Time to travel in style – treat yourself! Unfortunately, your choice in boarding the Orient Express results in joining a murder investigation. So much for a relaxing trip, but anyone who’s heard of Agatha Christie could have told you that. Mystery Express is a Days of Wonder production and like all their releases it looks fantastic, however, it’s one of their lesser known games.
As a murder mystery fan, any game with this theme will appeal to me. That’s not to say I’ve loved every murder mystery game I’ve played, but I’m always curious. Mystery Express is like a hardcore Cluedo – classic deduction elements but seriously intensified. Board the legendary Orient Express in Paris as one of five investigators and attempt to uncover whodunnit when a body is found shortly after your journey begins. (This murderer didn’t mess around.) Was it Candy? Dr. Rajiv? Sir Edmund? In Cluedo, you must work out who, where and with what. Mystery Express takes these elements and adds why and when. Who can deduce all five elements of the crime, or get the closest? To solve this mystery investigators must move between different carriages of the train, each one allowing you to perform different actions. You may want to chat with other passengers, hear what the conductor has to say, or even rifle through people’s luggage. Unlike Cluedo, there’s no dice rolling or wasting a turn travelling to a room. You can move directly into a carriage on your turn and begin sleuthing immediately.
At the start, the crime elements to be solved are placed under the board and investigators need to see as many of the cards in play as possible to deduce what happened. However, whereas Cluedo only has one copy of each card, Mystery Express has two, or in the case of the time cards, three! This means that seeing one card doesn’t automatically rule it out. You must find the second to be sure. Throughout the game cards are continuously traded between players, so it requires an attentive eye to keep track of a card’s movement. You don’t want to mistakenly believe you’re looking at the second copy of a card when in fact it’s still the first, just in someone else’s hand. Mystery Express, therefore, is a thinking game. Note taking helps as you follow the location of different cards and work out the most suitable action to uncover details you’re missing, without revealing too much to other investigators in the process.
The time element of the crime breaks up this thought process, which I think is a smart idea to prevent the game from becoming too strategy heavy. It adds an extra dynamic where time cards are quickly revealed in three different ways, at set points as the Orient Express makes its journey through Europe. Remember, there are three identical copies of each card. In addition, the times are all depicted on blank clock faces… Is your head spinning yet? Well, no one said detective work was easy.
It appears that many some people do not enjoy the think-heavy aspect of this game (read: it’s boring) but I find the game extremely immersive. I really do feel like I’m exploring this glamorous, famed train during the 1920’s, attempting to solve a murder. The careful deliberation throughout really adds to the detective feel.
Sorry to tease you, but this game is unfortunately out of print right now, although there are second-hand copies available. As one of my favourite games, I couldn’t resist giving it some attention, and who knows? More attention can only contribute towards a possible reprint one day. While not for everyone, Mystery Express gets a subjective ten magnifying glasses out of ten from me.