Perfect Alibi Review


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Posted by Drew on Jul 14, 2016

A murder has been committed on board your cruise vessel. Luckily, the players were dining together and know that they aren’t the culprit. But one of the passengers is. Each passenger has an alibi for where they were at each relevant time. All but one, that is, who lacks an alibi for a particular hour. The goal is to be the first player to piece it together and accuse the murderer.

There are sixteen total alibi cards. One is randomly and secretly set aside and the remaining fifteen are doled out. From there, the players ask questions to one another. But they can’t ask just anyone about anything. There are four accusation tokens in the player colors randomly dealt out. The player picks one and must ask that player an indicated question – about either time or location of the alibi.

So a player might say, “How many alibi cards do you have showing the Dining Room?” That player has to answer in full hearing of everyone. But if the answer is more than one, the player also has to show at least one card to the questioner. Only the questioner gets to see it.

Each player also gets a special ability. The captain always gets to see the shown card and the journalist can ask any player a question regardless of which player colors are available among the accusation tiles. The first player to figure it out wins.

Perfect Alibi is almost a pure deduction game. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Sid Sackson classic, Sleuth. Your questions are restrained by a random draw, but within that frame you have enough flexibility to get the information you want. But this title goes beyond what came before.

The special roles are awesome. They each provide an undeniable advantage in the game. But since every player gets one, they more or less even out. And, if there is a particular one you want, it is often possible to grab it by choosing a tile that lets you switch your roles.

Despite the too-large box, the game has a very small footprint. It’s just sixteen cards and some tokens. It has a board but it’s rather superfluous. This gives it the advantage of being relatively easy to explain and appears unintimidating if you wanted to introduce this to casual or non-gamers.

The deduction experience is great fun. Even though all of the powers are great, the focus is on the question and answer rather than the particular benefits. With only sixteen possible options, the cards get narrowed down quickly – especially in a three player game. The result is a fairly robust deduction game that plays remarkably fast.

But the key to the game is making sure the other players get less information from the questions than you do. For example, maybe you know that all of the Bar alibis are accounted for. So you might ask another player, “How many alibis do you have of the Bar or the Deck?” Any response is essentially the number of Deck alibis. But your opponents may not be able to glean that same information – at least not right away.

Although the game is easy and quick, it doesn’t have to be. If you want to add some serious deduction to it, Perfect Alibi comes with a liar variant. Each player is passed a liar token at the beginning of the game showing one of the five roles. If a player with that role asks you a question, you must lie. Instead of providing the true response to the question, you answer one higher or one lower.

This variant strongly alters the dynamic and makes it dramatically more difficult. It also makes the game longer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What it means is that you really get two games in the box. One is a light family-style affair that plays quickly and makes for good filler with gamers. The other is a fairly in-depth and thinky endeavor that requires good note-taking and solid reasoning. The liar variant should definitely please players that want a challenging deduction experience. If you find Mystery of the Abbey or Sleuth too pedestrian, then the liar variant should suit your fancy.

For everyone else, Perfect Alibi is a solid deduction game. The tension mounts as more information becomes available and you know it’s just a matter of time before someone solves it. And the game doesn’t outstay its welcome. If anything, it leaves you wanting just a bit more.