Review of the Detective: Smoke and Mirrors (Cooperative Mode Only)

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Detective: City of Angels is a cooperative crime-solving game in a Noir setting. We have previously reviewed it here and it made the top spot on both of our Top 10 Storybook/Storytelling Games and Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2019! It’s safe to say that me and my group have really enjoyed the Detective: City of Angels universe!

We need to be clear on the game we are discussing here: Detective: City of Angels is a very different game from Detective and Detective: Season One. Those games are from Portal games and involve extensive use of the internet. THESE ARE NOT THE GAMES WE ARE REFERRING TO. Detective: City of Angels, and its expansions Bullets over Hollywood and Smoke and Mirrors (which we are discussing here) are self-contained games from Van Ryder. (The other Detective series is from Portal).

My group played the Portal games Detective and thought it was interesting, but it felt too much like work (as we were constantly going to the internet). The Van Ryder Detective: City of Angels game, on the other hand, was fun and self-contained noir detective stories that we had a blast playing. So, how is this new expansion?

ExpansionIMG_6908

To be clear, in order to play the expansion Detective: Smoke and Mirrors, you need the base game (see picture above).  My copy arrived a few weeks ago (November 2020). I had Kickstarted the original game and loved it, so it was a no-brainer to Kickstart the expansion Detective: Smoke and Mirrors.  Note that I also get a new set of notepads with the expansion (they are dedicated notepads to writing down clues in the game).

Unboxing and ComponentsIMG_6916

The expansion includes 4 new cases for you and your friends to solve. So, the expansion replaces the casebooks and Chisel book from the original game with new books!

The gamebox also contains the 4 boxes with the new cases.

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There’s a ton of space on the left hand side of the box to put other expansions that may come out in the future. The way the other cards were packaged in the box was a little weird. They didn’t quite fit (see picture above) as they protruded a little. I think the idea is that you will fold them into the base box, but considering how much space is wasted for the expansion, this seemed like this could have gone wrong and folded the cards. Luckily there were ok, but I wonder if other people will have problems with the way some of the cards are packed.

Another weird decision: they added a purple character. This is NOT a 5-player expansion, this is just in case you want a different color! Even then, the purple components didn’t quite match each other (see picture above) . It was a very unnecessary cosmetic piece to the expansion, BUT Sara really wanted the purple player so I guess it worked.

The Vincent Dutraite art is fantastic (see above) and consistent with the original game. Both the art and graphic design continues the tradition of the original game: It looks great.

Rulebook

There’s not really a new rulebook, just a pamphlet to expand on the ideas in the game. Really, the only change in the game is that some of the mysteries have different solve condition. In the original game, you always had to find weapon, motive, and suspect. In the new game, there are other twists (multiple murders, etc)!! Honestly, this is an expansion in the truest sense: Smoke and Mirrors really just adds NEW CONTENT: 4 New Cases to expand the original game.

Set-Up

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Set-up isn’t too bad.  You need just a few things from the original game: the board, the detectives, the notepads, and that’s about it.  Almost everything else comes from the expansion, so it’s pretty easy to set-up and play this expansion.  Although I loved the expansion Hero Realms: The Lost Village (the cooperative expansion for Hero Realms which I reviewed here), The Lost Village was very painful to set-up and get going.  Luckily, Detective: Smoke and Mirrors, did not have this problem.  Were were up and going pretty quickly, and it was easy to keep the base game and expansion content separate.

Cooperative Play

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To be clear: we are ONLY reviewing the cooperative play mode of the expansion. Recall that the default way to play Detective: City of Angels is one vs. many, which my playgroup typically does NOT enjoy: Cooperative mode is simply another (included) way to play. We prefer the idea of working together to solve the mystery rather than having one of our friends be an adversary. BUT, if you enjoy that adversarial mode, this expansion still has the Chisel book for that play style.

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Recall that you still want to Chisel book at the end of the cooperative mystery, as it gives a nice narrative of how the crime happened.

PlayIMG_6962

So, how does the game play? It’s really more of the same IN A GOOD WAY. It’s like a new season of your favorite detective show: just more cases. There are some new wrinkles to keep it fresh: we ended up have new expanded locations we could explore in a more interesting way: No spoilers, but one new location was a 2×2 grid you could move around and search. There was also new “crimes” and new things you had to figure out. take a look at the picture above! These are new crime note sheets that augment the original note sheets. Each mystery has a “different” set of things you have to figure out.

There were a few missteps that threw us: we added new cards across the top row THAT REPLACED OLD ONES, which meant you had to be aware when they changed so you could do a DIFFERENT lookup.

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See the lookup grid for Myst 8 and Myst 11 for Carnival of Souls? Those Myst. 8 and 11 cards REPLACE other cards in the A-L row, so if you aren’t paying attention you might accidentally go to the wrong space on the grid after those cards come out! The directions said NOTHING about this. If I hadn’t noticed it, I think we would have lost our first game and been very annoyed.

BUT that was the only thing that really got in the way.

Solo Play

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This game follow Saunders’ Law: there is a viable solo mode. To play solo,  you just have one detective on the board.  It works fine (and that’s the way I played some cases of the original game), but I do think it works better with multiple people: ideas get thrown around quicker, and yhhhou have a better chance of solving the case.   It’s also better to explore the board with multiple people, as it’s easier to have one detective concentrate on the city, and other detectives concentrate on some of the new expanded locations.   But, you shouldn’t have any problem playing solo: It still works fine just like the original game.

ConclusionIMG_6906

In general, we loved Detective: Smoke and Mirrors as much as the original game. It’s a true expansion: it just gives you more content (4 new cases) with some very minor tweaking. It was easy to set-up and play the new cases from the expansion: sometimes expansions require quite a bit of work, juggling to get content from the original game and the expansion to work together, but that was not the case here.

There were some minor weird things (some new cards were packed oddly, some new content was easy to misuse, and added a purple player for little reason), but in general this is a great expansion. If you love Detective: City of Angels and you want more cases, this is right up your alley.

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