One of the most popular games on the floor of this year's GenCon was a Japanese import called Tragedy Looper. First published by BakaFire Party in 2011, the English language version made its U.S. debut at the Z-Man Games booth last week in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tragedy Looper is a deduction game mixed with light role-play. One player takes on the role of the Mastermind, while the others take on the role of Protagonists. The Mastermind hopes to sow death and sorrow in the lives of the characters on the game board, while the Protagonists work together to prevent the same.
What makes the game unusual is its time-looping mechanic. The game takes place inside one of 10 unique scenarios that come in the box. Each scenario lasts a certain number of days, which are represented by game turns. Each time the Mastermind succeeds in their goals the calendar rolls back, forcing the Protagonists to live through the same events all over again.
A full game plays out much like the movie Groundhog Day.
There are four locations in Tragedy Looper, including a school and a shrine. Some characters are exclusive to each area.
By deducing the hidden goals and traits of the various characters on the board, the Protagonists can work together to keep key characters out of harm's way. If, by the end of the game's final loop, they can outwit the Mastermind and make it safely through the scenario the Protagonists win.
The game features no dice rolling and no combat. Both the Protagonists and the Mastermind compel the characters on the board to action via secretly playing cards from their hand. Table talk is discouraged, forcing players at the table to use vague conversational tactics and emotive expressions to get their individual strategies across, effectively forcing them to role-play as characters in an anime cartoon.
Z-Man, publisher of the popular board game Pandemic, sold out of the Tragedy Looper on the first day of the convention.
More copies will be available in September. You can download the "Player's Handbook" here, but it is recommended that you avoid reading the "Masterbook" as it will spoil the scenarios that come packaged with the game.