1313 Dead End Drive (Parker Brothers, 2 to 4 players, about 1 hour; $19.99)

   We've seen vintage mystery conundrums served up in game form before: the dead body in the mansion, murder on a train and the case of the wealthy relative suddenly dying and leaving fabulous wealth to those who survive. Several years ago, the latter scenario was the theme for 13 Dead End Drive, a surprisingly engaging family game (Fall 1994 GA REPORT). Now that  old favorite, in a new and revised edition, returns with a new address: 1313 Dead End Drive.

   1313 Dead End Drive finds players taking an active interest in the will of the late lamented Aunt Agatha who promised to leave her considerable fortune to any heir who managed to survive being in her mansion. The game, originally created by Andrew Berton and Dave Wyman, now comes in a deep, square box, big enough to hold a colorful mounted gameboard, three back walls and five traps, 16 heir pawns with stands (four more than in the previous edition), a deck of 48 cards (one card for each heir and 32 "action" cards), Aunt Agatha's will, 20 moneybag tokens, 2 six-sided dice, various parts used in assembling the traps and a 12 page rules booklet. 

   To prepare for play, the 3-D milieu, including five "sinister" traps,  needs to be created. The five traps are similar to those in the original edition: stairs, fireplace, boar's head (replacing the "chandelier"), safe (replacing the bookcase) and suit of armor (replacing the statue) - all primed to eliminate suitors for Aunt Agatha's fortune. In the English language, the three most terrifying words are: "Some Assembly Required". Although some assembly IS required here, the rules booklet contains easy to follow instructions which make it all very easy and quick. (And, when the game is over, it is even easier to "break down" the 3-D set up so that it fits into the box, ready to be rebuilt in a flash!)

   In the original game, players assumed the roles of heirs to the fortune. All players could move any and all heirs, maneuvering this way and that, into and out of danger and springing traps to eliminate the opposition. A player won if the portrait of the heir they controlled was hanging over the fireplace when that character exited the house. There was also a "detective" used as a timing mechanism to play. The detective piece began outside the mansion and advanced, ending the game when he reached the front door (if no heir had successfully escaped before then). This edition makes some significant and interesting changes.

   As in the original game, exiting the mansion at the right time is the key to victory. But the trick here is to gather the most moneybags when exiting the mansion, a winning condition that keeps everyone involved since moneybag totals can change quickly.

   At game's start, the "will" (a large cardboard cutout featuring all of the heirs) is seeded with moneybag tokens. Four tokens are placed under Spritzy (the first heir in line for the fortune), two under Sedgwick (the next heir in line) and one on each of the remaining fortune seekers.

   The 16 heir cards are shuffled and distributed to the players (six each in a two player game, five when three are playing, four each when four players are in the game). These cards stay secret from the other players with remaining cards of heirs, if any, removed from play. The "action" cards are shuffled and placed, face down, beside the board. The "Clock Strikes Midnight" card is placed on the bottom of the deck.

   On each player's turn, the dice are rolled. Two heirs must be moved the full count of each die. A roll of doubles allows one heir to move the full total of the roll (if so desired). Secret passage spaces around the board help the heirs navigate around the board easily too.

   Card play triggers the action. Each time a player moves an heir onto a trap, that player draws a card. (There is no hand limit.) Five types of cards are available: Room (allowing you to transport an heir from any place on the board to any space in the named room), Take a New Heir (allowing you to randomly draw an heir card from any opponent), Run for It! (allowing you to roll one die and move any pawn), Trap (which will spring either of the two specific traps listed on the card) and Wild Trap (which will spring any trap). Should an heir be unlucky enough to be situated on a Trap space when someone plays a matching Trap card, that trap is sprung and that heir is out of the game! Whoever holds the matching heir card discards it and any moneybags owned by that heir gets shifted over to the next heir in line. (Traps are, of course, immediately reset, ready to claim their next victim!) When any heir manages to safely exit the mansion, moneybags belonging to that character are claimed by the holder of the matching heir card. When the Clock Strikes Midnight card is drawn or if no heirs remain inside the mansion, the game is over. The player with the most moneybags wins! (And, if no one survives, the entire fortune goes to The Pet Pals Retirement Home - and no one wins!)

   In its new incarnation, 1313 Dead End Drive manages to maintain its high standard in graphic presentation; it's look and the delightful "springing of the traps" makes the game fun. The game also manages to add a few flourishes to the game play. As the moneybags shift from heir to heir, players have to adjust their strategy to be in the right place to gather up the fortune. Timing, in the use of cards to move heirs into specific rooms and to aid your heir in making a timely exit, adds still more strategy to the mix. This is a game that is definitely a cut above the more typical family game fare. It looks good, plays well and is fun! 1313 Dead End Drive is an address the whole family will enjoy visiting. - - -- Herb Levy


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