Inhuman Conditions is a great game of cat and mouse for players able to embrace the improvisational framework.
Theme and What is it?
Life is full of uncertainties. How do you know who you can trust? You have five minutes, maybe less, to determine if the suspect in front of you is a robot or a human. Ask questions. Press them for answers. Decide their fate! These are certainly… Inhuman Conditions!
Inhuman Conditions is a two-player game of interrogation. One Investigator will question one Suspect to determine if they are a human, or a robot in hiding. The game unfolds over the course of a five-minute interview. To add to the theme, there is a set of interrogation sheets to record the Suspects name and stamp them as either ROBOT or HUMAN. To begin, players select one of the eleven included modules, each of which includes prompts for the Investigator and robot inducers for the Suspect. Any module can repeated any number of times, and an evening’s play session can include as many or as few as desired.
Firstly, the Investigator will “calibrate” the investigation. After selecting a Penalty for the interrogation, the Investigator will have the Suspect perform the Penalty three times. This occurs before the Suspect knows if they are a robot or not. During the course of play, if the Suspect is a Robot in hiding, they may have to perform the Penalty at various times for breaking game rules established by their chosen inducer card. Next, there are a few actions that play toward the improvisational nature of the game before the interrogation begins in earnest.
Once the interrogation begins, the Investigator uses their prompt cards to ask the Suspect questions. The prompts will indicate what type of information the Investigator is trying to acquire from the Suspect and the game of cat and mouse begins. The Suspect, after drawing their inducer card, has learned whether they are a Human, a Patient Robot, or a Violent Robot. Humans have no restrictions on their behavior and are simply trying to answer the questions they are asked and prove their humanity. Patient Robots must make it through the entire interview while observing a unique restriction. Each time they violate said restriction, they accumulate a violation and must perform the Penalty once for each violation before the end of the interview. This does not need to be immediate. Violent Robots have three Drives (their Obsession) on their inducer card and must complete two of the three during the interview. Ten seconds after they have succeeded at this task, the Suspect slaps the table indicating that a killing spree has commenced.
Once the timer goes off, the Investigator must either stamp ROBOT or ask a final question. This is the last opportunity for a Human to demonstrate their humanity. Similarly, it is the last hurdle for a Patient Robot before their freedom, though if they have any uncleared violations they must clear them by performing the penalty. A Violent Robot that has not completed their Obsession must do so during their answer to the Final Question, which must be a singular unbroken answer.
The Investigator may end the interview one of two ways: stamping ROBOT or stamping HUMAN. They may stamp ROBOT at any time, immediately ending the interview. If they are wrong however, they are to stamp themselves with the ROBOT stamp as a mark of shame. If the interview runs the full five minutes and the Investigator is satisfied with the answer to the Final Question, they stamp HUMAN. A Human Suspect then shakes hands normally, while a Patient Robot shakes hands in an obviously weird manner, indicating to the Investigator that they got it wrong. Once players have a handle on the system, there are some included alternate rules and even scenarios for an evening’s play session.
When the team were demoing the game at the convention (PAXU 2019) they had a full set made up to look like an interrogation booth. They were really hamming it up, and it looked like great crazy fun.
Game Build Quality
The game box includes 11 Interrogation Modules, each with seven Investigator Prompts (one cover sheet, three primary prompts, and three secondary prompts) and 12 Robot Inducers (three Violent Robot cards, three Patient Robot cards, and six Human cards). There are also 30 Background cards, 20 Penalty cards, a pack of Investigation Forms, two stamps (one ROBOT, one HUMAN), and a wooden card stand. The cards are all a good thickness and since there really isn’t any shuffling except maybe for the Backgrounds and Penalties, it should all hold up pretty well. The box features a nice insert to keep everything organized.
There isn’t much in the way of art. All the cards feature some border art and light background art which is thematically focused around a computer/noir interrogation style. The colors are suitably muted to fit with the noir feel of the game.
Age Range & Weight
The game suggests ages 12+, though it can really work with anyone that is able to grasp the subtleties of playing their role in an improvisational setting. I didn’t come across anything that seemed overly adult-themed, as much of that is controlled by the players at the table and where they take the questions and answers.
Inhuman Conditions is a great game of cat and mouse for players able to embrace the improvisational framework. I’ll admit it took me a while to piece it together and I am not very good at it myself which hindered my personal enjoyment of the game. However, the people who were beating me time and again seemed to be having a great time doing so. There are lots of modules that bring a wide variety of difficulty to playing as a Suspect. It really excels when you just lean in and have fun with it. Plus, if it isn’t working for someone at the table, it’s only five minutes…or they’re a robot with faulty programming.
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