Like Cluedo? Then you’ll love these!
Library, Mustard, Revolver. You know the exact game I’m talking about… And it’s one that’s over 70 years old! Released in 1949, to be exact. That’s some prime, real estate pub-quiz knowledge for you, right there. You can’t still be guessing… It’s Cluedo of course, by Hasbro – or Waddingtons, back in the day.
If you have an iota of interest in board games, you’ll have played Cluedo. It’s pretty much a rite of passage for many kids (at least, it was for me, growing up in the ’90s). Cluedo was – and still is – a relic that lived in many game cupboards. There might even be a battered, dog-eared copy of it in your local pub. Cluedo sits up there alongside the likes of Monopoly, in that regard.
We’re blessed – spoiled, even – that the board game industry has evolved a heck of a lot since 1949. It’s unrecognisable, in fact. The market is full of games that provide similar mechanisms to Cluedo, and many of them are vast improvements. The idea of a murder-mystery, a classic whodunit, still appeals to a wide range of gamers. So, what titles would I recommend to fans of classic Cluedo? Here are six amazing alternatives for gamers that fancy themselves as super-sleuths…
The setting of Mysterium, by publisher Libellud, takes place in an old manor house. And yes, there’s been a murder! This differs from Cluedo in that everyone here plays in a co-operative manner. It’s almost reverse-Cluedo, because one player is trying to tell you what happened.
One player takes on the role of a ghost. They will attempt to communicate (in a non-verbal manner) the crime to the players. There are many suspects, weapons and room cards. One of each is, pre-determined and in secret, attributed for each player to deduce. The ghost gains a hand of ‘Vision’ cards and decides which ones to allocate to players. These Vision cards are surreal in nature, though, much like the cards in Dixit.
One Vision card might feature, say, a floating Penny Farthing. It’s up to the players to interpret this and find a link between it and one of the possible suspects. Maybe the connection between the vision and the suspect is a wheel? Could the connection be a cloud? Perhaps the colour of the card itself is the clue. The ghost cannot speak, but the players can debate this – albeit, against a timer.
The ghost has seven rounds to guide the players towards their suspects, rooms, and weapons. The players have to identify a suspect first, before they can move onto their room, and then their weapon. Once they have all discovered their set of three, one final challenge remains. The ghost then communicates which of these shortlisted groups is the correct three. If the mediums fail, the mystery remains unsolved…
Mysterium can accommodate 2-7 players. It works best between a 5-6 player count – one of these participants being the ghost, of course.
Here’s another crime-solving game – albeit a more modern, tech-savvy one. Chronicles of Crime, by Lucky Duck Games, requires you download a free app. A smartphone is essential to proceedings.
You and your fellow gamers are detectives, working in a co-operative manner. You’ll select which crime scenario you want to attempt within the app. There’s a tutorial and five to pick between (you can buy others via In-App Purchases). The app will tell you to select a numbered character from a deck. These all have unique QR codes on them, which you can scan, using the app. By doing so, it will reveal what that character has to say to you.
It might be a piece of evidence, or the link to solving the next part of the case. Every time you ‘ask’ people questions using the QR code system, it adds time onto your score. (The aim, like any real-life investigation, is to be as efficient as possible.) When you feel ready to solve the crime, you do so through the app, answering the police chief’s questions. Your final score depends on your answers, plus the time you spent investigating.
You might end up travelling to a location or crime scene (travelling also adds time). When you arrive, you can even ‘see’ the scene of the crime through the smartphone! You hold it up and move it around, like a virtual reality headset. While you describe what you see, your companions can locate ‘evidence’ cards that match up. These also have QR codes on, which can provide you with more leads. If you scan irrelevant ones, no problem: they add on precious time, though.
Chronicles of Crime scratches the same whodunit itch as Cluedo. As you might have guessed, it’s wrapped up in more of an ‘experience’ package, rather than a ‘board game’ one.
Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential idea of being a detective. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation racks his brilliant mind to analyse clues. Fans worldwide idolise him for his superior intelligence. Who doesn’t want to don a dearstalker and solve an impossible crime?
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases is not a traditional board game. There are no dice. There is no element of luck or chance. This is more a co-operative (or solo) experience about solving a case. ten cases, actually. Each one comes with a booklet and blurb introducing the crime committed. The game comes with:
- A map of London
- A directory of people and businesses based in the capital
- A series of ‘newspapers’
It’s up to the players to solve the crime, by visiting locations and answering: whodunit, and what was the motive? The case is afoot…
There are answers at the back of each case booklet, provided by Sherlock, himself. You can ‘beat Holmes’ by by visiting fewer locations than Baker Street’s finest.
