Whitehall Mystery takes us back to to the streets of London in 1888 to chase down the notorious Jack the Ripper. The game is the standalone sequel to the ever so popular Letters from Whitechapel. Like its predecessor, the game will have a player take on the role of Jack while 1-3 players (as opposed to 4-5 from Whitechapel) play as investigators hunting him down. The game is a tense race to see who accomplishes their mission first – will Jack dispose of his victim and disappear forever, or will he be caught and put away for good?
Whitehall Mystery is a one versus all game of cat and mouse. Jack the Ripper is trying to sneak past his pursuers and dispose of his victims at designated points of the city. Unlike traditional board games, Jack does not actually play on the game board. Instead, they have a player sheet where they will write down all their moves. He will spend each round trying to reach a checkpoint in each quadrant of the map. The investigators will be the ones moving their pawns around the game board. Their turns will be spent searching surrounding spaces for any clues that Jack may have left behind. If Jack was there that round, he will have to announce that they found a clue. The game ends when Jack reaches his final spot or the investigators manages to find Jack.
My favourite thing about Whitehall Mystery is how well it creates a sense of urgency for the players. With a 15-turn time limit each round, every turn that passes will add pressure on both sides to start taking some risks. Jack may see that his only path to his destination is blocked off. He has no time to go around so he will have to sneak through the small gaps in the investigators’ formation and leaving clues behind for investigators. The investigators on the other hand has no idea where Jack is. Every turn may very well be the last. They can spend a game chasing after clues but that would mean Jack is always one step ahead of them. Eventually, they will have break out of the rut and start anticipating where Jack will go next.
The only concern that I have for the game is that it requires a certain group dynamic for it to work. At the heart of things, Whitehall Mystery is a cooperative deduction game. It would be very easy for a single player to take control of the discussions and essentially play all 3 investigators. Removing all of the discussions would likely ruin the experience for all.
As the bulk of the game involves investigators discussing their moves, the game length will vary between groups. On average, a game would take about an hour to complete. However, more chatty groups can probably run a game for well over an hour. There is little downtime for the investigators but Jack will spend most of this time sitting around waiting for his turn. As Jack does not actively participate in these discussions, some players may get bored during this time. Personally, I enjoyed listening on the investigators. The thrill of listening to two investigators argue about which way I went is one of the reasons why I love the game.
I was very happy with the components in Whitehall Mystery. All of the investigators’ and Jack’s action tiles are all solid pieces of cardboard. They have a bit of weight to them and tossing it in during the game feels very satisfying. The game board is also very nice. It features a clean and simple map of London. There isn’t anything visually stimulating but I thought it works out nicely as it helps set the serious tone of the game. My only complaint about the components would be the miniatures. I would have liked it a lot more if they kept the wooden pawns from Letters from Whitechapel as it would have gone nicely with the minimalistic looking game board.
Whitehall or Whitechapel
The game is no longer played over a few nights with Jack killing a new victim at the start of each round. Instead, the game takes place over a single night and each round of the game flows into the next. I found this to be a nice change as it removes the somewhat tedious upkeep phase between rounds. This was one of the more fiddly aspects of Whitechapel and it seems I always had to go over the rules again if we haven’t played for some time. This definitely saves the player some time but it was not without a cost.
In Whitechapel, the investigators starts the game feeling powerless as Jack runs circles around them. They spend most of their time desperately searching for clues. The game starts to shift when they start piecing the clues together. This was completely change in Whitehall. As Jack is now trying to reach a spot in each quadrant, the investigators start the game with an idea of where Jack will go. Whitehall has completely bypassed the first half of the experience and has players starting with Jack already on the run.
Both Whitehall and Whitechapel are solid games and I find it hard to rate one over the other. But if I had to choose one, I would recommend Whitehall Mystery. Even though I am a huge fan of Whitechapel, it was always difficult to bring to the table due to its length. As promised, Whitehall Mystery took the core gameplay and condensed it into a smaller, shorter game. Even though Whitehall doesn’t really have the same build up, the games we played were just as suspenseful.