We recently got Mystery of the Abbey to the table. This was my second play of this game, the first being several years ago at Club Sternberg. The game felt the same to me as it did the first time I played: a bit of a let down. It’s close. It’s close to being a strong deduction/mystery game. But if falls a bit short. The amount of card swapping that takes place reduces the deduction to intuition. It did spark some conversations between me and Rick Slima though. We got to talking about what works in the classic Clue game and what doesn’t work. I thought I’d dig a bit deeper and blog about the various Clue entities and what they have to offer.
A Look at Clue
Clue (Cluedo) 1949
The original Clue game was published by Parker Brothers in 1949. The game has never gone out of print since. The artwork has changed. The box models are no longer washed up B actors. But the game play is identical.
Players move about a creepy old mansion looking for clues. The first to obtain enough clues to solve the mystery is the winner. There are three suits of cards: suspect, weapon and location. A card from each suit is randomly and secretly put into a dossier. This is the solution. The rest of the cards are shuffled and dealt face down to each player. Players ask questions about the contents of the other players’ hands. Using their powers of deduction and the process of elimination, players can find the solution.
There are opportunities in Clue (or Cluedo in the European editions) for clever play. You can learn things from the questions of the other players. You are allowed and indeed encouraged to take notes. The player who takes the best notes and plays the most efficiently should win.
But Clue has plenty of problems. As I said above: “should win”. Clue is a roll-and-move game. If you roll high enough, you will get to ask more questions. This will yield victory more readily than someone who rolls poorly but plays very efficiently. Also, in Clue you are both a detective an a suspect. You could be the murderer and not even know it. And the theme of Clue is often wonky. “There’s a dead body here, riddled with bullet holes. Can someone please prove to me the murder weapon is not a wrench?”
If you are looking for a Clue game, the basic edition can still be good for children and non-gamers. I would suggest you get the edition with the plastic suspects because it adds to the theme. You can find copies of this at thrift stores. I often do.
Clue: Discover the Secrets (2008)
But what if you want more than a non-gamer game? The next step up would be 2008’s Clue: Discover the Secrets. This game fixes a few of the issues of the original edition.
This version has basically the same rules. The most important addition is the second die. This mitigates the roll-and-move since you will likely go 7 or more spaces in a turn. This moves the game along at a nice pace.
One of the dice has a “?” icon instead of a “1”. The game board also has spaces with”?” on them. If you land on one of these spaces or roll a “?” you draw an intrigue card. There are 24 in the deck. Sixteen give the player a one time power. The other eight are clock cards and are discarded immediately. However, if the last clock card is drawn, that player is eliminated. So players cannot dilly-dally. They must be assertive in trying to win the game.
Clue: Discover the Secrets is a step up form basic Clue. Players have more opportunities for clever maneuvering and the game rewards assertive, efficient play. This edition, however, does NOT come with the cool plastic miniatures. I would recommend you cannibalize a previous edition’s minis and use them with this edition.
Clue: Master Detective (1988)
If you like Clue, I mean REALLY like Clue, then you owe it to yourself to get Clue Master Detective. This 1988 release from Parker Brothers gives you as much Clue as you can possibly stand.
In basic clue, there are six suspects, six weapons and nine rooms. Once you’ve eliminated all but one in every category, you have solved the riddle. But in Clue Master Detective: there are ten suspects, eight weapons and twelve rooms.
The nice thing about Clue Master Detective is it fixes the somewhat common problem of the previous two Clue games we just discussed: the lucky question. There is a fair chance that a player could solve a large portion of the mystery with their first question. In Clue Master Detective this possibility still exists but is much more remote.
I would recommend Clue Master Detective to anyone who wants an epic version of Clue. Be warned: it can be pricy since it’s out of print.
Clue Star Wars
Next to Monopoly, Clue has produces more Hasbro spin-offs than any other game. Hasbro bought the rights to Clue when they acquired Parker Brothers in 1991. Since then, they’ve spawned every imaginable Clue iteration: The Office, Family Guy, the Simpsons or Scooby Doo.
