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Vita Mors & Vitamors Conspiro

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Published by Play With Us Design in Taiwan back in 2017, Vita Mors is a light hidden role social deduction card game with a dark theme: it's set in Medieval period at the time of the Black Death and players will be voting each round on the patients being treated by the Plague Doctor to decide who lives and who dies. Don't worry tho' - you're deciding the fate of character cards rather than the other players!

Shi Chen's game is designed for 3-6 players. Players are dealt a face-down card that assigns them to one of two teams but one player will be assigned the role of 'joker'; that means the game is balanced best with five players (two on each team plus the joker). For each team, there will be a sequence of character types that are living or dead. To win, your team needs to mirror that sequence. The joker wins if neither team succeeds in creating their target sequence within a set number of rounds (as determined by player count: in a five-player game, it's 10 rounds).

Each round, a player takes the Plague Doctor token (a rather impressive metal figure) and places it out on one of the three character decks. These are categorised as Aristocrats, Citizens and Slaves, but that only indicates the preponderance of cards in the deck - you can have characters in a deck whose social class is really that of another deck. The top card of the deck is revealed and players then vote on whether that character should live or die. They also usually have the option to play one of the four tiles they have at the start of the game that can be used to skew the vote. However, the characters also have their own special abilities that can affect play - for example, they might prevent any tiles being played that round.

Vita Mors is definitely a game that you get more out of the more you play it. Tho' gameplay itself is straightforward, there's a lot of iconography to get to grips with, particularly in decoding all the characters special abilities. That means early plays are bound to need the rules sheet close at hand. The game plays much more smoothly once players are familiar with the iconography and better appreciate the synergy of the cards. After a few rounds of voting and tile use, you can usually work out who is on which team, tho' a canny joker can throw a spanner in the works...

The theme may be dark but Play With Us Design have done a stunning job in the production of Vita Mors. Aside from Yawen Jheng's beautiful artwork, the small-box game incorporates metal coins for voting and the metal Plague Doctor figure.

And if, like us, your fondness for the game leaves you wanting more, Vitamors Conspiro is a longer similar game that's designed for 5-10 players. Published in 2021, this standalone game from the same designer and artist has players divided secretly into teams of 'jokers' or 'exilers'. The exilers are sacrificing characters on their altar to complete an arcane ritual but the jokers have infiltrated the secret society and have their own agenda...

Vitamors Conspiro feels like a sequel to Vita Mors tho' you don't need to have previously played the earlier game to enjoy this one. Vitamors Conspiro is a little more complex but it has its own charm and may be your preferred choice if you expect mostly to be playing at higher player counts. And it has yet more stunning metal components: in this case, quills and a first-player metal 'Reaper' token. And as with Vita Mors, you can't be sure of a character card from its reverse side...

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