This might be more akin to the ‘escape-room-in-a-box’-style games, such as the Exit series, rather than Cluedo. However, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases is about breadcrumbs. It gives players the chance to achieve that glorious ‘Eureka!’ moment. At some point, answers will slide into place, like Agent Kujan staring at that evidence wall in The Usual Suspects. Please note that these cases are not simple ones, though. The game’s recent edition, published by Asmodee/Space Cowboys, has an age suggestion of 13+.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf, by Bezier Games, is a social deduction game. A game of ONUW (I’ve done it; I’ve acronym’d it) is about a werewolf on the prowl, and trying to figure out who that person is. It’s short and snappy, coming in about ten minutes a play. Between 3-10 players can join in, so it’s an ideal party game. The innocent villagers win if they ‘out’ the werewolf (or werewolves), and the werewolf (or werewolves) wins if they evade capture. This game also uses a smartphone app.
Deal out secret roles to players – one or more of them will be the ‘baddie’ werewolf. The roles are asymmetric and offer said character different kinds of knowledge. Once everyone has read their role card and placed it face-down in front of them, hit Play on the app. It narrates what people need to do, starting with everyone closing their eyes.
The app says when certain roles can open their eyes for a brief, stated period of time. This way, some people will know the roles of certain participants. (If there are, say, two werewolves, they will know who the other one is.) Other characters, such as the Seer (when told by the app), can look at other people’s cards. Meanwhile, the Troublemaker, for example (when told by the app), can swap two people’s cards, but not look at them.
Then the app tells everyone to open their eyes, and a five-minute countdown timer begins. Everyone has to discuss, debate and deduce about who is the werewolf (or werewolves). When the timer ends, everyone has to point at who they think the werewolf is, in a simultaneous fashion. It helps if you can bluff, as well as detect, in One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Let’s go back to spooky old manor houses. Cluedo, Jonathan Creek, Poirot, or even horror classics, all seem to start in an ominous mansion. A clichéd locale, for sure. But say one thing: it doesn’t half drive players towards wanting to investigate one…
Betrayal at House on the Hill is for 3-6 players and is a game of two halves. To begin with, it’s a co-op, with everyone taking turns exploring the haunted house. Tile-laying occurs here, with the manor’s ‘map’ growing in a gradual fashion. It’s a modular set-up each time. There could be many floors, and players will discover random props along the way. This provides an almost inexhaustible replay-ability factor.
But, you can’t have a game with ‘Betrayal’ in the title, without somebody getting stabbed in the back! There’s a trigger point in the game, a ‘haunting phase’, where the dynamic shifts 180°. It’s revealed that one of the players is the betrayer. Then, a player reads out one of 50 scenarios, and the betrayer has their own evil objective. Now, the game has become one-vs-all, where the party must defeat and overcome the traitor.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a different game to Cluedo, but appeals to similar crowds due to the setting. The tone is separate, with less deducing going on. It’s by no means a party game, but it’s more casual than a serious problem-solver. You’ll witness more a sense of in-game camaraderie occurring. Players will insert themselves into familiar pop-culture situations, such as Scooby Doo & Co. investigating a creepy house. There’s a fun blend of suspense and strategy at play, here. The plot and outcome is impossible to predict each time. It’s what we’ve come to expect of co-designer genius, Rob Daviau.
In Cluedo, everyone has a set number of clues. The challenge is to try and extract said evidence from your opponents, so you can collar the culprit. Cryptid, by Osprey Games, has a similar approach. It’s an excellent final suggestion to fans that love Cluedo.
Cryptid, according to its theme, is about trying to locate a monster. It’s lurking somewhere on a modular map full of varying terrains. The map consists of many, many hexes. Each player has access to a secret, specific clue (such as, ‘It’s not adjacent to water’). Players have discs and cube tokens. Discs, when placed, mean ‘the monster could be here’; cubes, when placed, mean ‘the monster is not here’. Everyone, of course, knows different information, according to their clue. To begin with, each player places two cubes in two different hexes. This eliminates some initial places – the monster cannot be hiding there.
On a player’s turn, they can either search an area, or ask a player if the monster could be hiding there. Players will respond by placing either a cube (‘no!’) or a disc (‘yes!’) in that hex. What if all players place a disc in the same hex? It means the player that queried said spot has found the beastie and wins the game!
Admittedly, the ‘monster-hunting’ aspect itself is somewhat vacant. You could be hunting for treasure, or a clue to solve a crime (or a lost sock – it could be anything). It’s theme-less in that regard, but it’s the deduction involved that makes Cryptid shine. You won’t want to place your cubes in spots that give away too much information for your rivals. You might even guess in areas that throw them off the scent! Did somebody say, ‘Red Herring?’
In my experience, games of Cryptid can be quick, lasting as little as 15-20 minutes. This always results in the same outcome. You’ll end up saying, afterwards: “Fancy a rematch…?”