Virtually all of these are simple reskins of the base game. They updated the artwork but the game is the same as the 1949 game. One notable exception is last year’s Clue Star Wars.
The most obvious difference is this edition has a 3D board of the Death Star. Players have a mini of one of the iconic characters. Players roll-and-move about the death star looking for the solution: where are the Death Star plans hidden, which planet is Darth Vader going to blow up next and which vehicle will we use to escape the Death Star?
Around every corner there are stormtroopers. If you get caught in a corridor, you have to draw a corridor card. This may end up forcing you to go to the detention block or the trash compactor.
The game is an interesting take on the old Clue franchise. However, it has a glaring flaw: once you are in the detention block, you cannot get out until someone else goes there to rescue you. But their incentive to do so is minimal.
Clue Star Wars is a novelty. It’s for either Clue aficionados or Star Wars aficionados. But it is not for serious board gamers.
Clue FX (2003)
In 2003, Hasbro decided to make a Clue board game for young millennials. And what did millennials like in 2003? Board games with apps. Or in this case: an electronic board game.
In Clue FX, players interact with the game board by placing their figure onto a location. The electronic butler will give you some information. Unlike other Clue games, the players do not collectively have all the answers. In Clue FX, you must find a suspect (NPC’s in this version of the game) by correctly guessing a location on the board. And then the player may look at that suspect’s information.
After that, the player takes an additional action. This could be another search or it could be to ask questions to the other players. Players must listen to the butler when a search action is selected because he gives clues as to the suspects whereabouts.
Unlike other editions of Clue, this version is a decent two player game. It also plays quickly, almost qualifying as a filler. But the novelty of the non-app electronic butler wears thin. I would recommend you try the following game in this list instead. It scratches the same itch as Clue FX, but is superior.
Clue DVD Game (2006)
What happens when Rob Daviau, the designer of Pandemic: Legacy, Risk: Legacy and SeaFall, is asked to remake Clue? You get Clue: Legacy. Or in this case, you get Clue DVD Game.
In this edition, there are two modes of play: random game which is basically the same as other Clue games; and the legacy version. The “legacy” version has 10 cases. You pop in the DVD and select which case you want to play.
This edition has all the randomness controlled by the DVD so there are no dice. When you take your turn, you can ask another player for clues. Or you can ask the butler or the cop for help. If you ask them for help, you click on their icon on the DVD. But everyone gets to listen in.
The DVD game allows you to be more strategic in your questioning. Players must determine the time of the crime in addition to the other details. But when asking a question, they may only choose three categories. This gives players a lot of decision making power that is denied in other versions of Clue.
You can pick up a copy of this classic at your local thrift store for a few bucks.The 10 cases that come in the DVD game are worth the price.
Clue: the Great Museum Caper (1991)
The last game in this list is also the best game. It’s Clue: the Great Museum Caper. Instead of a murder mystery, this one is a museum heist. And instead of a free-for-all, it’s a one-versus-many.
One player is the thief. He moves in secret, recording his moves on a pad of paper. He must steal several paintings and make an escape.
The other players are the detectives. They work together to stop the thief from stealing the priceless treasures. To counter the thief’s hidden movement, the detectives have locked doors, locked windows, video cameras and their sheer numbers. The detectives can deduce the location of the thief when a painting comes up missing or when motion detectors are deactivated.
Clue: the Great Museum Caper draws obvious comparisons with Scotland Yard and Letters from Whitechapel. All of these games have one player take on the role of the bad guy while the rest work together to capture the bad guy. Clue: the Great Museum Caper is a better game than Scotland Yard. That is saying a lot since Scotland Yard won Spiel des Jahres 1983.
Due to it’s one-vs.-many nature, this version of Clue is perfect for non-gamers or children. Due to it being better than Scotland Yard, it’s a good fit for serious gamers as well. If you see a copy of this for cheap, I encourage you to pick up a copy.
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