Darkridge Reunion is Fun for a Limited Audience
Most of the games we review are either video games or more traditional board games. While we’d eventually like to get involved with TTRPGS and other gaming experiences, for the time being we’ve just been focused on more traditional format board games. But when Starlux Games reached out to us to review their high-school reunion themed murder mystery game, it was hard to pass up the change of pace. Although, with social games like this comes the challenge of high players counts and coordinating an open night of the week with a bunch of adults in their 30s. The easy answer was to throw an actual party, offer free alcohol, and tell everyone they could stab their friends with a light-up foam knife.
Darkridge Reunion is a murder mystery party game that avoids the trap of scripted dinner parties by designing their game play experience to feel more like Among Us than Murder on the Orient Express. Participating players are divided into three teams, Geek, Jock, or Rebel, depending on the character they were assigned. Players will all race to complete secret objectives in order to earn points for their team for the final round where players will bid points in a Final Jeopardy style round to guess who the killer is. The team who has the most points at the end of the game wins.
One of the downsides of Darkridge Reunion is that it requires a a fair amount of coordination ahead of game night. Players are encouraged to dress up as their characters, but certainly aren’t required to do so. In my experience, and I say this as someone who hates anything even remotely theatrical, the more players choose to embrace what comes next, the better the experience everyone will have. Assigning characters ahead of time allows participants gives them the opportunity to arrive in costume. But more importantly it allows players to plan where they hide the murder weapon somewhere on their person.
Once guests arrive and the game starts, players will be given two important items: the lanyard containing the player’s character card and a secret objective. Both the character description on the back of the Character Card and the information on the back of the Secret Mission where players find out their character’s hidden objectives. This is when players learn if they are the Sheriff or the Slasher. The Slasher should will take the foam weapon and conceal it within their costume. Whichever players is assigned as the Slasher will need to use the dagger while it’s lit up to kill. Meanwhile, the Sheriff will be working to catch the Slasher in the act.
If playing the Advanced mode like we were, players also receive an Artifact card. Artifacts are one-time use items dealt out at the start of the game. Items like the Shield and Poison can save a player’s life if they act quickly enough by either negating the Slasher’s kill attempt (Shield) or potentially even kill the Slasher (Poison).
Darkridge Reunion is played in a series of three timed acts:
Act 1 – The Meet and Greet
The first act should only last twenty minutes. During this time, players should be in character, introduce themselves to the other characters and become familiar with the possible suspects and victims. This is all about mingling and setting the stage. Players can’t kill or complete any of their character or secret objectives during these twenty minutes.
Act 2 – The Real Action
Act 3 – The Final Act (Advanced Only)
During The Final Act, players will focus on achieving the Act 3 goals listed on their character and secret mission cards. Play otherwise continues as it did during the second Act. It’s recommended that The Final Act only take twenty minutes.
Once the third act concludes, all players should gather in their teams to total up the number of points they earned by completing objectives. The Jock, Geek, and Rebel teams will then bid a number of their points and guess who the killer was. Naturally, Ghosts can’t guess the Slasher’s identity as they’ll be well informed at this point. Once every team has made their guess, the Slasher steps forward to reveal themselves. Teams either win or lose a number of points equal to their bid depending on whether or not their guess was correct with the highest scoring team winning the game.
I enjoyed my time Darkridge Reunion, but that statement comes with a lot of caveats. One of the biggest challenges in planning this game night was managing the physical space required to support enough room for ten players to slip away for long enough to achieve any of their objectives. Residing in a city means apartment living and smaller spaces. To get the space requited to support this number of players, we co-hosted a joint party with our neighbors who were kind enough to open their apartment to us. It worked out wonderfully for us!
I have some issues with Darkridge Reunion from a production standpoint. Each of the character cards comes in a plastic sleeve attached to a color coded lanyard. These lanyards help identify a player’s team at a glance, which can be pretty important once the game gets started. However, the copy we received didn’t have the correct number of lanyards so a few our players didn’t have lanyards that matched the rest of their team which caused some unnecessary confusion at the outset.
Similarly on the production side of things, there’s a score sheet included on the last page of the rulebook that players can use to keep track of score. Like most board game players, I dislike writing in my rulebooks and on components. For that reason Starlux Games provided a QR code in the rulebook that states it leads to a printable version on the Starlux website. When scanning the QR code, users are instead lead to a two minute “How To Play” video. Under normal circumstances, I would say this isn’t a big deal as it’s quite easy to simply scan and print a page from a rulebook. However, I find it far more problematic that a finalized rulebook guides customers to resources that don’t exist.
In terms of gameplay, the physical space you have available has a high influence on how successfully a game of Darkridge Reunion can be run. As a social game, Darkridge benefits from having more players, but the more people you have, the more space is required. It really restricts who can own this game. The average person living in or near cities won’t have enough space to be able to enjoy the game as it was designed. This means more work on the side of the host who will need to come up with and teach a set of house rules in addition to the designer’s rules.
On the positive side, the light-up NERF-life knife is a fun addition, even though it is a gimmick. The rules that the knife has to be both illuminated and make contact with the target helps to eliminate some of the common playground arguments from back in the day, arguing whether or not someone was “tagged”.
Most murder-mystery games award only award players for identifying who the murderer is. Darkridge Reunion takes a different approach to the genre by using a point system that rewards players for their commitment to immersion. The more Secret Mission and Character objectives that a player completes, the closer their team gets to victory. This helps encourage players to really lean in and commit to their roles and improve the overall experience for everyone. Without the point system, I’m confident that my non-actor friends would have che3cked out long before the game began.
While I would like to say otherwise, I can’t recommend Darkridge Reunion to most players. You’ll need a large group of players who are down to roleplaying. More importantly, you’ll need several rooms for players to sneak off into. For those living in large cities, the rules just don’t support the one or two bedroom living situations that the average resident crams themselves into. Even at the minimum player count of six players, it’s not enough space to effectively run a game of Darkridge Reunion. I’m certain there are people who would enjoy Darkridge Reunion but as someone whose entire gaming group resides in the city, it’s just not feasible to host this more than once.
Number of Times Played:
Played one time.
Reviewed Player Counts:
Supported Player Count:
Six to twelve players.
Two hours for all three acts with game explanation.
Easy enough to teach. However, given the format of the game’s format, players will all need to have their own individual understanding of how the game functions. Once it begins, players set off on their own and just one person’s misunderstanding can throw off the experience for all.
Cards are a durable paper but are glossy and often stick together when trying to shuffle. While the glowing dagger is gimmicky, it’s without a doubt my favorite addition.
Darkridge Reunion has a limited number of plays to it. While you could technically play as much as you want, the familiarity that comes with repeated plays will make it impossible for Ghosts to earn points.
Darkridge Reunion is available now.
A copy of Darkridge Reunion was provided by the publisher.