Social deduction games presently come in all flavors. You can play Mafia or Werewolf home-brew games with a pack of cards you have lying around the house, or you can spend a lot more on games like Blood on the Clocktower. The genre isn't new, but it is certainly enjoying popularity at the moment. This may be due to the desire to play larger, low complexity games.
Orp is a deduction game played with cards for 3 to 5 players. After playing it at each player count, I tended to like 5 players the most. In the game, players act as buyers in an alien market for a wealthy client. The wealthy client wishes each player to acquire exactly five Items. The problem, and the deduction, happens because you only know what one Symbol in in the game means. Each player is given a Symbol Key card and an Item Key card which are initially kept secret from all other players. Every player also receives a starting hand of Locked Container cards which correspond to the six Symbols of the game. These Locked Containers represent the acquisition of actual items. Players all keep their hand of Locked Container cards face-up in front of them throughout the game. Your hand size is always five cards, although you may draw a card and discard back down.
On a player turn you must first Investigate by asking another player a yes/no question about the identity of one of their cards. If you think they are bluffing, you may call their bluff. If they were telling the truth, you (the asker) must discards one Locked Container card while the answerer will look at 1 Key card set aside at the beginning of the game or draws one free Locked Container card. If the answerer was lying, they will discard one Locked Container card. In both cases, the initial card in question will be revealed for the rest of the game.
After taking this initial Investigation, players can choose to Investigate again or take one of the following actions: Collecting a single Locked Container card; Forced trade of one of your Locked Container cards with another player's card; or in a 3-4 player game you may Uncover by discarding 2 Locked Container cards to look at 1 Key card not in play. This last action is due to the fact that setup is slightly different in 3-4 player game; the players can deduce the identity of the last Symbol without having to flip it over.
Players take turns asking yes/no questions and taking actions until they think they have the requested items in their hand. If you think you have all the correct items on your turn, you simply flip face-up your Wealthy Client Request card, peak at all the symbol cards which have not been revealed, and then either confirm or invalidate your suspicion. If you were incorrect, you are out of the game and all of your cards will be revealed for the other players to finish the game.
We had a few questions when I played the game with different groups, but people liked the game. Upon first site, almost everyone got a chuckle out of the Symbol names of: glorp, norp, dorp, morp, forp, and snorp. The art is perfect for a small game like this too. One thing I especially enjoyed was the use of different inspirations for the creation of the Symbols. I'll mention one, but let you discover the origination of the rest for yourself. The Dorp Symbol was adapted from binary code defining the frequency of pulsars from the Voyager probe golden plate. Pretty neat nerd stuff.
The game is contained in a small deck box and includes a sheet where players may write their deductions down. The sheet would be used up in about 2-3 full five player games if everyone needed to use one. For this reason, I think it is an unnecessary addition to the game. Games like this are best suited to multiple plays in low stakes environments like at family gatherings or at the end of a long day at a convention. The amount of brain space required shouldn't be too taxing because eventually everyone can see a number of cards face-up. You really don't want a game like this to drag on too long or be burdened by over-analysis anyway. For that reason, most people who don't like a mix of deduction and memory won't like this game, no matter what you include in the box.
The most considerable limitation in the game comes out in a curious way a couple of groups decided to play. As alluded to earlier, players can choose to Investigate twice on their turn. If they get lucky in all of their guesses as they choose to call other players' bluffs, then the group can end up with a bunch of face up cards and one or two players with better hands. This can lead to a rushed ending to the game which can feel like a let down to some players. Of course this all depends on group dynamics, luck, and what players intuit about the game. However, the fact this happened more than once drew my enthusiasm down somewhat. On the other hand, I have had people request to play again immediately after playing which is always a sign of an enjoyable game.
This game will be joining a handful of small box games I will be taking to conventions. Why? It's a conversation starter, it's easy to teach, and people generally like deduction games. The game doesn't last long and in that sense it is perfect kind of game for a filler. I don't use the term filler derisively, and only descriptively for playing between things or waiting on other things. The first couple times playing the game definitely brought the feel of meeting an alien market and awkwardly approaching other persons as you try to negotiate a good deal for yourself. I could see an RPG group even using this game as aside if the group needs something engaging while in a sci-fi or distant locale. It would easily be adapted to those settings, and a wise GM knows when a group just needs a little competition to smooth out cooperation.
Orp: The Market for Space Merchant Translators
Time 20 Minutes
Mechanics: Deduction, Puzzle