Role Playing: Deception
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is an amazing social deduction game where information is provided to players from the very beginning. In my opinion, Deception should always be played with enough players to include the Witness and Accomplice, as their inclusion changes the way the game is played for the better. Each role in the game has several different strategies that keep the game interesting, and I am genuinely excited to play regardless of what role I receive. However, for newer players, it can be less clear how to execute your role effectively, particularly if you are the Murderer or the Accomplice. This guide will help players understand the various roles better, which is critical since skill level is a key determinant of an individual game’s success. I find it very interesting how many of these strategies intersect and counteract each other, as the Evil team will try to exploit many of the same nuances to hide in plain sight.
Part 1: The Forensic Scientist
Like the Ghost in Mysterium, this is a difficult role whose nuances will not be appreciated by players until they themselves fulfill the position. Sometimes the Forensic Scientist simply has bad clue cards to use and they are forced to be creative. Still, there are definitive strategies that can be used to aid in the investigation. By following these steps, you will consistently provide your team with an opportunity to win. Deception has six cards with six clues, so here are six tips to remember.
#1 - Remind players before every game how clues can be interpreted
Once the investigation starts, there is no talking by the Forensic Scientist. New players tend to assume that some cards must match only blue or red, when this is not the case. Additionally, remind players that the title of the cards need not be taken literally (or even factored in at all). Too many times I have seen players disregard clues because the title did not seem relevant; in almost all cases, the clue itself bears all the significance, not the title. You cannot stress this during the game because it will imply that they are missing something, but you will be severely handicapped if they lack this realization. To avoid this, simply make sure that all parties understood that there are no hard rules about matching clues. In some cases, I have even seen players expect that each clue must match a different card – yet another reason why it is important to set expectations while explaining the game. If you fail in this regard, the game may be over before it has even begun.
#2 - Always Lead With Your Location Clue
The Green Location cards are your strongest clue and should almost always be used first. There are four Location cards with six options each; unless a very elusive card is chosen, there should be a strong match among the 24 possibilities. This is the clue with which you should lead, because if it is not your strongest clue, the Evil team will argue that it is for the same reason and successfully misdirect your team. Unfortunately, this is something that the investigators would do as well, making it impossible to identify if the speaker is evil.
#3 – Cause of Death can be more dangerous than helpful
The Purple Cause of Death card is very powerful but must be used extremely carefully. Unless there is an exact, perfectly unambiguous cause of death, consider waiting on using this clue. In my experience, there is a lot of debate between the difference between Severe Injury and Loss of Blood, as well as Illness/Disease and Poisoning. Strangulation, which is often depicted on cards, is the cause of Suffocation, but players misinterpret this entirely and do not associate the two. Cards that fit into that ambiguity might slip through to the wrong side, and if you lead with this clue, the fact that it’s questionable might be lost on players. This card can make for a great secondary clue, but it also has the potential to lead players down the incorrect path because so many cards can be applied to any of the six options. By waiting to use the purple card, it will tell experienced players that the clue should be applied carefully and that they should not expect an exact match. A good rule of thumb is that if your purple clue is not your second strongest clue, then you should make it one of your last, instead reacting to how the investigation unfolds.
#4 - Timing is everything
Another important strategy is to use time as a source of meta-information. The game requires you to place all bullets on cards, but bad information can be worse than no information. To mitigate this, consider waiting until the last possible moment in order to use a bad clue. Experienced players will recognize that your move was forced and will not read too much into the clue; you will be able to remove such clues on subsequent rounds. If your Location clue is weak due to two unusual cards chosen, then waiting will communicate that this is a bad clue. Furthermore, consider placing linked clues in quick succession to indicate that they should be treated as a pair. Often, individual words do not help your cause, but they might have additional meaning when combined. Hopefully an investigator will notice that they were placed as a unit and not individually.
#5 - Remove only what is interpreted incorrectly
In rounds two and three, you will have an opportunity to replace one of your clue cards; this is an area rife with potential for misinterpretation. To maximize this opportunity, never remove a clue that people have used sufficiently and therefore no longer need. Instead, the clue that has been least successful in directing players should be the clue removed, even if it is your strongest clue. If your strongest clue is being used incorrectly, removing it is the best way to convey that information. It is better to remove such a clue from the board to communicate that investigators are incorrect than to leave it and let them continue down that path. The fact that you chose that Location will remain and players will still utilize that information. In addition, if you do not place a bullet right away on the new card, that will also communicate that the clue has been misinterpreted. If you are the forensic scientist often, consistently applying the same action for the same reason is the only way to guarantee that your action is interpreted correctly. There is very little upside to removing a correctly interpreted clue; in fact, I cannot recall a single game where every clue was useful (many are terrible), so there is always a candidate for removal. Sometimes, it might be your best clue, and you should be prepared accordingly.
#6 - Use obvious clues for refinement
It can be difficult to use every clue to match the same two cards. If a clue cannot point to the Means or Key Evidence, consider using it to point to a different card of the murderer, preferably one with no overlap with other players. Often, the murderer will intentionally pick cards that overlap, ignoring ones that do not, so using this strategy can help pinpoint the murderer. It is important to use delayed time to coordinate that this is not a primary clue, otherwise it will lead towards more innocent suspects. If all innocuous cards will inevitably overlap with other players, try to overlap with a player who is completely clear of suspicion based on the strongest clues. You want to avoid having your refinement strategy inadvertently implicate a player who had previously been cleared from all suspicion. A common mistake is to consider placing a clue that is the opposite of the target card, and this never ends well. Remember, bad information is worse than less information, so refine carefully.
I believe that a good forensic scientist can lead their team to solve the murder more often than they cannot. A skilled murderer will be able to mislead, distort and stall long enough to identify the witness, but I have found these strategies to be consistently high performing.