Do you like leaning really close to a person and whispering in their ear? So close to them that the heat from your breath makes the fine hair on their neck prickle? Do you like whispering secrets? Do you like it when your lips brush an earlobe and you hear a small catch in someone's throat? Almost a gasp. Almost a sigh.
Then Witness might be the game for you.
Witness is a game about those famous old comic book detectives Bonk and Bistro. No, Blake and Mortimer. I have no idea who these guys are, but when I pulled out the game someone at the table said “Ooh! Blake and Mortimer!” So it must be some kind of TinTin thing. Some kind of European comic thing about guys who probably can't even fight. I bet they can't even punch anybody through a building. Idiots. Anyway, I have no idea who they are. But there are these lovely illustrations of these two fellas throughout this game, and they are joined by their two friends from the comic book - Bonk and Bistro, or something. There are four of them. They all look like they can't fight. Idiots. But there are exactly four of them.
This is key.
Four. Because only four players can play this game. Not one. Not two. Not three. Definitely not five. Only four. And I can hear you all moaning already. “Four?! Robert, we can't even get one player. And there are five of us!” But – but – but – LOOK. I did not design this game. If I did, I'd probably base it on characters who can at least fling a train through a volcano. But I am here to tell you that forcing the game to be a four player thing is GREAT. Because this is a very unique experience. A treat.
So there are these books, little casebooks, and each player has their own one. Each casebook is different, for each character. The casebook is theirs, with their clues. There are 64 different cases in the game, ranging from very easy (not that easy actually) to really hard (really really really hard). Each case has an introductory paragraph or so, explaining the context of the current “mystery”.
So it might say something like:
“You are sitting in your disgusting and filthy flat, reading the latest board game review on Rock Paper Shotgun. Only this game isn't a board game! It's some kind of mystery game that forces you to whisper into people's ears. Oh, and someone is dead. The lieutenant is here and he has measured the length of the dead man's genitalia. He has also forced his hand down the throat of the corpse and felt for what the dead man had for his dinner last night. Also, there is a dog in the room, and I dunno – something about the dog.”
Then, everyone opens their casebook to the relevant page and reads about the clues that their character knows. After that, the first round of whispering starts. Yes. You whisper your clues into another player's ear.
But get this. Someone will be whispering clues into your ear too. And then it all switches direction. So let's say you whisper a clue into Beyonce's ear. She may then have to whisper your clue and her own clue into Katy Perry's ear. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus has whispered into your ear, and you into hers. And then she whispers all of that back at Katy Perry.
You whisper and whisper, the clues moving round the table, and they start to become forgotten and confused. It's such fun.
And then, with the whispering over, the game asks three questions relating to the current crime. Everyone writes down their answers, using the clues they've learned, and points are awarded for the correct answers.
And that's it. It's entirely co-operative, impossible for any player to boss it, and a heap of fun. It's excellent – excellent – how the game manages to make the cases different. The magic is in how the game poses the questions at the end of each case. It's often surprising, asking you to do things you might not have expected. You'll be drawing stuff, puzzle-solving, using logic – all aided or hindered by those whispered clues.
This game, listen, is fantastic. A game plays in about ten minutes. You can blast through a few mysteries before you play the big game of the night. Or you can just get drunk and whisper all night long. How good does that sound? I know that some of you will be worrying about replayability, but there are a lot of cases, so the game offers a lot of value for money. At thirty-odd quid for about ten hours of game, how can you argue with that? Get it, and play through it with three of your friends.
Check out this trailer...
THIS GAME IS A SEXY GAME
Yeah, listen. This is one of the few (very few, very very few) board games that I'd call sexy. Whispering into someone's ear is sexy. When you're also whispering and giggling and making eye contact and all of that, there is a lot of potential here for Witness to be a great couples game. Or just a game for friends who have fun. Listen, I'm not judging you here. Friends who have fun. Whisper into some ears, seriously.
I mean, stuff could happen while playing this game. I'm telling you. It's intimate and... Mmm.
I'm getting hot and bothered.
I need to go.
* whisper * I need to go. Now.
BY THE WAY
Actually, one more thing. If you're an old-school computer game man like me, you might be very excited by the news that M.U.L.E. The Board Game is coming very soon. Based on the wonderful Dani Bunten game from way back in the way back, in the C64 days, it just looks so good. LOOK GOD DAMN IT.