First Look: Mantis Falls

On the shadowed film-noir roads of a mob-ruled mountain town named Mantis Falls, you have witnessed something not meant to be seen and now must escape town. You are told another witness will join you, and you expect your greatest chance at survival will come if you can contend with the dangers of this night together. But with each harmful event and every fresh wound, your doubts grow. Looking into your companion’s eyes you wonder, perhaps too late, if this person is here to kill you...

Mantis Falls is a 2-3 player social deduction game. In it, you and your friends will try to escape town before an assassin strikes. But are you really working together, or will betrayal come to pass before you reach the end of the road?

Gameplay

Mantis Falls has only one objective: Survive. Begin the game by dealing out the role cards – there are three cards here, two witnesses and an assassin card (in three players, 3 witnesses and one assassin). You can never reveal these to the other players. If all players are witnesses, the game is cooperative, and they want to make their way to the end of the road to get out of town with both alive because if any witness dies the players lose. If one of the players is an assassin, there is no escape, only a fight to the death. But the witness actually has the strongest ace up their sleeve for this fight, so the assassin wants to hide and pretend to be a witness until the right time to strike.

Road cards are randomized to make the path the witness will try to take out of town. Both players begin at the end of this road and have a hand of 7 action cards. On your turn, first you may move up to one space, then you draw an event card. Some event cards are “Seen” and turned immediately face up for both players to see, but they won’t be resolved until later. Some event cards are unseen and remain hidden even as they resolve, with only the player who drew the card knowing what to expect unless they choose to talk about it.


After drawing the event card, players may use action cards to plan their actions. Each player may choose to either discard two cards, store a card on the conserved energy row (which can let you draw them back later or heal or move further in one turn), or play as many action cards as you want as long as they are all the same suit. If both players play cards, they will resolve from left to right in an alternating fashion. Reveal each card one by one then do what it says. After all cards are resolved, the event you drew earlier will occur. If the event is unseen, you must process it correctly, but you can still be only partially truthful about its contents, such as dealing maximum damage to your opponent but pretending like you didn’t have a choice when you actually did. Then draw back to 7 cards.

Eventually someone may take fatal damage, moving the game to the Last Gasp state. The player who is in Last Gasp may play one final row of action cards to try to get rid of enough wounds to live If they can’t, they die at the end of the turn, but if they can, then the game resumes. You only get a max of three Last Gasp turns so if you can’t survive the turn (whether because you’re on your third Last Gasp or if you cannot heal) you can also try to use your last breaths to take out your opponent too, to force a tie.

Assassin wins if the witness is eliminated, Witnesses win if they escape Mantis Falls together.

Impressions

Mantis Falls leans into the film-noir style with art and design that evoke the genre. A fedora and trench coat would not seem inappropriate attire for a game session 🙂 Card names add to the flavor, and the journey takes on more sinister elements as it advances through darkened streets.

With its low player count, the are they/aren’t they is more devious and more challenging. There aren’t a half dozen players to hide behind, so traitorous action or cooperation must be more subtle, building the suspense as you travel toward the end goal. Information is piecemeal, and the game even offers its own twist with a variety of seen and unseen objectives and challenges.

Two player games versus three player games vary in tone. In two player, Mantis Falls takes on a somewhat spy vs spy feeling. The assassin has to be very crafty. In three players, it may become a witch hunt, with loose alliances formed and a LOT of finger pointing. Trust should not be readily handed out in either case – is your traveling companion and ally or a killer?

Mantis Falls is published by Distant Rabbit Games and currently on kickstarter.