Music and Mayhem - A Preview of Shenanigans: The Musical

Shenanigans: The Musical

The orchestra has a troublesome artiste in its midst and the manager wants him out! But this isn’t easy when everyone’s roles keep being switched and everything is muddled.

This 4 to 8 player game of bluffing and social deduction is seeking your support on Kickstarter and is connected with The People's Orchestra, a charity that works to help children into orchestras who otherwise could not afford to take part. It’s for a good cause, but is the game fun too?

Gameplay

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a role card face down. Every role has a power and a win condition. Most win conditions involve the artiste either being ejected from the orchestra at the end of the game or avoiding expulsion.

The game has four phases. During the first phase, players take turns looking at their card and using their power. Powers can involve actions such as peeking at another player’s card or forcing someone else to use his power.

After everyone has used their powers, the muddle phase occurs. Players take turns hiding their card and another player’s card under the table (or behind their back, wherever they won’t be seen) and may choose to swap the cards before returning them. You cannot look at your role during the muddle phase.

There is a repeat of the first phase, before the final round when the player with the manager card reveals it and then must decide who she believes is the artiste. Players can discuss and attempt to sway the manager, but ultimately the manager must decide who to eject from the orchestra. After the expulsion, all players reveal their cards and win conditions are checked to see who’s won and lost.

Shenanigans: The Musical cards

Review

Keeping track of which powers every player has activated and which roles have been muddled, takes a lot of memory work and opens the final round to a good deal of fun player interaction and debates. Nevertheless, because of the game’s quick playtime and the fact that the ultimate decision of who to expel from the orchestra rests on only one player, Shenanigans: The Musical avoids getting bogged down in the endless discussion and disagreements that can sometimes haunt other social deduction games.

The muddling mechanic is clever and enjoyable. It’s easy to start out as the manager only to discover you’ve become the artiste in the final round and have to do some quick thinking.

There are a lot of role cards, and the selection of cards available is randomized at the beginning of each game. This does mean players really have to work together during the final round, but also makes it pretty difficult for people unfamiliar with the game to have much of a shot at logically figuring out who is who. Some kind of cheat sheet to show which roles have which powers would be a great help — it would give everyone a better chance, and make the game feel a bit more balanced.

Not all of the artwork was completed in the prototype we played, but what was finished fit the game’s fun and casual feel. Several expansions were also included, which mix up gameplay. For instance, performance abilities require players to act in certain ways until the next round (and who doesn’t want to talk like a pirate for a few turns?).

If you enjoy social deduction games, especially more casual ones that don’t require a moderator, Shenanigans: The Musical is definitely worth checking out. Yes it’s for a good cause, but the game can definitely stand on its own.

Pros: Quick play time, great blend of social deduction and memory mechanics, very portable, could be played anywhere

Cons: Number of roles and abilities makes deduction difficult especially for first-time players, a cheat sheet of abilities and characters would be extremely helpful

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.