Peril Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 3 to 8 players
  • Variable game length

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Semi-Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • You are either the hunter or the hunted in the fast and lethal game of cat and mouse!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

You know someone at the table is out to get you. As paranoid as that might sound, it’s the truth. Hiding behind a false mask of friendship, one of your numbers is an assassin. But who could it be? Your grandma? But she looks so innocent. Ah, it must be your brother! No, maybe not… Perhaps your friend who keeps smiling at you? What is he so happy about? The heck with this, you’re going to take him out before he takes you out!

Peril, designed Nicholas Markgraf and self-published through the Game Crafter, is comprised of 1 Assassin card, 7 Target cards, 5 Witness cards, 50 Shield cards, 45 Sword cards, and 20 Wild cards for a total of 128 cards. All the cards share the same card back design. The Assassin, Target, and Witness cards have a white face, the Shield cards have a black face, the Sword cards have a red face, and the Wild cards have both a black and red face. The illustrations on the cards are minimalistic and serve no other purpose other than to further the meta game being played at the table. The cards are of typical card stock thickness and durable.

Inviting Danger

To set up the game, first find and set aside all the white-faced cards. This will include the Assassin, Witness, and Target cards for a total of 13 cards. Set these aside and away from the other cards in the deck.

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Second, shuffle the deck of cards which will now include only Shield, Sword, and Wild cards. The deck is rather large (being comprised of no less than 115 cards) and will be difficult to shuffle. We suggest you split the deck of cards roughly in half and shuffle each half separately. Then split each half again, combining two different halves from each deck, and then shuffle one more time. Or do it however you like. If you have big beefy man-hands, you just might be able to shuffle all the card together in one go.

Third, deal out to each player 3 cards from the top of the deck, face-down. Players should keep their hand of cards hidden from their opponents at all times.

Fourth, take the 5 Witness cards that were set aside and shuffle them into the deck. Place this deck in the middle of the playing area and make sure there is enough room next to it for a discard pile. This deck is referred to as the “Damage deck” for the duration of the game.

Fifth, take the Assassin card and add a number of Target cards to it until the total number of Assassin and Target cards is equal to the number of players at the table. These are the player’s Role cards. Any remaining Target cards are removed for the duration of the game. For example, in a 5 player game, the gathered cards would include 1 Assassin card and 4 Target cards for a total of 5 Role cards.

Sixth, shuffle the Role cards comprised of the Assassin and Target cards and deal out 1 card to each player, face-down. Players should take a brief moment to look at the card dealt to them This is the player’s role for the duration of the game and it should remain face-down and in front of the player until revealed.

That’s it for game set up. The first player to lead is the opponent to the Dealer’s left. Prepare to trust no one.

Hunter, Hunted

Peril is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. When it’s the player’s turn to lead a round, they are given the title of “Turn Player”. A typical round is summarized here.

Step 1: Play a Card

All the players except the Turn Player, in turn order sequence, now play a Sword, Shield, or Wild card in front of them, face-up. Sword cards represent damage being done to the Turn Player. Shield cards represent damage being blocked that is targeting the Turn Player. Wild Cards, which can represent a Shield or a Sword, must be declared by the player when revealed as either a Sword or a Shield card type. A small icon of a shield, sword, or both (indicating a Wild card) in present on each of the cards to help players remember the intent of each card.

From left to right,

From left to right: the Sword, the Wild, and the Shield card

If a player thinks the Turn Player is the Assassin, they should do all they can to damage them by playing Sword cards. If a player is in doubt of the Turn Player’s identity or feels that the Turn Player is a Target, they should play Shield cards, but only if the player is also a Target. If a player is the Assassin, they should attempt to do damage to the Turn Player as stealthily as possible so as not to reveal their identity.

Step 2: Determine Damage

Each Shield, Sword, and Wild card has a number value on its face. These are added up by card type. The end result will be a total number for the Shield cards and a total number for the Sword cards, with the value of the Wild cards being assigned to either the Sword or the Shield total value based on the player’s designation of the Wild card’s type when it was revealed during step 1.

If the total value of all the Shield cards is higher than the total value of the Sword cards, the Turn Player has escaped danger. All cards played face-up that ARE NOT a Witness card are gathered and placed in the discard pile. Any Witness and Wild cards that were face-down in front of the Turn Player are now revealed. Any Witness cards revealed are placed face-up next to the Damage deck. Any Wild cards revealed are discarded.

Note that if there are ever 3 or more Witness cards revealed, the player who is currently the Assassin MUST reveal themselves. The game then continues are normal.

The round now continues to step 4, skipping step 3 noted below.

If the total value of all the Sword cards is higher than the total value of the Shield cards, the player has been attacked and the round continues to step 3 below.

