Letters from Whitechapel = Wits + Skill – Luck

‘The Salty Gamer’ recently wrote an article for this very site expressing their displeasure with the random element. While luck favours the bold, it can often undo a well thought out strategy. Obviously there are those who cherish a little chaos and enjoy luck in their games, whether it be the roll of a die or turn of a card.

Games devoid of all random elements aren’t nothing new. Chess is an early example, Mastermind another more recent.

It’s no surprise then that not long after writing that article ‘The Salty Gamer’ purchased a copy of “Letters from Whitechapel”. I’d played the game previously and enjoyed it immensely. While I personally don’t mind a little ‘RNG’ in my games, I prefer a juicy battle of wits far more.

For those not familiar with the game, it was developed by Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro, and published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2011. Thematically the game takes place in London 1888 during the Jack the Ripper murders. One player plays Jack, the others the police trying to hunt him down.

For Jack the object of the game is to flee the murder scene and make it safely home. For the police you’ll be trying to follow the trail and track Jack, ultimately arresting him.

No dice. No cards. No random element. Jack looks at the board and moves in secret. Police investigate squares and attempt to deduce the route taken. You wont often catch Jack on the first (of four) nights, but by the end of the second you’ve typically got a solid idea where Jack lives. By the final night the pressure is on, police will attempt to surround Jack’s home and block his retreat while Jack will likely be looking for a super fast jaunt home.

But strategy and sneaky wit can be used by Jack to run rings around the police and throw them off the scent. You only have 15 moves each night so you can’t take too long, but a few clever plays on the first couple of nights can save you grief later.

It’s one of those games that’s also very easy to learn but players can spend forever getting better and better at it. Devising strategies, plays, tactics, and the like. The game does favour the devious.

One tip, and it may sound a little odd, get some reflective glasses for the player controlling Jack. Shrewd players will watch your eyes as you look around the board (or your map) and will be able to get a rough idea on where you are heading. A poker face is also extremely helpful.

The game works just as well with two players as it does with four, just don’t make the mistake we made on our first game by using less than all of the police. You’ll really struggle to catch Jack that way at all.

While the theme is nice, it doesn’t really even play into things. You could ignore it completely and simply remove all context, and it would still be an equally enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately your biggest obstacle to playing today is it’s availability. Fantasy Flight Games have taken down their page and a copy on Amazon can go for $80 plus shipping. You’re no better off jumping on eBay either as shipping to Australia will really give you second doubts.

While I’m unsure of the legality of it, the game is available on Steam as a module for Tabletop Simulator which you can check out here.

Either way if you can track down a copy of the game, or know a friend who has it I urge you to have a go. Especially if you enjoy games of wit rather than chance.

Liked it? Take a second to support ATGN on Patreon!