Mystery games were once popular in zines, but don't get many outings these days.
This is a shame, as they can be very entertaining in a nerdy, thinking-man's way.
One drawback is that they can only be run once.
The game usually has simple instructions, but these tell you what to do each round,
but do not explain the mechanics of the game which often entail some sort of scoring
mechanism that the GM knows and the players have to deduce.
The following are examples of games that have been well received:
That's It! (Hopscotch)
- In each postal turn, each player submits three times of day to the nearest minute, for example: 7:30, 11:42, 22:06.
- The GM then awards points for these and the results are reported as numeric scores for each player.
- This process continues until someone is declared to be the winner
(it can be a draw if 2 or more players meet the condition on the same turn).
- Although they don't know it at first, the players are playing darts, starting from 301 (double to finish).
- Each "dart" is scored using the hands of an analogue clock corresponding to the time (12-hour so AM/PM irrelevant).
- The position of the little hand is used to determine the number aimed at (e.g. 18:00 is a 3).
- The position of the big hand is used to determine the radial distance from the centre of the board
(approximately 0.15in or 0.38cm per minute) and thus whether it is a single, treble, double or miss (outside double ring).
- The GM reports a running total for each player by subtracting the total score of the three darts.
Note that the running total will be the same as before if a player goes "bust".
Molecules (Variable Pig)
- Players are research chemists challenged to create the world's smelliest molecule.
- They are allowed to combine any number of any of the 118 elements on the periodic table.
- Each round they submit a molecule using the symbols for each element used, without repetition, for example Mg3O2H2Cl5.
- Undergrad students are paid to synthesize then smell each molecule and award it a number of stink points.
- The winner of the game is the player who has submitted the smelliest molecule over a fixed number of turns.
Alternatively it is possible to win instantly by creating the smelliest possible molecule.
- Elements with a single-letter symbol score 1 point for each.
However there is a limit to the number of the same element equal to the letter's value in Scrabble.
If this is exceeded the element scores 0. For example H is worth 4 in scrabble so H3 scores 3 and H5 scores 0.
- Elements with a double-letter symbol score -1 for each.
- Should a molecule contain an incorrect symbol it cannot be created and is thus rejected.
- The example molecule in the instructions scores -3 +0 +2 -5 = -6.
- The best possible molecule is H4B3C3NOF4P3SK5V4IW4U which scores 35.