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Subject: A strategy guide for beginners rss

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Josh
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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” -Bukowski
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“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
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Mr. Jack is a brilliant little cat-and-mouse game of bluff and deduction, but like most other heavily strategy-based games it can be difficult to initially figure out how all the little elements come together. So I've put together this little strategy guide to help get you get started.

I am currently on a winning streak with this game, both in person and online, and have so far won at least 9 consecutive games (although it could very well be closer to 10 or 11 since I initially wasn't keeping a running tally) against 3 different opponents. Six of those victories have been while playing on the Jack side, a feat I never would have thought possible a week or two ago due to the natural imbalance of the game. I say this not to boast, but to hopefully lend a bit of credibility to what follows here. After all, not knowing the quality of my opposition, 10 consecutive wins means practically nothing, and I readily admit that at least half of those wins came as a result of serious mistakes by my opponents. [Edit: My winning streak has come to an abrupt halt - I have recently lost 3 games, 2 of which while playing the Inspector!]

But enough about me - on with the advice! I will begin with a discussion of Jack's strategies, then talk about the Instructor's strategies, then discuss a few of the characters, and end with a quick word about the play balance.


JACK

In my early games of Mr. Jack, the Jack player was always trying to get into the dark so that he could attempt to win by slipping out of the district. However, we discovered that, at least for the first several turns before the gaslamps get snuffed out, it was too easy for the Inspector player to get half of the characters to remain visible and therefore narrow down a lot of suspects quite quickly.

So now my strategy as Jack is to not worry about leaving the board at all, but to simply play majorities: if I can get the most number of characters in a position where they are visible (most often the case), I'll do that, and likewise if I can get the majority in the dark, this is what I will do. By doing so, I am simply minimizing the number of suspects that the Inspector can eliminate each turn in the hopes that I can make it to the final turn with 2 or 3 suspects still undiscovered. Then if I ever find myself in the dark I will look for an opportunity to slip out of the district.


THE INSPECTOR

Conversely, as the Inspector player, I'm attempting to create a balance where half of the remaining unknown suspects are in the light and half in the dark. If you can eliminate half of the suspects each turn (pretty rare!) then it's only a matter of time before you catch Jack. If I can't do half, then I will put the larger number of characters in positions where they are visible in order to minimize the chance that I am allowing Jack to be in the darkness and potentially escape the district. And if the final turn comes up and there is still more than one unknown suspect, then I simply make my best educated guess based on how my opponent has been moving the characters and accuse one of them.

I will usually try to choose characters who I have not yet eliminated as suspects in order to prevent Jack from taking control of them, however if I have to choose a suspect who I already know is innocent I will utilize them to best affect the light/dark balance of the unknown suspects. And if they cannot be used in this manner, I will either stick them on top of a manhole in an attempt to limit Jack's movement capabilities, or put them one hex away from an exit to "stand guard" and prevent Jack from being in a position where he is standing in the dark within one move of leaving the district.


CHARACTERS

Sergeant Goodley is the single most powerful player on the board because his special ability allows him to potentially move up to three other characters either towards light or into shadow, allowing you to better achieve whatever light/dark balance you are going for. Sherlock Holmes is also very important because by taking him as the Jack player you can potentially prevent the Inspector from eliminating a suspect, and vice versa as the detective. When those 2 characters are in the 4 that are available for that turn, it is a really tough choice (although I will usually go with Goodley). In addition to that, the Jack player, when his character comes up, also has to decide if he wants to let the Inspector move him (or her) or take control of his own character (more likely!). And because those 2 characters are so dangerous, if I am the Jack player and I know the Inspector will be able to eliminate 1 or 2 characters as suspects that turn, if I have the choice I will leave Goodley or Holmes to be discovered in the hopes that it will discourage the Inspector from picking them in the future.

Miss Stealthy also presents a bit of a dilemma at the start of the game. If she happens to be Jack's true identity, and she is not one of the 4 characters that comes up in the first turn, and if she still remains in the dark at the end of that turn, then at the beginning of turn 2 the Jack player will select her as his/her first pick and march her through the house and right off the south-east corner of the board from her starting position (assuming a barricade has not been moved to that corner). Or even if Sir William Gull is selected and swaps positions with Stealthy, she can then march off the board out the north-west exit. So as the detective, she is one to watch early on, and I will usually try to eliminate her as a suspect as soon as possible anyhow due to her dangerous movement capabilities that could allow her to slip away, stealthy as she is!


PLAY (IM)BALANCE

Mr. Jack is not a perfectly balanced game, but don't let that turn you off. With 2 experienced opponents, it is definitely harder to win as Jack, although a skilled Jack player will try to capitalize on any little mistake made by the Inspector and hope that the right sequence of character cards come up in order to pull off a surprise victory. Because of this imbalance, I will typically play 2 games back-to-back with the opponents switching roles for the second game and the winner being the player who makes it farther as Jack before getting caught (which might be the entire game!). Playing as Jack, I'm not concerned about the fact that the Inspector will likely win, but rather I attempt to survive until at least turn 8, and am happy when this happens even if I end up getting nabbed. And if you both make it the same distance as Jack, you'll just have to play 2 more games!


