Alice Is Missing is a silent 2020 tabletop board game/roleplaying game designed for 3 to 5 players by Spenser Starke and published by Hunters Entertainment. It is played in real-time, entirely through text, and leans much more into the roleplaying side than the board game side.
It's the first day of winter break in Silent Falls, California, and Alice Briarwood hasn't been seen for three days. Charlie Barnes, a friend of Alice's who moved away several months ago after their parents' divorce, has just arrived back in town for the holidays. Their group text to some of their and Alice's mutual friends kicks off the hunt for Alice. Players take on the parts of Alice's peers, with roles ranging from her sibling to her secret girlfriend, and set up relationships between each other and to Alice.
Gameplay revolves around drawing "clue cards" from a deck at certain real time intervals. These give a link to some location or suspect, along with a short writing prompt. E.g. "Reveal a location card. You've heard terrible rumors about what happens here after dark. You just found something online that substantiates one of those rumors. What is it?" The player decides what they've learned and relays this information to the others. The clue cards towards the end of the countdown are the ones that actually lead to the culprit, and Alice herself. In this way, the game could be called both highly system-driven (because the clue cards dictate the events of the plot) and highly player-driven (because the players make up all the details of the story).
Openly inspired by games like Life Is Strange, Oxenfree, Firewatch, and Gone Home, Alice Is Missing is noted for being a deeply emotional experience, using a unique mechanic of text-message-communication-only, and having a pre-made soundtrack that also acts as a timer.
As discussed above, this is a semi-randomized and improv-heavy game, which means there is basically no canonical (and thus trope-able) information on things like what happened to Alice, what she was involved in, the secrets of Silent Falls, the exact personalities and relationships of any characters, etc. However there are still some tropes present in the elements that the game provides.
Tropes found in Alice Is Missing:
- Amateur Sleuth: The player-characters are ordinary teenagers hunting for clues on what happened to Alice and where she is.
- Dying Town: Implied but not stated by the introduction card, which notes that it's been a rough few years for everyone "since the recession".
- Emergent Narrative: The players have little real impact on the story's direction (which is randomly chosen by cards), but this works out well - since no one player is in charge of steering the story, everyone can immerse themselves in the narrative without knowing what's going to happen next.
- Epistolary Novel: A modern day version in tabletop game form, as the game proper takes place entirely through text messaging (or Discord messaging, Facebook messaging, etc).
- Multiple Endings: Due to the improvisatory nature of the game, there are as many endings as you can imagine. However, the actual status of the investigation ends in one of five ways:
- Alice is found alive and everyone is safe.
- Alice is found alive but the character who found her gets captured/killed by the culprit.
- Alice is found dead but the character who found her survives.
- Alice is found dead and the character who found her gets killed by the culprit.
- Alice is found unconscious and the character who found her gets captured by the culprit's accomplice.
- Pacific Northwest: Silent Falls is a coastal forest town in the heart of Northern California, which is in this region of the United States.
- Present Absence: Alice has been missing for three days at the game's start, and solving the mystery behind her disappearance comprises the story.
- Real Time: The game is played in real time over 90-ish minutes.
- Secret Relationship: Julia North, one of the possible player characters, is Alice's secret girlfriend. Whether their relationship remains a secret by the end of the game is up to the players.
- Shout-Out: The game's suspects, locations, and characters are both standard high school archetypes and references to other works of similar media, the most obvious being the lighthouse that was transported straight from Arcadia Bay. Mr. Halvert could also be a reference to Mr. Jefferson.