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Mr Jack Pocket [edition] is a 2-player hunt & hide game from Bruno Cathala & Ludovic Maublanc with highly defined and atmospheric art by Jean-Marie Minguez. 
Expect to pay about £15.00-£16.00 for a new copy. The box is 11cm square by 3cm deep (in case you wish to measure the size of your pockets). 
Components, Setup, Introduction and Rules to Play, with illustrations and examples, cover just 9 pages of the small square rules booklet. 

First published in 2010 it is now available in the UK for retail from David

The game board, a grid, is made up from 9 square tiles, with the exception of one tile each shows a T shaped road, the odd tile being a crossroads. On the flip side of each tile, including the crossroads tile, the centre shows the headshot of one of the 9 suspects. The board is created by shuffling the nine tiles and making a three by three grid with the character headshots face up, the three Detective's [Holmes, Watson and Toby their hound] Tokens are positioned next to the grid on the east and west edges in the top third and the centre row at the southern edge, a diagram in the rules clearly shows this clearly; each game starts with them in the same positions, only the random dealing and placing of the tiles changes each time. When laying the grid do not try to purposely match the roads, let them lay as they fall.

Eight double-sided Time Tokens, numbered 1-8 on one side and showing an hourglass on the other, are placed number side up in numerical order in a line near the board, this is the time track. Four double-sided Action Tokens determine the possible actions for both players each turn; the game lasts no longer than 8 turns, usually around one to two minutes a turn. 

The game play mechanic is similar to that of the board-game - if Mr Jack can be seen by at least one of the Detectives then all suspects that cannot be seen by a Detective are innocent and their tile is flipped over to show just road. To see the suspects, a Detective has to be at the edge of the board and looking along a road, they can see as far as the road goes and thus they can see anybody along that road. Apart from the crossroads the fourth edge on every tile is an impenetrable wall which obviously blocks any line of sight, thus if a Detective is positioned next to a wall or if a wall cuts across a road they [the Detective] is looking along, then they cannot see anything.

The four Action Tokens are flipped into the air and must keep the face up that they landed showing. You can move them to make each easily and clearly visible to both players but they must not be turned over. Using the Mr Jack selection mechanic on odd turns the Detective player chooses one of the Actions, then Mr Jack selects two Actions and the Detective takes the remaining action. As they select each Token the player has to carry it out before the next Token is taken. When the choice is to take two Tokens then the player can decide in which order to take and activate them. On even turns Mr Jack plays first and the Detective gets two actions one after the other. The actions must be taken they cannot be skipped, thus if the action is to move a Detective the Detective must be moved; single Detective Tokens allow one or two moves, the multi-Detective Token means one space for one of them.

The Action Tokens are Holmes, Watson, the dog (this doesn't affect the game, but having gone to the trouble of naming Holmes' dog Toby and calling him a Detective, why then revert to calling him 'the dog'), a Joker (move one of the shown Detectives), Rotation (rotate a tile by 90 or 180 degrees; there are 2 of these with different flipsides), Exchange - switch any two tiles in the grid but keep their orientation, and Alibi - Mr Jack can get additional hourglasses from suspect's alibi cards, Detectives can clear a suspect.

Once all four Tokens have been activated the players replace their Tokens, still in the same face up orientation, to the easy view area. The first phase of the turn ends and the second phase takes place; the first phase is called the Manhunt and the second phase is called the Appeal for Witnesses.

This is a quick one question, one answer phase. The Detective asks "Can Mr Jack be seen?" and the Mr Jack player replies "Yes" or they reply "No". There is no other discussion and Mr Jack doesn't have to say which Detective can see him. If Mr Jack can be seen the Detective player takes the Time Token, if Mr Jack cannot be seen the Mr Jack player takes the Time Token, it's that simple. All tiles where the suspect cannot be seen by any of the Detectives are flipped over to their road side.

Now the second Turn begins and Mr Jack goes first. The Action tokens are, one at a time, flipped over to show the side that wasn't in play in the first Turn and then play is the same as Turn one. After the Appeal for Witnesses at the end of phase two of the second Turn the third Turn begins by having the Action Tokens flipped again. Thus every two Turns (the odd turns) the Actions available will probably change, though over the course of those two Turns all eight will be activated. The game often hinges on the luck of how the Action Tokens fall and also how the players use their selections, often taking a Token to prevent the other player from getting it.

When the Mr Jack player (actually when either player) chooses to move a Detective they have to move them, they cannot leave them where they are. For game purposes the Detectives, deemed to be investigating the streets of this squarea of Whitechapel, always move clockwise.

To Win; the Detectives have to eliminate all suspects bar Mr Jack and they have to be able to see him. Mr Jack has the slightly easier (in our experiences) task of collecting Time Tokens, needing just six (including those seen on suspect cards collected) and to keep either out of view or in view with as many other suspects as possible. The Detectives cannot just guess who they think it is, there has to be no other suspect on the board. Re-reading the rules as I write this it seems that we have been playing it slightly wrong (our misinterpretation) in as much as Mr Jack is discovered if he is the only suspect left on the board, he doesn't have to be visible to a Detective. This is maybe why Mr Jack wins 60% of our games, but it does make play a little more strategic.

Two Errors:
1. Unlike the main game and the extension there isn't a zip-loc bag for the small pieces or cards. I suggest you get a zippy if only for the Tokens - we had a thirty minute panic when we opened the box the last time we went to play and discovered only seven of the eight Time Tokens, luckily Holmes was on hand to lend a hand and the missing piece was located under a sofa. It taught me to practice what I preach.

2. Under setup on page #012 it says "Shuffle the cards and set them out in a square with the Suspect side face up". In actuality it is the square street tiles, not the cards, that you do this with. It reads a mite confusing because the next sentence, in italics, says "Position and orientation of the tiles is chosen randomly".

Beautifully produced with a multi-language rules booklet Mr Jack Pocket is a neat, intimate, two-player game that has the atmosphere, playability and essence of its larger board-game brother. I have no problems clearly saying that it is a fun 2-player challenge that keeps the Detectives thinking and Mr Jack scheming until the end.

There is a Mr Jack app available from the Appstore or Google Play from Asmodee Digital costing just £1.39





© Chris Baylis 2011-2021