two spaces for each of the four apartments. You are looking to match the images on the cards to the characters and characteristics on the chosen tokens in the game. This can be done a few ways, but due to the lack of communication aloud between the Director and the Watchers, this needs to be learned through the game. You could use matching colours from the cards played to the characters in the game. They all have one main colour associated with them. Some cards literally show the residents in the game. This can help a lot. But what if the character is doing the opposite of what their Attribute is for this game? You don't want to confuse people. The cards all show a lot of detail. Various objects, items, and scenarios are all depicted. You need to try to find the ones that work best for each Attribute/Resident combination.
Each round, the Director can choose to place two cards face down. This would be for two reasons. Perhaps some of the cards just do not work for the Attributes and Residents. Or, maybe there has been a Murder and the Director wants to keeps a few things hidden. However, remember those four special powers the Watchers have with the Watcher placards? Well, one of them allows the players to choose one day and flip over the cards played face down. So, in as much as card that links to the Attributes and Resident of one specific apartment, a card flipped over, that can now be viewed gives clues as to which Resident/Attribute are not selected for this Apartment, and most probably, the game. Another power allows the Watchers to discard a face down card from the current day, and make the Director replace with a new face up card. The Director can then draw one more card to their hand to replace this for the next round.
The Directors can also one of their three Cut tokens to discard as many cards a they like, and replace them with new ones. I have found that these will generally all get used, but three cut tokens is enough as long as you don't try and be too specific. But give your Watchers some credit, they have four days to guess after all.
After all eight cards have been placed by the Director the Watchers will now openly discuss their thoughts as to what the Director is trying to tell them. The Director can listen to this, but not comment. It will give them clues and hints as to how to help the Watchers in later rounds. When ready, the Watcher will then place their guesses down onto the board as to which Attributes and Resident the Director was trying to allude too. The Director will then tell them how many of their eight guesses were correct placing one of their four black cubes onto the corresponded number on the day board. They cannot say which ones are correct, just how many. However, one of the other Watcher placard special powers offers the chance to ask the Director to place a token on any chosen Attribute or Resident guess placed by the Watchers on any previous day. The token will either say YES or NO, indicting if the guess made by the Watchers was correct or not. The final power gives the Watcher the chance to ask the Director to place an arrow pointing to the specific part of one card that they wants to draw attention too. This is a great way to be implicate with a particular clue, and avoid the Watchers going down the wrong path.
Once a day has been finished, the Director will flip over the next board, and start placing the next set of eight cards into the eight spaces. The Watchers will guess again, hopefully making some progress from the previous round until the fourth and final round when the Director can then reveal all, and tell the story of the game.
Is It Fun?
Oh my goodness, yes! I love this game. I'm a fan of deduction games, and enjoy a cooperative experience like this. I am a fan of the movie, and love the way the designers of this game have integrated the theme. So, it's worth taking all that into account when you read on. However, what I have found when playing this game with different types of people, generally speaking, everyone gets caught up into the experience, no matter their thoughts on all of that! Sure, they may not all love it. But everyone I have played this with has certainly "got into it."
There is some frustration from both sides of the game. For the Director, if they don't get the "right" cards, then it is tough, Although, I found the agonising choice when I played this role to be a massively enjoyable part of the game. But I understand how it can be tough being forced to lay a card you think will confuse people when you don't want to. The good thing, is if this isn't for you, you can try the Watcher role instead. However, that role isn't without its own frustrations for some of the players I played this with. The main one being that the game won't be solved in round one. And some people get very frustrated when they cannot figure out the clues right away. I mean, it could be! But that's unlikely, and would be down to a fair bit of luck. But when you play Rear Window you need to understand the goal is to get it correct by the fourth day. Use the full extent of clues available to you, matching up cards across multiple days to eliminate certain things, and make your guesses. If you can play like this, you will enjoy the process. If you get impatient and frustrated that you cannot get it all correct with one or two guesses, then it may be a frustrating experience or you.
For me though, the game has a beautiful tension that develops through the game, just like the film. OK, that's ridiculous. it is not "just like the film"! Of course it isn't. How could it be? But it certainly does the film justice, and honours the core source material. As you play through the four days, the tension builds in a beautiful way. I would say I have won 80% of the games I have played. The few we lost were close affairs, and often when the Murder token makes the game a little more unpredictable. But generally, the game ramps up in a delicious and beautifully balanced way. Teasing a potential fail but delivering a satisfying, crunchy, and rewarding victory for all at the final seconds as the credits begin to roll.
Which brings me to my only issue with this game. When you lose, it sucks. As I said, you don't lose this game very often. But the occasions you do, the game ends very flat. Everyone just feels a bit crap and the burst balloon of an ending does leave a sour taste in your mouth. You want a pay off for the effort you have all collectively made. When one half loses when the Murder token is in the game, this is fine. One side loses, but another wins, and banter can ensure. But the collective lose when the Murder is out the game is a bit rubbish. But like I said, it happens rarely, and makes the wins all the more sweet. But yo do need to bare this in mind. As the Director, if I see a lose coming, I will offer some guidance and help, well outside the rules of the game, to avoid the feeling a lose brings.
Overall though, Rear Window is a brilliant adaptation of a very good movie. It stands on its own for people who have not seen the film, and brings something new to the hobby outside of obvious comparisons to games like Mysterium. If you have Mysterium already, do you need this? Well, that's up to you. If you love Mysterium, and like the idea of this theme, perhaps this would get more plays. If not, then maybe Mysterium is enough for you. If you have neither, and want a game in this genre then I would seriously consider Rear Window. But then, a Murderer would say that.