Tabletop Review: Paranormal Investigation

Paranormal Investigation
Publisher: Touch Paper Press
Cost: $15
Release Date: 10/24/2014
Get it Here: Touch Paper Press

Paranormal Investigation is a card game by indie publisher Touch Paper Press that I picked up on Kickstarter. The game cost only a $15 dollar pledge and the opening video was so well done that 322 backers came together to fund a grand total of $7,079 dollars. That may not sound like a lot, especially compared to some video game Kickstarters, but when you consider the publisher was just looking for a mere $1,000. That is pretty impressive.

Paranormal Investigation is a quick little game, which will take ten minutes or less to play. It is designed for three to four players, but we managed to make it work (and still be fun) with two players. The chief reason to get the game is because it is absolutely gorgeous. The box is very solid with a top resembling an old 1920’s desk complete with an Ouija board and various trinkets. The cards themselves are of a high quality glossy stock with the evidence cards being the prize piece. My wife absolutely gushed over the different Poltergeist cards, but all the evidence cards are fantastic. There isn’t a lot of variety to the olde tyme images, but you’ll enjoy looking at each card you pull or receive because the images are that great.

The game is exceptionally easy to follow. You have four types of cards: Mystery, Investigator, Affiliation and Evidence. Mystery cards are the end goal of each of the five stacks you will be building in a game. There are two Logical Explanation cards, one Indisputable Mystery and two Strange Phenomenon. Your goal is to accrue enough evidence points (Usually 20, although some Affiliation cards may call more a different number). Once the magic number is reached, the Mystery card is revealed. Sounds simple enough, right? Well the catch is that you can only play a card on a stack that is higher than the previous one. So if the top cards on a stack is 3, you have to play an Evidence card that shows 4 or higher. The only exception to this are the +1 Evidence cards which can be placed at any time. So if you know a Mystery card in one stack is one your opponent needs, you can start things off with a 7 and watch them squirm. Now we did house rule that the card can be equal or greater than the top card on the stack to make things flow better, but that’s not an official rule. Plus it kills the Skeptic’s special ability.

Besides the numbered Evidences cards, there are two other kinds that can come up. The Poltergeist causes each player to give three random cards to the person on their right or left (whoever played the Poltergeist chooses) which can completely destroy your strategy or give you an unexpected blessing. As well you have the Discredited card which removes the top card from a stack. On your turn you either play a card or draw two from the deck (playing a Poltergeist does not actually count as taking your turn), so you don’t have a lot of options, making the game quick to learn as well as exceptionally fast to play through.

To win the game you have to see what is the specific goal of your randomly drawn Investigator card. Just a quick warning. The rules say there are only four Investigator cards, but there are actually five. As well, the rules have the backs of the Affiliation and Investigator cards mixed up. So don’t freak out if you get this game and it looks like you have the wrong amount of cards. You don’t. The pictures are just messed up.

Anyway, the five Investigator cards are Skeptic, Zealot, Medium, Believer and Fraud. Skeptic and Believer both require two Mystery cards to be revealed. Skeptic needs Logical Explanation and Believer needs the Strange Phenomenon cards. Medium only needs the single Indisputable Mystery card revealed. So these three are well balanced. The other two cards are not. Zealot requires any mystery to be revealed with a total Evidence count of 22 or higher, which is exceptionally easy to do. It can also play Evidence cards with a value of 2 like other players can play a +1 card, making it all the more easy for a Zealot to run roughshod over everyone else in the game. The final card is the Fraud which only needs to discard down to 0 cards to win the game. They can also play any card on any stack which makes them all the more unbalanced. I do wish the Investigator cards were thought out a little better as if Fraud or Zealot comes up, they are almost guaranteed to win. They’re just too powerful compared to the other three and their end goals are much easier to achieve.

Then there are the thirteen (rules accidentally say twelve. They weren’t updated after the last Kickstarter stretch goal) Affiliation cards. Like the Investigator cards, these are drawn randomly and give your character and ability. Together the two combine to give you a clear (if bizarre) picture of the being you are playing. In the first game we played, my wife was a Skeptic Voodoo Priest and I was a Believer in the Mysterious Cult in Yellow (I always get Hastur if he’s in a game somehow!). The next game I was a Zealous member of The Illuminati and after that I was a Medium in a Coven of Witches. The combinations are a lot of fun and really make each game feel somewhat different, even if the experience is exceptionally quick (ten minutes or under remember.)

We played a dozen games in about an hour the first time we pulled out Paranormal Investigation. We never had any games end where we ran out of cards to draw, but we came close a few times. Our shortest game was under a minute where the Zealot won because everyone kept putting cards on the same one stack. Crazy. It’s a very easy game to understand, but your Affiliation and Investigator cards really determine who will win. Again, some cards of each type are extremely powerful and unbalanced compared to others, but since what you end up with is luck of the draw, that mitigates this problem somewhat. In the end, Paranormal Investigation is a fast paced fun game that oozes with style and charm. With a price tag of only fifteen dollars, it won’t break the bank if you decide to give this one a try, and you’ll be helping a small publisher to boot. What’s not to love about this? I can certainly recommend Paranormal Investigation if you like very short games and have several friends to play it with.

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