Updated: Nov 10
Lawyer Up - Season 2 by Rock Manor games is a larger box follow up to Lawyer Up (which is now available as Lawyer Up - Season 1). In this version, there is an included solo mode with additional cards for the Season 1 content. I had previously played all the Season 1/original cases, but had not tried the solo mode. I was eager to try the solo mode and explore these new cases as I found the original game to be engaging and good, straightforward deck building fun with a slight twist. This version did not disappoint. My copy was provided by Rock Manor Games.*
Are you ok with litigating a messy, very public, celebrity divorce? What about possibly putting the wrong person in jail for a murder they didn't commit? What about dealing with a casino heist. You're probably ok with that one. Probably. Maybe? Any ethical dilemmas which may come up for a lawyer are largely pushed to the side in this game.
You have a job to do and you better do it well. Be the best lawyer you can for the side you're working for.
Each player always has a deck of cards to start with as either the Defense or the Prosecution. There is also a base deck of cards for the case that you are playing. This deck will include cards for each side of the case as well as some neutral cards. Players participate in an initial draft from which they will be keeping one card, removing one from the game and then giving another card to their opponent. In this way, all the cards from the case related to arguments will be used.
I think this core mechanic makes for a straightforward, but enjoyable, mechanic each time any version of the game is played. It allows you to choose how to handle some inevitable cards that you don't want to give away. In addition to being for the Prosecution, Defense, or Neutral - cards will also have icons on them which will determine text effects and if you will be able to play them. Once you get this mechanic, the theme of the each case is what becomes highlighted.
Without giving anything away, my favorite of the three new cases was Case 4, even though it is not the one you are encouraged to start with when learning the game. This case is a murder mystery sort of case where the defense can use their reasoning skills to win the game too. Usually, most cases are about (essentially) swaying a jury. This one has enough variation that I got a recharge each time I played it. Additionally, the cases in this Season 2 have variability built in with the way that the Prosecution or Defense may choose to call different witnesses as they approach their style of play.
After playing each of the cases solo, I had little reason to play the game again in this manner. The choices felt a little too programmed and I was able to anticipate my win or loss each time. The game shines as a two player, but just didn't hit that sweet spot of a solo deck builder that explores a narrative. Some people may enjoy the solo experience, but it wasn't for me; it wasn't for lack of effort but rather a style choice related to the type of solo game. The solo mode isn't something I would return to although I appreciated that it was included. I really like the game at two players, and I think the kinetic nature of play is what makes this game shine - not being able to completely anticipate your opponent's moves.
The other negative for me was the incongruity of some of the artwork. There were people from real life included in the game, and their artwork didn't have the same resonance as the artwork which focused on the crimes and fictional court experiences. That's subjective, but the artwork will may be largely polarizing to people anyway. In particular, this new version of the game took on a harsher, more abstract stylization which I tended to enjoy but it won't necessarily be for everyone.
Two relatively small negatives in an otherwise appealing presentation of court room contention.
For those that care about bits and bobs for their gameplay experience, this game has mostly wooden bits. Cardboard would likely have been a very large distraction, especially for the different pieces which are used to track Bias and the Red Herrings. Using the Sidebar action which sways the judge to your side is also an important action, and so having a tactile wood piece for this action is nice too.
Lawyer Up will work best for those prefer head to head deck building. Most games will take 45 minutes to 75 minutes, and set up is straightforward with the built in card organization. The new box also has space for the old stuff too so you don't have to keep that old box - just put the cards in this new, larger box.
If you want perfect information or lack of any randomness, this isn't the game for you. If you want to turn an alternative reality of crime and punishment into a good time of deck building and foiled plans, this may be the game for you.
Lawyer Up: Season 2
Published by Rock Manor Games Aesthetics 8.5/10
*Rock Manor Games provided me with a review copy. No other compensation was provided and my opinions are my own.