The night is black and the air foul. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he navigates the alleyways by memory. He takes careful note of those around him, mostly unkempt street urchins and stumbling drunks. A few streets away, a shrill scream pierces the night. A smile breaks over his face; his work has been discovered. Setting the dark hat upon his head, Jack the Ripper fades away into the blackness of the Whitechapel streets.
In the upcoming board game Letters from Whitechapel, players are thrust into the grimy streets of London’s Whitechapel district, hunting grounds of history’s most elusive serial killer, Jack the Ripper. In this revised edition of the game designed by Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro, one player takes the role of the Ripper, who wanders the streets of Whitechapel, committing grisly murders and trying to escape to his Hideout. The other players take the roles of the Police, trying to close in on Jack and make an arrest.
The game unfolds over four Nights, each beginning with Jack choosing potential victims to slaughter. After each horrific murder, the detectives must use their phases of the game to track Jack’s movement from the scene of the crime to his Hideout. If Jack escapes, he is back on the prowl the following night, and will kill again. Divided into two parts, Hell and Hunting, Letters from Whitechapel is a battle of wits between Jack and the Police players. Today, we will discuss part one, Hell, following a hypothetical game turn as played by Jack the Ripper.
Jack begins the game by secretly selecting a numbered circle on the board to be his Hideout, then recording this number on his Move Track Sheet. This is the location to which he must try to escape each Night, after he completes his brutal slaying. Now, the Ripper places the black Jack pawn on the Night Track, to signal the game has begun and the killer is roaming the streets!
In our example, Jack chooses circle 150 as his Hideout.
The board’s Night track. The game has begun!
In the first phase, The Targets are Identified, Jack signals that he has begun to narrow down his potential targets by placing Woman tokens facedown on the red numbered circles of the game board, arranged in any way he wishes. Interestingly, these starting circles represent actual murder sites, further contributing to the game’s faithful historical accuracy.
Woman Tokens. Most have undersides marked with red to indicate the are potential victims. Some are blank on the underside – these are false targets to confuse the Police!
Next, the Patrolling the Streets phase begins, which is carried out by the Police players. It is time for the detectives to arrange patrols of the streets of Whitechapel. The Police place Patrol tokens on the board at the Crossings (black squares) outlined in yellow, based on where they believe the Ripper might strike next. Five of these are marked with colors corresponding to Policeman pawns who can spring into action after a murder occurs to track and arrest the culprit. The other two are blank – these are false patrols used to confound Jack.
Police Patrol Tokens
Now, The Victims are Chosen. In this phase, the Ripper reveals the beginnings of his dastardly plot by turning the Woman tokens faceup. Jack replaces the victims marked for possible death with the Wretched pawns, and removes the false targets. This gives the Police a better idea of where Jack might kill. Jack, on the other hand, has no idea which Police patrols are real, and which are decoys.
The Wretched pawns replace the Woman tokens on the red numbered circles.
During the Blood on the Streets phase, Jack must decide whether to strike immediately, or wait a bit longer to claim a victim. The Ripper cannot delay indefinitely – eventually he will be over come with bloodlust and must kill, but he may choose to wait a few rounds in an attempt to get a better idea of where police patrols are located. For now, let’s say Jack decides to wait a round. Play passes to the detectives.
Police Suspense Grows and the patrolling detectives are nervous to discover where the Ripper will strike. Police players have the opportunity to ruin Jack’s plans by moving his potential victims. They can move each Wretched pawn one space, hopefully closer to the hidden patrols, making it easier for their pawns to hem Jack in and capture him. However, they must be cautious, because they may be playing right into Jack’s hands by moving a Wretched pawn into a position that makes it easier for him to make a kill.
The Police move this Wretched pawn one numbered circle (158 to 159) along the dotted line.
Play passes back to Jack in the Ready to Kill phase. Jack has the opportunity to gain valuable information about where Police patrols are located. He may choose one Patrol token and reveal it. Knowing where a Policeman pawn will be stationed helps Jack determine which victim to choose, so that he will be able to escape.
Making the Kill
The game continues with another round of the Blood on the Sidewalk phase. For our example, we will say that this time Jack feels he has waited long enough, and the time has come to kill! He selects a Wretched pawn, and replaces it with a red Crime Scene marker.
Jack selects the Wretched pawn on 159, and replaces it with the red crime scene marker, signifying that he has killed.
Now, in the Corpse on the Sidewalk phase, Jack must prepare to flee the scene of his horrific crime. He records the number of the crime scene on his Move Track sheet. From this location, Jack must move from numbered circle to numbered circle as he attempts to escape to his Hideout.
In the last phase of Hell, Alarm Whistles, the Police discover the crime scene and sound the alarm! All of the Patrol tokens are revealed, and replaced with the corresponding Policeman pawns. The hunt is for the notorious Jack the Ripper begins!
Policeman pawns are placed on the board, and begin to close in on the crime scene.
Will Jack escape, or will the Police succeed in capturing him? Join us next time, when we will attempt to track down the sly Jack as he races toward his Hideout in the Hunting phases of Letters from Whitechapel!