Step 3: Save or Perish

The Turn Player now has 1 opportunity to save themselves from a grisly demise, but only if they don’t have a Witness or Wild card played in front of them, face-down (see step 4). If they don’t, they can play as many Shield cards as they like, adding the Shield card number values to the previously tallied total Shield card value determined during step 2. Wild cards cannot be played during this step! Only Shield cards can be played. If the Turn Player is able to raise the Shield card total value higher than the Sword card value, they have saved themselves. All cards played face-up  that are not a Witness card are gathered and placed in the discard pile. Any Witness and Wild cards that were face-down in front of the Turn Player are now revealed. Any Witness cards revealed are placed face-up next to the Damage deck. Any Wild cards revealed are discarded. The round now continues to step 4.

Note that if there are ever 3 or more Witness cards revealed, the player who is currently the Assassin MUST reveal themselves. The game then continues are normal.

If the Turn Player is unable to play enough Shield cards to increase the total Shield value so that it’s higher than the total Sword value, the player has perish. Their Role card that identifies them as a Target or an Assassin is flipped over for the entire table to see. The game now comes to an end and step 4 is skipped.

Step 4: Draw Cards

The last step of the round, if the game has not yet ended, allows all the players to draw back up to 3 cards. In turn order sequence, each player draws 1 card from the top of the Damage deck. If a player draws a Witness card and is NOT the Assassin, they must place the Witness cards, face-down, in front of them and then continue to draw cards until they have a total of 3 cards in their hand. If the player who draws the Witness card is the Assassin, they can choose to play the Witness card out in front of them face-down or keep it in their hand. If they play it face-down in front of them, they continue to draw cards until they have a total of 3 cards in their hand. Witness cards taken by the Assassin are technically out of the game, but they reduce the Assassin’s effectiveness in the game by taking up a valuable spot in their total hand of cards. If a Target or Assassin player draws a Wild card, they can choose to play the Wild card out in front of them face-down like a Witness card as a bluff or keep it in their hand. If they play it face-down in front of them, they continue to draw cards until they have a total of 3 cards in their hand.

If at anytime players cannot draw more cards, simply shuffle the discard pile to create a new Damage deck.

This completes the round. The opponent to the Turn Player’s left ( going clockwise) is the new Turn Player.

Winning and Losing the Game

The game can end 2 different ways.

  • If the Assassin perishes during step 3, all the players with the Target Role card win the game.
  • If a Target perishes, the player with the Assassin role card wins the game.

Game Variants

  • Witness Protection in a 3-Player Game: When only playing with 3 players, the Turn Player can play Shield cards to save from damage even if they have a Witness or Wild card face-down in front of them.

House Rules

We added two house rules to correct what we found to be slight faults in the game play. Feel free to use them or create your own.

  • Table Talk: As of the current release of the game, the rules do not state if table talk should be  a part of the game play. Based on our playing experience, we think it’s essential. Because the rules do not explicitly state players can or cannot talk among themselves regarding who they think the Assassin is, we had to create a house rule that allows the players to openly discus their theories before, during, and after a round. This made the game very social and a great deal of fun. It should be noted that Peril could be played in complete silence, too, with the only information available based on what can be observed through card plays and subtle body language.
  • Longer Game: Most of our players believed the game ended too quickly. We changed one game play rule and the victory conditions to create a longer and more interesting game playing experience. All game play is the same as noted above, except 3 face-up Witness cards do not reveal the Assassin. Instead, a player who would have been taken out can reveal their role if they are a Target and discard the 3 Witness cards to save themselves. Their Role card remains visible for the duration of the game. To win the game, the Targets still need only take out the Assassin, but the Assassin wins only after taking out half (rounded down) the Targets. For example, in a 5 player game, the Assassin wins when they remove 2 out of the 4 Targets.

To learn more about Peril, visit the game’s web page on the Game Crafter.

Prediction

Peril is, at its core, a game of deduction and deceit. Players must attempt to root out the Assassin as quickly as possible as a team, making Peril a semi-cooperative game. The game is not fully cooperative, however, because the roles of each player are initially hidden. This means all the players will have to both trust and distrust their opponents until they determine their opponents’ roles. But time is short! Each game round means the difference between victory or certain peril.

And the odds are in favor of the Assassin.

I think the game will do well with the Child and Parent Geeks and be mixed, at best, with the Gamer Geeks. Based just on the rules, Peril would appear to be fast and intuitive making it an easy game to teach and to learn. That will appeal to the Child Geeks. The game also appears to be very casual, which will appeal to the Parent Geeks. I think the Gamer Geeks will be mixed due to the very real possibility that the game could be over in 1 round of play, which will leave the Gamer Geeks scratching their heads wondering why they even bothered to play the game in the first place. But there is also an engaging meta game under the covers that will appeal to the Gamer Geek and their need to compete and survive.

Peril is very simple to teach. Any player who has had an opportunity to play Are You a Werewolf?, SaboteurThe ResistanceBang!, Shadows Over Camelot, or Battlestar Galactica will understand how to play the game after about 5 minutes of explanation. For everyone else, no more than 8 minutes at the most. The primary goal for all the players is to survive. While the Assassin has the advantage when it comes to winning the game, the Targets have the advantage when it comes to sheer numbers. Making sure that every player understands the two different roles before playing the first game is essential as you cannot reveal the role during game play.

