The Menace Among Us by Smirk & Dagger Games – Review

The Menace Among Us by Smirk & Dagger Games - Review 1

The Menace Among Us is not your average hidden identity/social deduction game. It has more strategy to it instead of just having to be a good actor so you won’t get caught. TMAU can be very cerebral and from what I have experienced, the menaces will have to work hard to win the game without being discovered. 

Ben

MeepleGamers

8.5/10
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Theme and What is it?

8.5/10

Outer space is a cold and lonely place. That is even more true when your ship’s power has shut down and oxygen levels are slowly dropping. To make matters even worse, a member (or two) of the crew is responsible for all of this and no one knows who it is (except for the traitor). All of you on the ship will have to work together to power the ship backup and restart the oxygen filtration system. But how is that even possible when you know at least one of you is trying to kill everyone!

The Menace Among Us is a semi-cooperative, social deduction game for 4-8 players.

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Gameplay Mechanics

8.5/10

Before the game starts, players are randomly dealt role cards. Players are either a loyal crew member or a menace. If there are enough players, there will also be a coward who picks whichever side seems likely to win. Each role has its own unique deck of cards. After players receive their roles, they then choose their character. Each character has its own special abilities and also adds unique cards to their deck. Cards are broken down into three categories: Good – helps the crew, Neutral- cards that don’t really help or hinder the crew and Bad – these hurt the crew and bring them closer to destruction.

There are two tracks on the HUD board. Oxygen and Energy. The goal of the crew is to power back up the ship without running out of oxygen. The menaces want to keep that from happening. Players take turns performing actions. These are either Above Deck Actions (actions that all players know about) or Below Deck Actions (actions taken in secret).

Each round, players have the option of performing one of three actions. 1. Draw a card from the Below Deck stack. 2. Playing a Below Deck card. 3. Playing an Above Deck character ability.

All Below Action cards are placed in front of the mission leader face down. During the resolution phase of the round, the mission leader shuffles these cards, along with any that the EMMA system has played, and resolves them one at a time. The EMMA system is used if not enough Below Deck cards are played. EMMA adds cards to allow the players who did play cards to remain more anonymous. EMMA has good, neutral and bad cards in its deck, which really makes it tough to figure out the menace. 

All of these things make people suspicious of other players and during the final phase of the round, players can make accusations and even exile players from the bridge. The exiled player shows their Agenda cards to prove their guilt or innocence and based on what role they had impacts the oxygen levels in the ship. Exiled players are placed below deck and can only play Below Deck cards and lose the ability to do Above Deck actions.

The crew either wins or loses the game based on if they run of oxygen (loses) or powers the ship up (wins). Menaces always win if they kill all the crew or the ship runs out of oxygen.  

In the advanced game, everyone has individual goals that are unique to their character. If the crew is able to power of the ship, the winner of the game is the person who accomplishes their individual goal.

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Initial Impressions

8.5/10

I was able to get a group of six together to play The Menace Among Us. The rulebook was not a problem to get through and explaining everything was quick and simple. A few questions were asked and the rulebook was consulted and then we were off to the races.

The Menace Among Us (TMAU) moves very quickly. Rounds are fast paced which helps lead to the sense of urgency. The blind card playing makes it hard to figure out who the menaces are. In both games we played, everyone had their suspicions but no one was ever sure and usually suspicions were wrong.

After a couple of games, we noticed that the crews had won without much adversity. We were not sure if that is a fault of the game or if the menaces were being too cautious. More plays will need to happen to determine that. I was never a menace so I was not able to see what it was like to play that role. 

Overall, the game was very well received. All players loved the game and a few of them hopped on their phones and purchased the game as we were cleaning up.

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Game Build Quality

8.5/10

The build quality for TMAU is very standard. Nothing over the top and nothing lacking. The insert does a great job at organizing the cards in between games. It is the best component of the game. The cards and cardboard are all industry standard. 

The box is huge for what is in it, but that allows for the cards to be separated and organized to make setup much easier. Not a big deal but it will take up space on a game shelf.

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Artistic Direction

8.5/10

I am a big fan of the art of TMAU. It has a wonderful sci-fi comic book feel. I always want social deduction games to look light hearted since everyone will end up wanting to kill each other by the end of the game. The art should help negate those feelings and TMAU does great with that. 

The graphics are bright and eye catching and the characters are fun. Even as death looms by asphyxiation, players can enjoy the artwork and feel less nervous about their impending doom.

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Fun Factor

8.5/10

The great thing about TMAU is that you don’t have to be a good actor to play your part in the game. As long as you can maintain a bit of a poker face or are able to remain yourself knowing you are the menace, then it is pretty challenging to figure out who the menaces are. The way cards are played and how other actions happen let players remain fairly anonymous in their roles. Because of this, it really causes everyone who is not a menace to have high anxiety. Fingers are being pointed at everyone and small seemingly insignificant moves are questioned. It makes for fantastic games.

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Age Range & Weight

8.5/10

The manufacturer’s recommended age is 14+. I played a game with a seven-year-old who ended up being the menace and was never caught. I think it all comes down to skill level and maturity level. 

TMAU is heavier than most hidden identity games, but not so much so that players new to the genre will be lost. The weight feels pretty good for experienced gamers as it allows them to really get involved with the game.

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Conclusions

8.5/10

The Menace Among Us is not your average hidden identity/social deduction game. It has more strategy to it instead of just having to be a good actor so you won’t get caught. TMAU can be very cerebral and from what I have experienced, the menaces will have to work hard to win the game without being discovered. 

If you dig social deduction games and want a fun twist on the co-op genre, then I would recommend you give The Menace Among Us a try. It is a stellar offering into these categories and fixes some of the issues I have with run of the mill hidden identity games.  

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The Menace Among Us by Smirk & Dagger Games - Review
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