As part of my quest of murder-mystery game discovery, I am trying to play a game a month, or at least every other month. To start with I opted for a murder-mystery set in a vineyard, by University Games, a company I hadn't used before. Wine, grapes and cheese – what's not to like, I thought? And I was very excited when this game arrived in a brown paper parcel in the post – until I opened it.
The design of this game did not fill me with confidence ('90s swirl graphics and awful, grainy photographs on the back of the box, invitations and character booklets do not scream quality). Also, nowhere on the box did it say what time period the game was set. However, when I opened the game, I discovered that it is, in fact, set in 1997, so I suppose the dodgy graphics are at least appropriate.
I wasn't feeling very inspired by the setting: how does one create a '90s vineyard-style interior? I have no idea; I just covered the room in grapes and followed the party planner suggestion of making my own labels for wine bottles, which was a nice touch. Food for this game is easier: wine, bread, delicious cheeses, meat and dips, and more wine seemed appropriate, and once I had finished decorating the dining room table, which glowed with candles and heaved under bunches of grapes, I was finally feeling pretty excited about the game, but it was a bit disappointing:
* The characters are 2D in the extreme and a bit boring to play. I saw someone yawning at one point, and someone else started making 'grape art' with the table decorations to entertain herself about half-way through.
* It might be set in any time period, so the fun element of dressing in the style of a certain time period was lacking – it almost felt as if the game makers had assigned a setting as an afterthought.
* Most importantly, the solution was impossible to work out; I won’t give anything away here, but there is a lot of information not revealed during the course of the game that suddenly makes an appearance in the denouement - we're not psychic University Games!
Don't get me wrong, there are a few things to recommend this game – until the end, it was simple enough to be generally followed and understood by all playing, in our various levels of inebriation, and I would say we had some fun questioning one another – but it's definitely not one of the best I've played; if you're thinking of buying this game, don't. I can recommend you lots of better ones!