20 November 2017
Chase the Ripper through the streets of London in this heart-racing hunt
Whitehall Mystery is hidden movement at its best: a thrilling high-stakes race between hunters and hunted that never pauses for breath.
Based on the grisly true-crime legend of Jack the Ripper – and taking heavy inspiration from spiritual successor Letters from Whitechapel – Whitehall sees one player cast in the role of Jack as he scatters the dismembered remains of one of his victims around London while avoiding three pursuing investigators, controlled by the remaining players.
Jack’s hidden movement is boiled down to its dramatic basics, with a limited pool of special single-use movement tiles that allow him to cross bodies of water, jump two spaces or slip through alleys punctuating the otherwise straightforward sprint to get to three discovery locations selected during setup by the player within 15 turns over the course of three rounds.
Hot on his heels, the investigators gradually uncover spaces visited by the invisible killer, marking them with yellow discs representing the revealing glow of lamplight before trying to cut off his potential next move. Each exposed disc sparks another burst of animated deduction and prediction about Jack’s potential path and target, with the same excitement of following crisp footsteps in snow or recreating that scene from The Two Towers where Aragorn emotionally tracks the fate of Merry and Pippin.
Whitehall’s map – and board – is pared down a little from Whitechapel, resulting in not only a faster pace better befitting of a breathless chase through the streets of Victorian London but a more claustrophobic and close-call tension from the off.
Unlike in Whitechapel, Jack is no longer a creature of habit who returns to his hidden hideout after each murder, choosing instead to roam directly between his selected discovery points – forcing the hounding investigators to stay constantly on his tail instead of waiting for the starter pistol trigger of a murdered victim to chase him back home.
The tighter player count, reduced number of rounds and trimming of some of Whitechapel’s more nitpicky rules makes Whitehall a purer experience than both that game and fellow hidden movement darling Fury of Dracula, placing the glaring spotlight squarely back on the cat-and-mouse chase at its exposed heart, bringing it more in line with Scotland Yard, the classic 1983 Spiel des Jahres winner that pioneered the genre.
That’s not to say that Whitehall Mystery has completely stripped the flesh from its acclaimed predecessor's bones. While the standard mode excels at highlighting the simple hunt with very few bells and whistles beyond Jack’s deck of special moves, there are a good number of optional rules suggested in the manual to tweak the standard mode to your choosing, whether by allowing Jack to recharge some of his limited special movement tiles between rounds or enabling the unique talents of the three investigators – two in the case of journalist Jasper T.C. Waring, who can come accompanied by his loyal pooch Smoker. Whitehall can even be combined with parts of Whitechapel and its Dear Boss expansion to mix in familiar gameplay elements from those games, while retaining the taut tension of the condensed redesign.
Whitehall suffers from some of the inconsistencies in difficulty and playing time that afflict hidden movement as a genre – early matches can be frustrating for newcomers unfamiliar with the rhythm and tactics of toying with their opponents, and can stretch on to the point of exhaustion if steadfast players spend minutes overthinking every step. But if you allow the shadowy atmosphere and tension of Whitehall Mystery to simply envelop you, you’ll uncover an outstanding showdown that rivals the finest drama around.
Tight, taut and tense as anything the tabletop has to offer, Whitehall Mystery brings the focus of its hidden movement influences back to the cat-and-mouse chase beating in its chest with a smartly condensed scope and flexibility that makes this an ideal game for newcomers and veterans alike.
Publisher: FFG/Giochi Uniti/Sir Chester Cobblepot
Genre: Hidden movement
Time: 1+ hours
This review originally appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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