I will be teaching Peril to Child Geeks as young as 5-years-old. The game is not overly complicated and the amount of math needed is simple. At most, a Child Geek needs to understand the difference between the Sword and Shield cards, as well as the role their opponents and they are playing. Your individual results may vary, but I have no doubt my 5-year-old, who has had a great amount of game playing experience, will be able to play Peril without any issues. And so, after teaching Peril to my wife and two oldest little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on the game so far.

“I like how we don’t know who the other players are and we have to work secretly to find out!” ~ Liam (age 8)

“If I am the Assassin, I won’t attack you or Mommy, Daddy.” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

“I’m not liking that the game is about killing other players, but I don’t think it’s a violent game, either. I won’t know how much I will like it until I play it.” ~ Wife

My wife brings up a good point. While the game’s theme and narrative is all about assassinations, there is nothing in the game play (imagery or text) to suggest any level of violence. If playing with younger Child Geeks or individuals who are sensitive about violence towards others, the game’s theme can be quickly shifted to something less violent using a little bit of creativity without disrupting the game’s overall play. Looks like my family is ready to go hunting! Let’s play Peril and see if we find fun or high levels of dangerous boredom.

Final Word

The Child Geeks enjoyed Peril and found it a great deal of fun to play the equivalent of Hide ‘N Seek using cards. Both the younger and the older Child Geeks demonstrated that they knew which cards to play when attempting to take out an opponent. Which is to say, they played the Shield, Sword, and Wild cards during appropriate times. Table talk helped a great deal here and allowed the younger Child Geeks to ask questions without ruining any aspect of the game. What was not observed was the sophisticated play necessary to keep one’s role a secret, while at the same time attempting to determining who each player was. The Child Geeks were either obviously the Assassin or a Target. Regardless, all the Child Geeks had a great time and voted to approve the game. They laughed when they won as a team and grumbled when they were taken out. In all cases, any downtime was short, game play was quick, and smiles were plentiful.

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My wife and two oldest little geeks eye each other suspiciously (psst….I’m the Assassin! *evil giggle*)

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed Peril, but more so with their peers. At the family gaming table, Peril was either a sophisticated game of cat and mouse or just a series of quick hands. While enjoyable, the Parent Geeks found Peril to be the most entertaining when played with their peers. When Parent Geeks went up against Parent Geeks, the game took on a new level of competitiveness. It was a joy to see how sneaky the Parent Geeks could be, including the non-gamers, when it came time to play cards and subterfuge. It was clear that the Parent Geeks understood the meta game that lies just under the surface and they quickly created alliances and cabals. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a fun game I could play even in a noisy room full of screaming kids. Great stuff.” Another Parent Geek said, “What I like about this game is not only how easy it is to play, but how you have to think about what each player is telling you or not telling you with their card plays.” All the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game, finding it to be a fun time with their peers and having mixed results of success with their families based on the ages of their Child Geeks.

The Gamer Geeks were mixed when it came time to vote for their approval. Some believed, as I predicted, that Peril was too short a game. One Gamer Geek said, “The game can be too short, ending after just one round of play. That doesn’t make sense to me. There should be more to it.” A house rule was created to address this issue. Another Gamer Geek said, “While I like the game’s undertones, the game play can be too short for me to fully explore it. That leaves me frustrated.” But some of the Gamer Geeks disagreed. A supporter of the game said, “If the game is over too quick, that means the players are taking too much risk and really not playing the meta game. This is not an exercise in just playing cards or seeing how quickly you can end the game. This is about exploration, identification, and yes, assassination. But players should take their time and enjoy it. Not rush it.” All the Gamer Geeks agreed that the game was light, casual, and the house rules made the game worth while. But according to one Gamer Geek, “I will not approve a game I had to fix.” Some of the Gamer Geeks agreed and some did not. The end result was a split down the middle, despite all the Gamer Geeks enjoying the game with the house rules included.

I rather like Peril, especially when we use our house rules. I find it to be a quick and easy card game that promotes deduction, observation, and socialization. I have only had 3 experiences where the game was over too quickly, and in all 3, I thought the players were simply rushing the round or just being plain reckless. The house rules we created helped lengthen the game and, in my opinion, made the entire game better. But in truth, Peril can only be played two different ways. Players will either be aggressive or explorative. It’s possible to be both, but by doing so, the player isn’t very effective during the round. Out of all the secret role selection and traitor-like games I have played so far, I find Peril to be the simplest. But “simple” doesn’t mean “bad”. The game works as designed, just not to my level of game playing requirements. I am in agreement with the Gamer Geeks and have mixed feelings when it comes to suggesting that Peril is a Gamer Geek’s game. The game’s length is too unpredictable and that leaves little time for a Gamer Geek to dig deeper into it. But for what the game is, I think it works very well as a game filler, playing with other Parent Geeks, and even my family. I would recommend Peril to players who are looking for an easy to play and light semi-cooperative game of survival, with just a pinch of paranoia.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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