Detective Club is a deduction party game designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy, who previously co-designed Mysterium. It plays 4 – 8 players and gameplay length varies based on number of players. (Approx. up to 10 mins per player)
The game is comprised of a deck of beautifully illustrated, yet slightly quirky and surreal, cards which will be familiar to anyone who has played games like Dixit, Obscurio, Muse, or Mysterium before. Players play cards in front of them which illustrate a secret word, which all but one player know. The player who doesn’t know the word must act as if they do, and play cards accordingly. All players explain why they have played the cards they did, and then all players vote on who they think did not know the secret word.
How to play
All players have six cards in their hand, and one player each round becomes the active player. After looking at their cards, the active player thinks of a word. Then plays a card to the middle of the table. This card must illustrate the word in some way. Whilst all other players are looking at the card played, the active player writes the chosen word on to all the books, except one. These books will be randomly distributed out to players meaning that all players, except one will see the word chosen by the active player. All players who receive a book with the word written on it become Detectives and the player who does not know the word, becomes the Conspirator.
Once all books have been distributed, and players have looked at the word, players will play a card in front of them in clockwise order, starting with the player to the left of the active player. A card is then immediately drawn again so players always have six cards in hand. This process happens until everyone, including the active player, have played two cards to the table.
Players will have hopefully played cards to the table which illustrate the chosen word. The active player now announces what word they chose. This is the first time the Conspirator discovers what the word actually was. All players, starting with the active player and going clockwise around the table, will explain why they played the cards they did, and how the cards represent the chosen word. The Conspirator must quickly work out how to justify playing the cards they played, and how they link to the chosen word.
Once all players have explained why they played the cards they did, all players, starting with the player to the left of the active player vote on who they feel is the Conspirator. Once all players, except for the active player have voted, the Conspirator reveals themselves and points are awarded based on votes. The active player and Conspirator receive points if the Conspirator receives fewer than two votes. All Detectives who correctly voted for the Conspirator will get points, and those who voted for the wrong person get zero. After all players have been the active player once, the game ends and the person with the most points wins.
Being the Conspirator
Each round, the person who is the Conspirator, and does not know what the chosen word is, will have the toughest time. The player must look at the initial card played by the active player and try to work out what part of the card would illustrate the word. The Conspirator will be able to look at the cards being played by the Detectives, who do also know the word, and will be searching for common themes in the cards, to help determine what the word could be.
If the Conspirator is sitting directly to the left of the active player, it's therefore first to act. They will have a very short period of time to choose their first card. When the word is finally revealed, they will also have a very short period of time to come up with an explanation for why the cards they played match the chosen word. This aspect can let the game down slightly. It can lead to the Conspirator being discovered fairly easily. That said, if you can pull it off as the Conspirator in that position, it does give you a feeling of satisfaction
The only way the active player will score points will be if the Conspirator successfully conceals their identity. This means that the active player will want to choose a word which will allow the Conspirator to turn a generic card into a justifiable card. For example, if the active player chooses the word ‘square’ and the Conspirator does not play a card with a square on it, then it will be difficult to justify the card, whereas if the chosen word is ‘fantasy’, then the Conspirator is able to use their imagination a bit more to justify their cards.
This is where the game shines. The more the players are able to provide elaborate justifications as to why they played cards, the more fun the game is… and the Conspirator will have a much better chance.
Detective Club is a really fun deduction game, and is suitable for players at all gaming levels. The cards are beautiful, and have enough on them for a player to use a card for several different themes. The only downside is the difficulty the Conspirator may face, if positioned directly left of the active player.
I believe the game provides enough enjoyment for this not to be a significant problem, and players will just accept it as an unlucky situation. I personally like the challenge of having to justify cards from that position, as it really puts your bluffing skills to the test.
The books that the active player will write the word on, are thematic in design. But also a bit of a hassle. I think the game would have benefited from some white boards and marker pens. Instead of small pads of paper. This would help with game speed. When the active player is writing in all the books, and help with shuffling, before passing them out to the players. The rest of the components are great though. With each player having a small wooden magnifying glass, used for voting.
The game comes in a tin, which many people don’t like. I personally don’t mind tins. However, the artwork on the lid doesn’t really suggest the fun, party-game style of play that you get from the game. This may deter people. If anything the artwork and title would lead you to believe the game is more of a crime solving co-op.
Overall I think this has become one of my favourite party games. It's definitely worth playing. Especially if you are already a fan of games like Dixit and Mysterium.