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 entirely through text, and leans much more into the roleplaying side than the board game side.
It's Saturday, the first day of winter break at Franklin Academy in Silent Falls, California, and Alice Briarwood hasn't been seen since Wednesday. 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 winter holiday. Their group text to some of their and Alice's mutual friends, seen in the page quote, kicks off the hunt for Alice.
Players take on the parts of Alice's friends and family, with roles ranging from Alice's sibling to Alice's secret girlfriend, and set up relationships between each other and to Alice. A list of suspects and suspicious locations are given more detail, linking them all in some way to Alice as a possible culprit or location. After the game begins, clue cards that provide prompts for the characters to discuss are automatically played every 5 to 10 minutes. This does the legwork of advancing the mystery as the characters speculate on Alice's disappearance, track down clues and suspects, and try to not let any interpersonal issues get in the way of finding their missing friend.
Sharing themes with (and 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 text-only-communication mechanic, and having a pre-made soundtrack that also acts as a timer.
You can get the various versions from the links on the official game page. If you want to get a feel for it, enjoy this livestream featuring the game's designer, Spenser Starke. The official timer and soundtrack is here.
Tropes found in Alice Is Missing:
- Amateur Sleuth: The drawn cards drive much of the plot, so while the players have little impact into the actual course of the game, the characters can still find clues, discover motivations, and ultimately find Alice and her location.
- Dying Town: Implied but not stated by the introduction card, which notes that it's been a rough few years for everyone.
- 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, all the players 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, or Facebook messaging, etc).
- 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: From the moment Charlie starts the game by sending the text message, the game happens in real time for the next 90 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.