I’m going to kill you. Well, actually, me and few friends are going to snuff you. We are going to use… ummmmm… a bunch of old socks, a bucket of lighter fluid, and a piece of quartz to do it. Believe it. This is all because a machine that took a drop of your blood told you your cause of death would be “Blaze,” whatever that means. As assassins, it is our job to see you shuffle off your mortal coil in that manner (somehow, no matter how vague) using only a random assortment of items to force that death upon you. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And we LIKE our job. It makes us laugh, you see.
Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn
In the world of Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination (MoD for short), a device has been invented that uses a single drop of your blood it takes when you stick your hand in it to predict, in VERY vague terms, how you are going to die. The catch lies in that vagueness. When the machine spits out the card with your cause of death, it is going to be one or two words that may or may not make any sense to you. For example, the card that pops out of the machine might say “Elephant.” How the hell is an elephant going to kill you if you live in Modesto? Just avoid circuses and trips to Jakarta, right? Wrong. What about that billboard for Elephant brand tires that falls off a four-story building and squishes you into strawberry jam?
MoD puts players in the role of killers whose job it is to make sure the Machine of Death pays off in…well…death. The problem, and the fun, of the challenge is that you HAVE to use a randomly drawn assortment of items to send your victim on to the next life. If MoD didn’t have such a dark theme, I’d call it a party game. Wait…fuck it. It IS a party game. Who am I kidding? It is hysterically funny to try, within a limited amount of time, to bring about the timely end of your target.
Shall I start drooling all over this game right away? Yes! Commence drooling. The hefty, glossy game box comes packed with goodies: a huge pack of Death Cards, the cards that pop out of the MoD; a big box of Black Market Gift Cards, the items used to kill the victims with; a pack of Specialist Cards, bonus cards you can be awarded with to aid in our murderous adventures; a book of Target Intel Sheets, slips where you list various important traits for your victim; a wooden Fate Coin, which is flipped at various points in the game to help with decisions; a Mission booklet; and a nifty, red, custom die with a skull symbol for the “1.” All of this schwag is top-notch, high-quality stuff. The art on the cards is whimsical and very functional. The Death Cards look like those cards that used to pop out of the Fortune-Telling Gypsy booths on the boardwalk when you put a quarter in. The Black Market Gift Cards are designed to look like credit cards on one side with cute iconography identifying the item in question. The Specialist Cards have really fun artwork depicting the helpers you are awarded with if you kill particularly well. Lastly, anyone who frequents this column knows I’m totally nutty for custom dice, and this game scores with theirs. An embossed skull? Yes, please!
Separate out and shuffle the Death, Black Market Gift, and Specialist Card decks, and place each deck nearby face down. Draw one Death Card face down to the table. Count out 20 of the Black Market Gift Cards face down as your “shopping budget” for the game and put the rest away. Create your victim on an Intel slip using the tables in the rule book or select one from the Mission booklet. This will give the players some important and helpful insight into the target, allowing them to manipulate both their tools and the target for the kill. Turn over the Death Card and draw three Black Market Gift Cards face up in a row. Put the sand timer nearby, and you are ready to annihilate the victim.
It is important to remember that the game is more about fun storytelling than beating the dice. The more the players work together to come up with good stories, the better the gameplay is going to be. If you lose, so what? The game sets up in moments and is ready to go again, with fresh people just lining up to visit with Death.
Each game lasts for four rounds (four assassination targets). Each round you will do the following in order:
- Generate a target.
- Make an assassination plan.
- Attempt the kill.
If you fail at any kill, you lose. Too bad, so sad. If the kill is successful, you stand a chance to earn bonus Specialist Cards before moving on to the next assassination.
To generate a target, you use a series of simple tables and basically answer questions Mad Libs style to come up with Name, two pieces of intel (such as likes, dislikes, fears, beliefs, etc.), and a location for them. This meta-game is sorta fun all by itself. Making up goofy characters to slaughter shortly thereafter is a good time, right?
