Coming up: Serial Homicide Unit

5 January, 2009

I have been waiting for this game since I heard an interview with the creators a good while ago. Back then the game was only called Serial, and wasn’t entirely finished. Last week it was released in electronic format only, which totally makes sense because the game text, the instructions how to play, are audio files. Serial Homicide Unit is an even less prep no-prep game than usual, because you don’t even have to read the rules before you play – you can literally sit down and play along following the instructions in the audio clips. And that’s one hell of a selling point. You still need to buy the rules, of course.

For a mere $15 you get 14 audio files in mp3-format, 5 PDF files with rules references and help sheets, and a readme file.

SHU is a game about catching a serial killer – no one knows who the killer is beforehand, everything is disclosed via player-created clues from the crime scenes of the killer’s victims. And there is no guarantee the killer will be caught, that’s up to the police work of the SHU. Kat Miller, who wrote the game, is a big fan of CSI – I’m absolutely not, but I’m still very interested in playing this game, and it’s from CSI the inspiration for the details, the clues and the slow build-up of a case against the perpetrator.

Compared to Annalise, which I wrote about yesterday, there are quite a few similarities but SHU is much much simpler. SHU is broadly split into two sections: one section is where the players portray civilians that only have one thing in common: a profile. All these civilians will randomly fall prey to the killer as the game progresses. Every time a round of civilian scenes have been played out, one of their names will be drawn and will be the killer’s latest victim, and this cycle of murder will continue until the killer has been caught or all the civilians are dead. Nasty. I like it.

The game’s other section is the solving of the murders. In this section the players portray elite criminal investigators. There’s only one kind of scene in this section, which is a meeting between the investigators and in which players make up clues from the latest crime scene. So, a player  could simply state, “There’s a smear of blood mixed with Heinz Baked Beans along the corridor all the way to the victim’s feet.” Or simply, “The victime has been shot three times at close range with a small caliber.” Or whatever you fancy. Your inspiration is every cop show or movie or comic or book you have ever come across. All the clues are listed together into chains of evidence that may or may not in the end catch the killer. The more clues in a chain of evidence, the more likely it is to succeed against a suspect when your police force decides to indict someone.

This sounds(!) like it could be a very compelling, emotional and tense game experience, and I can’t wait to try this either. The structure of SHU makes it very easy to adapt to a play-by-post format if anyone out there is interested.

One comment

  1. Hi, Per. Thanks for posting this. We’re really happy about the way the game came together. Let me know once you’ve had a chance to play. I think you’ll be very pleased.

    Kat and I never considered a play by post. Neither of us has much experience with that type of gaming, but if you get something together, let us know! We’d love it a try!

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