Outside of Monopoly, Clue is probably one of the most popular mainstream board games among people who rarely play board games. Clue has its problems but the game deserves a lot of credit for almost single handily creating the deduction genre of board games. That is why the game is still relevant almost 70 years after it was first released. Since Clue has been one of Parker Brothers most popular games of all time, it is not surprising that the company has tried to make as much money as they could from the game while trying to keep it relevant. This has lead to quite a few Clue spinoff games being created over the years. Today I am looking at the 2005 game Clue Mysteries. Clue Mysteries tries to add an actual storyline to Clue which is interesting but in the process ignores what made Clue a good game by doubling down on the worst aspects of Clue.
How to Play Clue Mysteries
- Each player chooses a pawn and places it in the town center (the center space).
- Place one of the four scene tokens in each corner on the space before the building.
- Shuffle the clue cards and place them to the side of the gameboard.
- Place the three decoders to the side of the gameboard.
- Each player takes a detective notebook and a detective sheet which they slide inside.
- The players will choose one of the mysteries to play. The mystery is read off to all of the players. The wheels on each character stand are then set to the number specified by the chosen mystery. Each character stand is then placed in a stand and set to the side of the board so the players are looking at the front of each character stand.
- The players take turns rolling the die. The high roller will get to start the game.
A player begins their turn by rolling the die. The player will then move their pawn the number of spaces rolled. Some rules regarding movement include:
- Players have to move their full roll except when they want to visit one of the buildings or make an accusation on one of the scene tokens. A player does not have to stop their movement on a building if they don’t want to stop at the building.
- You can move your pawn in any direction but you can’t move through the same space twice on your turn.
- A player may move through or land on a space occupied by another player.
- You may not land on or move through a space occupied by a scene token unless you are making an accusation.
After a player has moved they will take an action based on the space that they land on.
Town Center: No special action.
Building: When a player lands on a building space they have the choice to question the character’s whose building they landed on. See questioning a character below for more information.
Open Road: When a player lands on an open road space they will draw the top clue card from the deck. They will read the card out loud and follow the directions. If the card forces you to move to a different space, you will move your pawn to that space and take the corresponding action. Once you are done with the card, you add it to the discard pile.
Vehicle: When a player lands on a vehicle space (by exact count), they can move their pawn to any other space on the gameboard and take the corresponding action.
Scene Token: A player can only land on a scene token when they are ready to make an accusation. For more information see the section on making an accusation.
Questioning A Character
When a player lands on a building space, they have the opportunity to question the character at that location. The player will take the corresponding character wheel and the proper decoding tool to read the clue on the back of the wheel. The player reads the clue and writes down any relevant information on their clue sheet. They then return the decoder and character wheel. How a player decodes the character’s message depends on which character they visited.
Suspect Characters: When a player visits one of the suspects’ locations they will take the red spyglass. These clues usually give you information about the culprit which can be used to help solve who committed the crime. As the suspects can lie, players need to be suspicious of what the suspects tell them.
Inspector Brown: When visiting Inspector Brown the players will use the mirror. The mirror reverses the text on the back of the character wheel. Inspector Brown will tell players whether any of the suspects are lying. If Inspector Brown doesn’t say that a suspect is lying, you can trust whatever they say. Any suspects that Inspector Brown says are lying, will give you the opposite of the truth. For example if a lying suspect says the criminal is a woman, the criminal is actually a man.
Mr. Boddy: Visiting Mr. Boddy’s location gives you information about where the culprit is hiding. You will use the key which when held next to the back of the wheel will reveal some letters. These letters spell out the scene token that the culprit is hiding at.
Making An Accusation
When a player thinks they know who committed the crime and where the culprit is hiding, they can try to make an accusation. The player has to move their pawn to the scene token space where they think the culprit is hiding. To make an accusation you announce who you think did it and where they are hiding (your current location). The player then looks up the solution to the case to see if they were correct. If they are correct they win the game and read off the solution to the rest of the players. If they are wrong they are eliminated from the game. The rest of the players continue playing until someone successfully solves the case.
Winning the Game
The first player to correctly solve the case, wins the game.
My Thoughts on Clue Mysteries
I recently took a look at all of the Clue spin-off games and one of the games that intrigued me the most was Clue Mysteries. It is generally regarded as the prequel to Clue as the events in the game occur before Mr. Boddy meets his unfortunate demise in the original Clue. What I was intrigued about in Clue Mysteries is that it actually seemed to have a pretty big emphasis on the story. The game includes 50 different cases with background information and a solution that is more than just a suspect, weapon and location. I actually thought this could bring quite a bit to the original Clue.
Unfortunately the story never lives up to its potential. While each case does have a full backstory and solution, they just didn’t really work for me. One of the problems is that the cases just aren’t that interesting. I didn’t expect all of the cases to be as interesting as murder like the original game but I think they could have done better than the case of the missing book and other similar mysteries. The bigger problem that I had with the story is that it literally has no impact on the actual gameplay. You could literally play the game without reading the backstory and it wouldn’t change the gameplay at all. The story was never going to have a huge impact on the gameplay but it could have had more impact than it ultimately does have.
