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Top 5 Games For Elementary Sleuths

Detective Season 1

Detective Season 1 - Hannah Blacknell

What game could be more detective themed than a game called Detective? I went very much on the nose with this brief. Detective has been around a while and is a pretty big box game with notoriously long and tricky cases to solve. The new streamlined version Detective Season 1 from Portal Games is a much briefer and simpler affair and I for one am thrilled with it.

This small box contains 3 cases to solve. Each is independent of the one before so there is no need to have continuity between the group on each play. For me, that is something I really appreciate as getting the same group around the table time after time is almost impossible for me and is the reason for a few half-finished legacy games sitting on my shelves.

The gameplay is pretty simple here, you play as police officers who are trying to solve a crime. During the game, you can move around completing fieldwork and interviewing suspects and witnesses, collecting evidence and conducting investigations back at the police station. The game uses a combination of evidence and story cards as well as being integrated with an app.

The app is free and relatively straightforward to use, although not always intuitive to me. The app also provides a quiz at the end of the game which gives you your win or loses scenario for the game. Moves are limited by the amount of time you have in the game; each move will take a certain amount of hours to complete so you will have to make smart decisions over which avenues to pursue.

If you want a light-hearted hour of crime busting with a group of friends, then I don’t think you can really go wrong with this option. It has interesting twists to the narrative whilst at the same time being enjoyable and accessible.

MicroMacroCallum Price

This city is filthy. It’s ridden with the grime of society and the underhanded usurpers of the business world – both taking more than is offered with a clawed hand and a cruel sneer. No one is innocent, everyone is a culprit, and you’ve got to clean it up.

Of course, I’m not talking about Gotham city; I’m talking about Micro Macro: Crime City! This 1-4 player game of deduction and cooperation has you and your team of crack detectives following a trail of crime using clue cards across a massive city map.

The concept for Micro Macro is simple: track individuals committing shady deeds and get the information you’re asked for. Each case is run over a series of cards where players are given a specific clue and an individual to hunt down.

For example, you may be asked to find a chap in a hat north of the park. You’ve then got two things to do: find the park then find the chap. You’re always given an image of your target to look for and are given a mini magnifying glass to both help you find them and to help you channel your inner Sherlock!

From this you may be given new information – the hatted chap has been linked to a hit and run! Now you’ve got to look where he’s been by following his trail across the city. Each character can be traced along a path until you see where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. And, if you’re stuck, the cards always give you a good inclination if your thoughts or conclusions are correct!

This game of mouse and detective boasts low entry across the board by having a wide range of cases to crack in varying difficulties. Low level cases will entail following a single chap across a street or two whilst they commit low level felonies.

The bigger stuff will have you cracking cases involving multiple perps, shady dealings and a cash flow to the tops of crime syndicates. It’s a superbly fun game that has so much content for nothing more than a map and a deck of case cards. The perfect game to make you feel like a real detective!

MysteriumJohn Hunt

If you are looking for sleuthing of a paranormal kind you can’t do much better than Mysterium: a fantastic asymmetric co-op. One player as the ghost of a murder victim attempts to steer the other players as psychics to deduce the correct suspect, location and murder weapon.

The ghost is consigned to an evening of silence (though I tend to enjoy occasional moaning and knocking... but maybe that’s just me). Clues are provided across the three opening rounds by the ghost bestowing one or more vision cards to each player. These are beautiful abstract images akin to Dixit cards and the ghost is trying to link these to the correct choice for each player from a wider array of suspects, then locations and (almost) finally the weapons. The extent of the choice is based on the number of players and the chosen scaled difficulty level.

If all the psychics deduce their trio before the clock strikes 8 then there is a final round. The ghost secretly chooses one of the trios and has three cards to steer a the players to the correct choice. Succeed at this by majority vote and everyone wins, fail and the murderer escapes.

Mysterium is great – it has the charm of Dixit but with more game and purpose. I like playing the ghost: wrestling with a hand of beautifully illustrated nonsense and trying to offer some sense to the players, looking desperately for meaning.

Then enjoying the silent agony of their vocal collective deduction as all too often they fixate on a card detail I never even noticed and head off down a blind alley. Or occasionally the magic of being mentally sympatico as they see exactly what I had envisioned and go straight for what was intended. It’s a joy with friends, family and even seasoned gamers.

221B Baker StreetSophie Jones

When it comes to solving complex cases there is only one detective for the job. Sherlock Holmes. So, when you have an itch for mystery it makes sense to grab a pipe and put on your deerstalker. 221B Baker Street is the perfect board game to enjoy when you want that Sherlock experience.

To begin, you select a case card and read it aloud. Players then make their way around the board looking for clues to try and solve the case. What makes this game fun is you never know which locations have the best clues. Although, if you listen to the case notes at the beginning, you’ll have a vague idea of where to start. For example, if the case card states, ‘Smithy was last seen at the docks’, you may want to head there first.

Deduction plays a vital role in this game. Upon visiting locations, you’ll learn different things about the case. You may learn about the weapon, motive or killer. However, these clues are not as simple as, the weapon was a gun. Most of the time you’ll be working out anagrams, riddles or having to find another clue to put words together. Working these out will leave you feeling like Sherlock or Lestrade depending on how well it goes.

The aim of the game is to solve the case first. Once players think they know the answer, they must race back to 221B Baker Street to announce their findings. However, if players get it wrong, they will forfeit the game. It’s intense as you only have one chance to get it right.

If you truly want to feel like a detective, this game has it all. The cases are intriguing and feel as if they’ve been ripped from Arthur Conan Doyle books. The cryptic clues will drive you mad but leave you satisfied when you get it right. And with 75 case cards to work through, and different modes to try, there is an abundance of detective fun waiting to be solved.

Scotland YardTom Harrod

Not all board games that hit the market back in the ’80s were awful. In fact, Scotland Yard has more than stood the test of time. This won the Spiel des Jahres back in 1983. This puts it in the same bracket as super-successful titles such as Ticket To Ride, Carcassonne, Catan, Azul, Colt Express…

This is a cops-versus-criminal, cat-and-mouse game. One player is Mr. X, a criminal on the run in London. The rest of the players all work together as the police force, trying to capture the culprit. Mr. X’s aim is to evade capture by skulking around the map, using taxis, buses, and the Tube. The police force’s aim is to capture Mr. X before their movement tokens become exhausted.

Scotland Yard is a point-to-point, hidden movement game. The players each start with 23 Taxi, Bus, and Underground tokens. Mr. X, meanwhile, starts with a pittance of transportation tokens. The board is a map of London city centre.

There are 200 numbers (stations) on the board at various road junctions. Each allows one, some, or all modes of transportation to stop there. Players start on different stations. Mr. X doesn’t place their piece on the board. Instead, they write down their current station’s number in a pad, kept secret from the police.

The police all discuss their point-to-point movement, trying to deduce Mr. X’s location. They want to land on the same space as him. They spend transportation tokens to travel short (Taxi), medium (Bus) or long (Underground) distances across the map. When they do this, they give a corresponding transport token to Mr. X to use later in the game! As the game progresses, the detectives’ options decrease, while Mr. X’s increase.

All Mr. X does on their turn is state which method of transportation they’re using. They write the new station number into which they’ve moved (in secret). At five points across the game, Mr. X has to reveal their location to the police, before disappearing again. All the police have to work on is the method of transportation Mr. X used to leave that location. Then they can try to use their collaborative detective work and swoop in for the arrest…