I've always loved board games. As a poor student, I would walk into Games Paradise on Pitt Street in the city just to be surrounded by shiny plastic-wrapped board games with expensive price tags.
Then one day, I discovered a secret. Next to the counter was a little nondescript display filled with small white envelopes, with price tags I could afford. Within, simple, black-and-white printed cardboard. Tape it together yourself into a game board, and bring your own pieces. Simple, cheap, genius. And that's how I met That's how I first met Kill Doctor Lucky.
Though he designed many, many games, Kill Doctor Lucky is still one of James Ernest's signature creations. The game is designed to be the prelude to Cluedo (Clue for our North American friends). That is, before a murder can be investigated, a murder needs to be committed.
So you and your friends are chasing the eponymous Doctor Lucky through his mansion, trying to be the person who kills him in the Billiards Room with a Chainsaw. The only problem is that Doctor Lucky shares similar traits to Roadrunner or Inspector Gadget: he is preternaturally hard to kill.
In game terms, this means you need to get Doctor Lucky alone in a room with no witnesses in eyeshot, and do the needful, by playing your weapon of choice: pruning shears, a chainsaw, or a monkey hand. All weapons have an attack value, and have a bonus point value if played in the appropriate room. Because the other players don't want you to win, they'll play luck cards, to counter your murder attempt.
There are a couple of neat game mechanics. For instance, although play progresses clockwise, if Doctor Lucky walks into the room you're in, the turn skips immediately to your turn. This lets you lie in wait for the good Doctor and ambush him. Playing luck cards is also a fun little push-your-luck aspect, because obviously it serves you better if everyone else gets rid of their cards, because then they're less able to thwart your own murder attempt.
Kill Doctor Lucky is a fun, light-hearted game of screwing each other over. And against a field of games that cost twice as much to make and five times as much to buy, it won the 1997 Origins Award for Best Abstract Board Game.
Getting a game this old can sometimes be a challenge. Kill Doctor Lucky has gone out of print at least four times. The initial print run, in glorious black and white and distributed in white paper envelopes, was released in 1996. It was re-released twice, before it was licensed to Paizo in 2006, until the license lapsed.
I was certainly disappointed to learn that I'd missed out on the 19.5th Anniversary Kickstarter campaign to reprint Kill Doctor Lucky, which finished in November 2015.
The upside is that reprint is now available in your friendly local games store, or your preferred online retailer. You won't have the luxury of playing it in glorious black and white, but then again, you're not a poor student any more, are you?