With the story not adding much to the game, you are mostly left with the gameplay of the original Clue. Clue Mysteries plays a lot like the original Clue but the designer decided to change up some things. Unfortunately these changes are to the detriment of Clue. Most people agree that the worst part of the original Clue is all of the time that is wasted moving around the gameboard. Some of the Clue spinoff games realize this problem and try to eliminate the board movement as much as possible. Clue Mysteries decides to go in the opposite direction.
Basically the designer of Clue Mysteries thought that the thing the original Clue was missing was more movement mechanics. So Clue Mysteries takes out almost all of the deduction from the original game and instead adds in more roll and move mechanics. Gone are the mechanics where you have to ask other players questions in order to figure out the mystery. Instead you just move around the gameboard visiting different buildings in order to get the information needed to solve the case. Players no longer have to ask smart questions and outsmart their opponents. The outcome of the game comes down to who is able to visit all of the relevant locations first.
I personally think this was a terrible decision for the franchise. I don’t know why you would eliminate the best mechanic in Clue (asking questions to get information) in order to focus more on the worst mechanic (the movement mechanics). What you are left with is basically beginner’s Clue. While Clue Mysteries is only supposed to be a prequel to Clue in the story department, I think it also applies to the gameplay as well. In some ways I would say Clue Mysteries is a lot like Clue Jr. as you don’t really have to figure out anything to solve the case. Wait till you find all of the relevant clues and then just eliminate the suspects that don’t match the clues. There is so little deduction to the game that I honestly would say that it is more of a roll and move game than a deduction game. You only have to figure out two pieces of information and one can be figured out by visiting just one building. You are then left with only having to figure out the culprit by visiting the rest of the buildings.
The one thing that could have saved Clue Mysteries is the fact that the suspects can be lying when they give you clues. This could have made Clue Mysteries a good game as players would have to figure out which suspects are lying and which are telling the truth. Figuring out who was lying and who was telling the truth could have added an interesting deduction mechanic to the game. Unfortunately the game wastes the opportunity as it gives players an easy way to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth. Players just need to head to Inspector Brown’s building and he tells you who, if anyone, is lying. A good strategy is to either visit the inspector right away or just write down each suspect’s clue without making any assumptions before visiting the inspector. This ultimately just adds another location that you have to visit and thus doesn’t really help the game.
As the game mostly relies on the roll and move mechanics and eliminates most of the deduction elements, it should come as no surprise that Clue Mysteries relies on even more luck than the original game. At least in the original Clue you can get an advantage in the game by choosing the right questions to ask. In Clue Mysteries you are left hoping to get lucky and get the clues before the other players. Whichever player rolls the best is likely going to win the game. The addition of the clue cards at first seem like a good addition as you get something for not being able to reach one of the buildings on your turn. These end up adding more luck though as they are not equal and they regularly end up sending you to the wrong side of the board. Finally each mystery seems to have a couple worthless clues so whichever player is lucky enough to avoid them can save some time over the other players. All this combined together means the winner will likely be whoever gets luckiest instead of who does the best job solving the mystery.
While I think Clue Mysteries is considerably worse than the original Clue, the component quality might be one of the few areas where it is superior to its predecessor. The mysteries themselves might not be that interesting but I give the game credit for including 50 of them. This is actually pretty important as unlike the normal Clue the cases are not randomly created. Thus once you play through the 50 cases you will have to replay cases that you have already played. While they tend to get in the way (unless everyone sits on the same side of the table), I liked the character stands as they add a three dimensional aspect to the game. Otherwise the components are pretty typical of this type of game.
Should You Buy Clue Mysteries?
I actually had pretty high expectations heading into Clue Mysteries as it looked like one of the spinoff games that actually tried to modernize the original Clue. This was spearheaded by the fact that Clue Mysteries tried to put a larger focus on the story as the game has 50 cases which have both a backstory and a detailed solution. Unfortunately most of the cases are kind of dull. The biggest problem is that for some reason the game decided to focus on the roll and move mechanics from the original game instead of the actual deduction. There are very few deduction mechanics in the game as it is mostly just a race to visit all of the relevant locations before the other players. This forces the game to rely on even more luck that the original Clue. At the end of the day Clue Mysteries is considerably worse than the original Clue.
If you like the deduction mechanics of Clue, especially if you want challenging mysteries, Clue Mysteries is not going to be for you. Basically I see Clue Mysteries as more of an introduction to the original Clue as it requires considerably less thought. If you like Clue more for the roll and move mechanics and mystery itself rather than actually figuring out the mystery, you may enjoy Clue Mysteries. Also if you have younger children that you want to introduce to Clue’s mechanics, it may be for you. I would only recommend picking up the game if you can find it for cheap though as it has problems.