I wasn’t really sure how to feel about Death Wish when I first heard it pitched. I was afraid it was going to be making light or mocking a very serious topic that has affected me and my family a few times over the years. Thankfully, that is not at all what this game is.
Jason, the designer, made a good show of not being offensive and creating a fun game with a difficult theme.
The game fits on a tray table, but barely. For a more comfortable play experience you will want a small coffee table or dinner table. You need enough room for the four decks, the four-card lineups of diseases and symptoms, and the discard piles. The more people you have playing, the more seats you will need, so keep that in mind.
The game is made up of four decks: diseases, symptoms, afflicters, and outbreaks. The goal of the game is to collect diseases by building up matching symptoms and afflicters. When you contract a disease it may cause an outbreak, which is a twist that might help you or hinder your opponents.
Every player starts with a hand of four symptoms, which they keep secret from their opponents. Each player also has two afflicters, which are public knowledge. There will be four symptoms and four diseases dealt out into the center of the game area. These cards are available for players to acquire through play.
A player has four actions to choose from each turn:
- Draw a new symptom, or two from the top of the deck. The maximum hand size is six cards.
- Draw a new afflicter, to a maximum of three. If a player has three afflicters, it is possible to draw a new one and discard another.
- Add a disease on top of one in the lineup. Each stack is limited to two diseases. The disease on top must be contracted before the one below is available again.
- Combine an afflicter and symptoms to contract a disease. Afflicters and symptoms must match the disease to be contracted.
Each disease has a number of skulls in the corner of the card, which represent victory points. The first player to reach the agreed upon number of victory points dies first and is the winner.
- Symptom deck – 96 cards
- Afflicter deck – 48 cards
- Disease deck – 40 cards
- Outbreak deck – 35 cards
- Player Aid Cards – 6 cards
Despite my initial reservation about the theme, I really enjoyed this. It’s quick and easy to learn, and is accessible to players of all levels. The diseases are light-hearted and the ways you catch diseases are silly enough to keep the mood light.
My only concern is the inclusion of cards that cause other players to lose a turn. I am never a fan of a mechanic that causes someone to be unable to play. That said, there are only three cards which do this, and they can be removed from the game without hurting game play. Though I dislike the mechanic, this isn’t enough to make me dislike the game. I’d definitely recommend this to someone looking for a light game.
It was easy to learn and would make a good party game. It plays fairly well even in a crowded, noisy area. I really enjoyed the game and its fast pace. It’s not a game that you have to think real hard about or strategize a lot. It’s straight forward and all you have to worry about is making decisions based on what’s in your hand and in front of you on the table. It’s more fun with more people, but it’s still fun with smaller groups.