Death Note: Confrontation Board Game Review (IDW Games)


Want to play Battleship: Murder? In Death Note: Confrontation -- based on the popular manga and anime franchise -- two players take on the respective roles of a killer and a detective. The detective's goal is to find the killer before he kills, well, too many people. The killer's role is to keep their identity a secret until they are able to kill all the people. Death Note: Confrontation is a kind of weird game on multiple levels: you've got paper, a pencil, and very few logical choices. It has all sorts of little bits of interesting quirkiness, but the game itself is... well, there's nothing actually there.

Death Note: Confrontation Board Game Details

Players: 2

Game Time: 10 Minutes

Age: 10+

Genre: Guessing / Asymmetrical 

How is Death Note: Confrontation Played?

Players select their roles: one will be the killer and the other the investigator. At the beginning of the game, the killer chooses from the suspect deck. They become that suspect. Suspects are listed as A, B, C, D, E, etc. Both players have a map inside of a pamphlet-style book that they're using. This gridded map shows the location of both SUSPECTS and MURDER VICTIMS.

Lead phase: At the top of each round, the investigator will pull a card. This card will show two "leads," which mark the way that the killer is going to choose to kill: a knife, gun, or explosive. Players will both put down a token at the same time, with the A side or B side up. If the investigator guesses correctly, they get to eliminate a suspect off their map (by pulling from the existing suspect deck). If the investigator guesses incorrectly, the killer gets additional "murder" points.

Though the lead is a murder weapon, it has nothing to do with the murder that comes later on. It's more like an additional potential murder.

Victim selection phase: After this, the investigator rolls three dice. These dice each have knives, guns, and explosives on them as well. The investigator then looks at their map and chooses the corresponding victims. So if the detective rolls "knife, gun, gun," they must choose the numbers for a knife victim, a gun victim, and another gun victim. They give the killer these numbers, and then the killer must respond with the person they chose to kill.

Murder phase: Killers can only kill people in their range, which are two squares adjacent. The map positions both suspects and the murder victims. Thus, the investigator is trying to figure out where the killer is, to figure out who the killer is. The killer can, however, kill outside of their square twice, and the investigator will never know. The only real knowledge the investigator has is that either someone has died, or the killer responds that it's been "a silent night" -- they couldn't reach anyone to kill them.

The Good, the Bad, and the... Weird

This game is actually fraught with tension for the investigator, because the killer is making continual progress. Even if you can keep the victims away from them, the "Lead" phase of the game might as well be completely random. The only bit of information you have is whether the player you're playing against tends to go for high points (dynamite - 3 points) or if they might try to trick you to go for low points (knife - 1 point), because the "Lead" generation doesn't impact any other portion of the game.

The book is filled with disposable pages, which you use to figure out who your killer is.

Effectively, then, the killer can randomly make from 0 to 3 points at the very top of the round, and the game ends once the killer gets 15 points. This feels unbalanced, but it also means that the investigator has to really work to catch up. And the investigator can bait the killer by making sure they can't kill anyone, but if there are three "silent nights" (in which the killer couldn't kill), the investigator just loses. 

Though there is an advanced mode to the game (which gives some special abilities), the game is just -- well, there's not a lot to it. It's also a pen-and-paper game that runs in 10 minutes, so you'll quickly go through the pamphlet and not be able to play it anymore. Since it's a map-style elimination game, you really do need to use the map (taking notes on a piece of paper doesn't help you visualize anything). Be prepared to make some copies if you actually like the game enough to repeatedly play it. 

There's probably a strategy to this, because we really did not find it difficult for the investigator to repeatedly find the killer. The killer has very limited things they can influence.

Finally, the way the game plays is weird mechanically, because the investigator is selecting the killer's victims. There's hardly a way to avoid that and still remain within concept for the game, but it does feel weird.

This is a very themed game; it's designed for people who love Death Note. This shows in the polarized opinions of this game: people either straight up love it or hate it. It isn't a bad game, certainly, if you want a filler game that you can play in probaly less than 10 minutes. It does, however, feel like a game that's a lot of production with little substance.

Death Note: Confrontation Board Game Review
  • PRO: A Battleship-style game with constant escalation, that can be played in less than 10 minutes.
  • CON: A heavily themed game that doesn't have much by way of gameplay or mechanics.