So hopefully that's enough to get you started. If you have any questions or comments, if you disagree with anything I've said, or if you have anything else to add, please don't hesitate to comment. And enjoy this marvelous game! Cheers!
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Dennis Leung
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Thanks for the strategy tips. My girlfriend and I picked this up a while ago. We both like the game, but we haven't had the time or energy to play it too much, since we've been working a lot lately and this has been a little too much of a brain burner for us when we get home. However, the times that we have played, Jack has always lost. Sometimes he can make it pretty far, but he's always been doomed. soblue

Anyway, thanks for giving us some things to think about, and hopefully we can get this game back to the table soon.
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John A
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Great guide for beginners! Goodley's power can't be stressed enough and it's rare when he doesn't go first. Likewise to the comments that if you're Jack you should not focus on escaping the board but rather keeping with the seen/unseen majority.

I agree the game can definitely be a bit of a brain burner. I highly recommend online play at http://mrjack.biludi.de. It certainly helped me get my mind around the basics (as outlined in this an other strategy guides) faster and enjoy the game more.

Speaking of brain burners, I'm surprised there isn't a "burning brain" smiley available.
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Josh
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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” -Bukowski
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leungd wrote:
Thanks for the strategy tips. My girlfriend and I picked this up a while ago. We both like the game, but we haven't had the time or energy to play it too much, since we've been working a lot lately and this has been a little too much of a brain burner for us when we get home. However, the times that we have played, Jack has always lost. Sometimes he can make it pretty far, but he's always been doomed. soblue

Anyway, thanks for giving us some things to think about, and hopefully we can get this game back to the table soon.


My pleasure!

And I concur with polarbear74's thoughts on playing online. My wife is not as much into the heavily strategy-oriented games as I am and we have the same problem as yourself with not a lot of quality time together due to work schedules, but she seems to enjoy playing online since there isn't the pressure of my sitting there waiting for her to make her move, and she can even make the occasional move while at work.

Happy gaming!
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Josh
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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” -Bukowski
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polarbear74 wrote:
Great guide for beginners! Goodley's power can't be stressed enough and it's rare when he doesn't go first. Likewise to the comments that if you're Jack you should not focus on escaping the board but rather keeping with the seen/unseen majority.

I agree the game can definitely be a bit of a brain burner. I highly recommend online play at http://mrjack.biludi.de. It certainly helped me get my mind around the basics (as outlined in this an other strategy guides) faster and enjoy the game more.

Speaking of brain burners, I'm surprised there isn't a "burning brain" smiley available.


Great recommendation! I only just discovered the online version a week or two ago, but was so excited that I went and wrote a babbling thread about it (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/239853), and not long thereafter a session report describing one of my online games (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/240409).

And we most definitely need a "burning brain" smiley!!
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Russ Williams
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Nice tips. One minor thing struck me: the following heuristic is overly conservative:

Quote:
If I can't do half, then I will put the larger number of characters in positions where they are visible in order to minimize the chance that I am allowing Jack to be in the darkness and potentially escape the district.


Note that on odd numbered turns, you know which characters will move next turn, so allowing characters who move this turn to be invisible is not dangerous. And in many situations, you can even safely permit someone who will move next turn to be invisible if you can prove that they can't escape next turn anyway. I.e. many times it's perfectly fine to let the majority of suspects be invisible.
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Josh
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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” -Bukowski
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russ wrote:
Nice tips. One minor thing struck me: the following heuristic is overly conservative:

Quote:
If I can't do half, then I will put the larger number of characters in positions where they are visible in order to minimize the chance that I am allowing Jack to be in the darkness and potentially escape the district.


Note that on odd numbered turns, you know which characters will move next turn, so allowing characters who move this turn to be invisible is not dangerous. And in many situations, you can even safely permit someone who will move next turn to be invisible if you can prove that they can't escape next turn anyway. I.e. many times it's perfectly fine to let the majority of suspects be invisible.


That's an excellent point - I did fail to mention the whole "considering which characters are coming up next turn" issue (as well as which player is going to select first next turn), as these are very important considerations when making the moves for the current turn. But you still have to be careful about leaving Jack in the dark, making sure that Jack will not be able to first use Goodley or Gull to change his/her current location and then proceed to walk out of the district.

For example, in a currently on-going online game with my wife, she, as the Jack player used the 3rd move of a turn to swap Gull (an innocent character) with Stealthy (an unknown character) to put Stealthy in a "dark" location where the 4th character could not reach her, and from where she will be able to walk out of the district in the first move of next turn if Stealthy is in fact her true identity, thus handing me my first loss in quite some time (I am anxiously waiting to see what her next move will be)! Thanks for bringing that up!


[Edit: She WAS Stealthy and she DID walk out of the district, thus proving once again that Stealthy is one to eliminate early on if at all possible! cry ]
 
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♫ Eric Herman ♫
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Thanks for posting that. Very good. I agree that people often lose, as either the detective or as Jack, just by making mistakes (I know, because I often lose by doing that!). This game really does take some thinking through, and you have to be careful not to overlook something important.

But I should add that I've also won a few times as Jack by going for it fairly early on, where I could establish a good setup with no witnesses where Jack was able to leave in the following turn or two. So I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying to wait it out as the best course for Jack, though that is often a good strategy.

Btw, my boxed copy just got here. Woo hoo! cool
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Josh
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Grudunza wrote:
Btw, my boxed copy just got here. Woo hoo! cool


Excellent! Now you can watch your opponents sweat in person! devil
 
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