Book Review: Mince Pies & Murder by Chris Tregenza and 6d6 RPG

Mysteries and sleuthing. The two go together like Abbott and Costello or the Earth and the Moon, pushing and pulling at each other to make waves. And you can’t leave detectives out of the mix either – from the amazing observational skills of Sherlock Holmes to Shaggy and Scooby-Doo stumbling onto clues like a couple of clowns. But they always get to the bottom of things eventually, don’t they?

So when I saw Chris Tregenza’s newest game from 6d6 RPGMince Pies & Murder – I knew I should take a good look to see where the clues would lead me. Murder mysteries and the whole detective genre isn’t my usual bailiwick, but I had to give it a go. And it immediately caught my attention from the tagline on the cover – “Famous detectives… a snowbound country house… a retired gangste… violent death… and sweet, pastry based snacks.” Like Scooby-Doo after a Scooby Snack, he had me at “snacks”…

I have to say that I was ignorant of the 6d6 Ultra-Lite system prior to reading the Introduction. The claim that it only takes 30 seconds to learn all the
rules seems to hold true since there are only three rules. And in two pages, you quickly get the gist of the card-based approach. At the end of the book is the entire 6d6 Ultra-Lite, which expands on those two pages and provides the cards that can be printed for the game.

But let’s get into the meat of the game itself…

Jimmy “Hard” Cheese has one last wish… to see the “Sleuths” destroyed before he dies. As such, he’s built the perfect way to go out – with a group of associates willing to do the dirty work for him. Each of the six sleuths – from the Aristocrat and the sophisticated European to the Kid Reporter and the Old One – has a nemesis in the house plotting against them. Will Jimmy’s plan succeed or will the Sleuths escape the rat trap in the end?

The GM is given plenty of ammunition for the staff members to give the players (each given a Sleuth to play) grief. It’s up to the GM to decide how much or how little information the players get from the NPCs – but are warned against keeping things too close their vests and giving out too little information. Evidently that hampered playtesting a bit, so it’s a good bit of detail to offer a group running the game.

The timeline is also provided to give a solid schedule of events that will help keep the game moving the right direction. The events are spaced throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so even if things get bogged down in one portion, the GM should be able to help get things moving again as they move to the next item in the list…

Everything gets kicked off with the Sleuth’s arrival. Each Sleuth received a private invitation from Jimmy Cheese – the greatest gangster of his day – to help the old gangster spend his final Christmas in Cromford Manor. Everyone knows it’s a trap, right? But like all good detectives, none can resist the lure of a mystery – especially one with the pedigree of a storied gangster.

Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventures of She...

Image via Wikipedia

As events unfold, the players must choose what to believe as they are presented with a series of strange occurrences. Who in the house is in on the affair? Is it just Jimmy or are the staff in on it? How about the other guests? There’s just enough paranoia to cause even the most stable people to get a bit shaken…

The fifty or so pages describing the adventure includes some great biographical detail about each member of the manor staff. Not just physical details, but a bit of a job history, attitudes, philosophical thoughts… just about anything. Each has a favorite type of violence to be used against an opponent as well – from simply bludgeoning them to death to the use of poison. What is fantastic is that these are logically consistent and well thought out, so their hatred of the sleuths is well documented and easy to roleplay as a NPC.

Even the manor itself plays a role, offering atmosphere, props, and places to hide. Each location offers details such as any available clues, descriptions of particular items, hints as to events going on, and so on.

Though I loved the adventure and think it would be fun as a nice break from a regular campaign or when getting a group of old friends together to roleplay for a night, I thought a few things were missing as far as finishing touches went.

The lack of any artwork beyond the cover (which I loved – reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie) was a bit of a disappointment. I would have liked to have seen a map of the area or house, a picture setting the scene for a particular location, or pictures of the staff members to help things along a bit more.

And the layout itself was also a bit of a disappointment. Yes, I know content is king here. But I think some of the sections might have benefited from a two-column approach to avoid the odd blank pages here and there. And the biographical information for each NPC might have been boiled down to a single page each, more like a police blotter to add to the general look and feel of the document. I suspect that many of these issues stem from the fact that the book was generated from a wiki, which probably doesn’t offer many layout options.

That said, if you’re in the mood for a murder mystery, I think you should check out Mince Pies & Murder from 6d6 RPG. Not only is the PDF available as part of a pricing experiment, but it looks like a lot of fun to play. (A bit like if Clue the board game bridged the gap to become a RPG!)  So gather a few Sleuths and see if you can solve the mystery of Jimmy “Hard” Cheese and Cromford Manor!

Be sure to keep up with 6d6 RPG and Chris’s work at the 6d6 Fireball blog too!

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4 comments to Book Review: Mince Pies & Murder by Chris Tregenza and 6d6 RPG

  • Thanks for taking the time to review this and being so fair on it.

    Your observations on the layout problems are entirely correct. Improving the automated process that creates the PDF is high on my development schedule.

    The lack of artwork is one those hard choice small publishers have to make. Having good artwork would of cost more than I can afford but having poor artwork would have detracted from content. Neither is a good choice so I decided to skip it entirely.

    I’m glad you liked the cover. Its from a photo I found on Flickr which is just one of the many benefits of the creative commons.

    Cheers

    Chris
    Chris Tregenza recently posted…InvaderZ- Mutilating Cows and Probing RectumsMy Profile

  • Fitz

    @Chris – The lack of artwork is definitely one of those balancing acts for small publishers. Definitely understand that. However, even without the art – as I said in the review – “content is king”. So great work on providing a solid game experience!

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