Type: Crime / Deduction
Time to play: 30-60 minutes per session (Teaching: 15-20 minutes)
Best played with: 2-4players (Best with 3)
(Image from Portal Games )
Another post to start the year which bucks the trend of your conventional Christmas games… or perhaps that is just so different as to help you break away from the armchair and start gaming again! Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is like no other game I have played and so in writting this review I want to try and give you a sense of it, whilst not ruining the game or just giving you my opinion (without the reasons!).
That tightrope is best walked by telling you about how the game feels and some of the basic mechanics the game employs – and perhaps this tells you why I think you want more players than the recommendation on BGG. The game is played by reading through information, looking at pictures and playing with puzzles. This isn’t a traditional board game, and the work placement aspect of this game is really just serving to give a physical / temporal overlay to the game. Honestly, this is probably the only bit of the game I dislike. In a simple comparison, an escape the room scenario / game is time linked and you have this constrained real world pressure. I think the designers were right to see that this isn’t appropriate for all parts of a true “Detective” game as this just isn’t reflexive of how cases are solved. They use real world time wisely in the game, but simulating the passage of time between sites and over different days by using the board is a necessary abstraction that for me is the only weakness.
Okay, if that’s the only weakness then I have a lot of positives to talk about. Puzzles, riddles, challenges – there is a lot of these and this is not like an escape room game. There is a card deck (like you receive with many escape rooms) but there’s much more detail behind each card and it feels like a real narrative / story is being built. The games emulating Sherlock Holmes (or Cthulhu) cases are similar in aspects but they lean towards a choose your own adventure type scenario where you have to consider what you would do…. here this is unambigoius most of the time, you are a police detective and you have a very clear goal to solve a crime or stop a crime. This means the puzzles are often more challenging, more varied, more detailed and require observational skills beyond the basis names / places.
This is a real deduction game. By the end of the game you will feel like you have solved something meaningful, challenging and enjoyable. I mean, perhaps you will just find it a lot easier than I did, but I think there’s so much to this game that you will be pulling through your notes throughout to solve the various challenges.
Notetaking – and now we are back to player count. I think the game makes a good use of mixed online and offline solutions to give you access to information and discovery of information without (a) making it obvious you missed / need to find something, and (b) needing copious pointless notes. You need the mind-map, the links, the times / dates / motives / opportunities. The facts are stored in the database already which you can go back to any time – and once you reveal a clue it’s there for you to see again and again. However, for me this means that one player should be the database cruncher. Give them the responsibility for inputs into the database and navigating it. Another player will read out the things you discover, or keep a track of the mind map. Perhaps another player will monitor the board state and your potential routes to seeing as much as you can in a day. Three players, in my view, have comfortably enough to do and a chance to engage in the puzzles.
For more on my advice as to how best tackle this… see my strategy tips, but as for a review I hope this gives you a flavour of the game without any spoilers on content or puzzles.