Next, the players look at the gift cards that have been turned up and try to come up with a way to use them to bring about the demise of the target. Keep in mind that these gifts are not going to be simple, single words, like: chainsaw, acid, or rifle. More than likely, they will be something like “something red.” In this case you could say, for example, it is a pile of bricks, a red dump truck, or a red baseball bat. String together a story of sorts from all of the items you have to form the death plan. If you had the cards music, something red, and batteries, you could come up with: “We’re going to block him into an alley with a red dump truck, confuse him with loud Skinny Puppy music so he doesn’t try to escape, and then pour battery acid on him from above.” All is good and well, but now you have to, as a team, try to assign a difficulty, from 2 (easy) to 6 (hella hard), for each of the three parts. How hard is it to accomplish each part? You might say that backing the truck block the alley is easy, so a 2, but getting enough battery acid together to kill the person might be hard, so maybe a 5.
To attempt the kill, you turn over the sand timer and get started as quickly as possible, because once the timer runs out, it’s game over, man! Starting with the first item in your plan, select a player to roll the die, in an attempt to roll the decided-upon difficulty level or greater. If you succeed, move on to the next item! If you fail, discard that item card, draw another, and revise you plan using the remaining items. The remaining items can operate the same way they did before, or you can create new uses and new difficulty levels for them. Then start over, attempting to succeed with all three items in your plan. If you roll greater than the difficulty level you set for all three items, your assassination is carried off for that victim. If you still have time on the clock, roll the die and consult the Aftermath table, which will let you attempt to flee the scene, establish an alibi, cater the target’s wake (really), etc. by drawing one item card and attempting a plan against that item. Win and you get to roll again, draw again, and try again if there is still time on the timer. For each successful roll, you get to draw a Specialist card and set it aside for the moment. These cards allow you to switch them out for item cards on subsequent assassination attempts, basically giving you more options of a unique and interesting kind (e.g., “water into wine,” “killer solo,” or “flying saucer ride”).
You win by successfully killing all four targets. Good job. You’re a serial killer. You lose if at any time you run out of both Gift Cards and Specialists before all four targets are dead. You also lose if you fail to kill a target before the timer runs out. What? You think you get a lifetime to snuff anyone you want? Guess again, killer!
By now, my enthusiasm for this game should be self-evident. I fricking LOVE MoD! The components are great, but the gameplay is even better! You’ve got a winner already, but I’ve been holding some info back from you, readers. This game is based on two awesome books of short stories delving into the possibilities of the wicked machine: Machine of Death and This Is How You Die. Both of them are chock full of hysterical…and creepy…stories of the fates of folks who fall victim to the machine. Not only that, but the website dedicated to this game, machineofdeath.net, is packed with bonus goodies for players: an Intel randomizer, timer music albums you can use in place of the sand timer (fun!), more missions, and target Intel blank sheets. Wow! The website also has pins, patches, posters, death certificates, t-shirts, etc. for fans to pick up if they love the game, which I suspect they will. Mind you, I’m not trying to sell you anything here, but WOW! What a bunch of cool-ass stuff! But wait, there’s MORE, and this may be the best part: there is a gigantor expansion for MoD. The Side Effects expansion includes more than 600 additional cards to plan deaths with: Death Cards, a Genre Deck, Intel, and what they call “Web Pals + Chums,” cards designed by famous Web personalities and illustrators (these cards are particularly awesome, according to ME).
There you have it…one of my favorite games in my collection. I’m happy to admit I have pretty much everything available for this game. Yes, I love assassination THAT much! This game is perfect for nights when you need a break from heavier games but are still in the mood for some mayhem and murder. I’ve rarely played MoD in public without some random stranger begging to please sit in on the next game. I strongly urge all of my readers to take the time and effort to find a copy and pick this up as soon as possible…or my friends and I will kill you.
Designer: David Fooden, David Malki, and Kris Straub
Artists: Kris Straub
Players/Playtime: 2-4 players/30 min
Suggested Player Age: 15+
Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.
- Andrew Lyall I love stuff like this, keep em coming!
- Dread Central I kind of need to read this now.
- One-Eye I had the game on the venerable Commodore64 and it was shit. I could just never figure out how to play it and I got killed every time.
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