Mortum: Medieval Detective
Mortum is a cooperative detective game for 1-6 players designed by Sergey Minevich. It was published in Russian by Lavka Games but the English edition is published by Arcane Wonders. It is set in an alternative medieval world in which characters use both swords and psychic rituals in their efforts to uncover the mysteries at hand.
Mortum comes with three linked stories to play through; the first taking about 2 hours and the others about 3 hours each. It's a cross between Sherlock Holmes style deduction and a card-driven choose-your-own-adventure in which the decisions made by the players determine how the story plays out. This means that players could end up arguing over what course of action to take but on the whole it doesn't matter: although actions take time (most actions take 1 or more game 'hours' and each scenario is time limited), it doesn't generally matter what order you do them in. This means any number of people can join in: all can take their own notes on the clues that come to light and achieve their own score according to their answers to the questions at the end.
The game comes with no rulebook, allowing players to start playing straight away and pick up the few rules as they go. This can be a source of frustration when there's nowhere obvious to look for rules clarifications but the FAQ page provided is fairly helpful and most matters are intuitive anyway.
The stories themselves are intriguing, clever and very well put together. You'll find it exciting and satisfying discussing theories and occasionally seeing things unfold the way you thought they would, but every time you think you know something there'll be another aspect of the mystery to ponder... With the amount of time given by the game's mechanic, you will never be able to follow all possible threads and understand everything. This means that you may well reach the end and score very few points, souring the experience somewhat, and so you have the option to replay a scenario (tho' instructions for doing this aren't provided). Perhaps you might want to come back to it much later and try to find a better way to get to the heart of the matters at hand but you may just prefer to accept that it's very hard to do well and enjoy reading through the rest of the cards afterwards that you didn't encounter in your play through. There's a lot of reading involved and your table will be completely covered with cards by the end. You'll have worked out some things and not even touched on others but you'll have enjoyed seeing things unfold whatever happens. Fans of both murder mysteries and choose-your-own-adventures will not be disappointed and will surely hope for more of the same in future... So far, The Shelter is the only expansion that Arcane Wonders have published for Mortum, and it is also excellent.
(Review by Matt Young)
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