While not my favorite genre, I have always enjoyed the deduction genre of board games. I have always found it satisfying solving a good mystery. Ever since Clue basically started the genre in 1949, there have been quite a few deduction games that have tried to tweak the Clue formula in order to either add strategy or fix some of Clue’s issues. Today’s game Suspicion tries to add a secret identity mechanic to your typical deduction game. While Suspicion has some interesting mechanics, a little too much reliance on luck prevents the game from being as good as it could have been.
How to Play Suspicion
Shuffle the invitation cards and deal one to each player. Each player looks at their invitation card without letting the other players see what card they were dealt. This card shows the player their secret identity for the game. The rest of the invitation cards are placed face down to form a draw pile. Each player takes a deduction sheet, a pencil, a yes card, and a no card.
Randomly place one of the guest movers on each outer space of the gameboard. The action cards are shuffled and two cards are dealt to each player. The rest of the action cards form a draw pile. A number of gems of each type are put in a stack based on the number of players:
- 2 players: 6 gems of each type
- 3-4 players: 9 gems of each type
- 5-6 players: 12 gems of each type
All remaining gems are put into the box. Players use whatever method they choose to select the first player.
Each player begins their turn by rolling both dice. The characters that are rolled determine which pieces the player is able to move on their turn. For each character rolled, the player has to move the corresponding pawn one space into an adjacent room.
If a player rolls a “?” they can move any character even the same character they moved with the other die. When moving pawns, there is no limit on how many pawns can be in the same room.
After moving the pawns, a player has to choose one of their two action cards to play. Each action card shows two different actions that the player will perform in the action phase. The player can choose which of the two actions they want to perform first but they must perform both actions on their turn. Once the actions on the card have been performed, the player discards the card and draws a new action card. If there are no action cards left, the discarded action cards are shuffled to create a new draw deck.
Here is a brief explanation of each action in the game.
Room Robbery: With this action the player is able to steal one gem from the board. The player looks at the space that their character is currently on and takes one of the gems that corresponds to their space. The player has to let all of the players know what type of gem they took since this gives information about the player’s identity to all of the other players.
Lucky Lift: With this action the player takes one of the gems pictured on the card. This reveals no information to the other players about your characters identity.
Secret Passageway: Move one of the pawns to any other space on the board.
Peek at an Invitation: With this action the player is able to look at the top invitation card (without letting the other players see) from the stack of invitation cards. Since no one has the card, this indicates a character that none of the other players control. After marking the information off on their sheet, this card is placed on the bottom of the invitation card deck.
Question A Player: With this card the player can ask one of the players if their character can see the character pictured on the card. A character can see any people in a room that is in a vertical or horizontal straight line from their current position. A character can always see themselves. The player that was asked looks at the board and hands the asking player their yes or no card (face down) that corresponds with their answer.
End of Game and Scoring
The game ends when someone takes the last gem of one of the three types of gems. At this point every player circles on their sheet which character they think every player is. Once everyone has made their guesses, everyone reveals their secret identity and scoring begins.
A player’s final score is determined by the gems they took during the game as well as how many of the other player’s identities they could figure out. When scoring gems each individual gem is worth one point. If a player has one of each type of gem though, those three gems are worth six points instead of three.
Each player also scores seven points for every secret identity they were able to figure out by the end of the game.
The player with the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player who had fewer people guess their identity breaks the tie. If it is still a tie, the player who took the most gems wins the game.
My Thoughts on Suspicion
If I had to compare Suspicion to some other games I think I would say that it feels like a combination of Clue and Heimlich & Co. The Clue comparison comes into play since you are moving around a mansion trying to gather information on each players’ secret identity. While there are other games that use the secret identity mechanic, Heimlich & Co plays a lot like Suspicion. In both games you move all of the characters trying to put your own character into good situations without tipping off the other players.
While young children probably won’t be able to play the game, I think Suspicion is quite easy to play. The strategy takes a while to figure out but the gameplay itself is easy to pick up. The game probably takes around five minutes to explain to new players. The rules are just very straightforward. The hardest part about the game is figuring out whether your character is able to see another character in the mansion. Otherwise I don’t see the game being very difficult as anyone who can play a game like Clue should have no problem with Suspicion.
While not super strategic, there are some interesting decisions to make in Suspicion that are quite important in the game. Basically your goal in the game is to steal as many gems as possible without the other players figuring out your identity. This gets complicated by the game rewarding you for getting complete sets of gems. Players are going to want to try and acquire different types of gems for the higher point values but this also will force players to make decisions that will give information on their identity to the other players. This balancing act between scoring as many points as possible and keeping their identity secret is key to success in the game.
This is one of the reasons I find the room robbery action to be quite interesting. In order to win the game you are going to have to steal gems and likely will have to get one or two sets of gems. The problem though is that by taking a gem you are giving all of the other players information about your character based on the gem you take. I think it is an interesting balancing act trying to take gems that you want while also keeping your identity secret. For example even if you want a particular gem, you might not be able to take it if there are only a few guests on the board that could have taken it. If you would take this gem you are giving the other players a lot of information about your identity. Basically you are going to want to take gems that a lot of guests on the board could have taken.
One thing I have never really understood about the deduction genre is why so many games in the genre rely pretty heavily on luck. A genre that relies on people solving a mystery shouldn’t have that much reliance on luck. Unfortunately this reliance on luck holds true for Suspicion as well. While your decisions/deductive reasoning are the biggest factors in who wins the game, luck will play a role.
First the characters you roll on the dice are pretty important in the game. Since you can only control the characters that you roll in a round, if you roll characters that you can’t use to help yourself you won’t get as much out of your turn as you otherwise would have. For the most part you can use any roll to help you gain some information but good rolls will benefit you in the game. Rolling ? symbols in particular are really helpful since they let you control any character you want. This is more powerful than you would think since you can either move your own character to a more beneficial space or you can use the roll to move any character you want to get more useful information from the other players.
The other area that luck comes into play is with the cards that you are dealt. Since you can only perform the actions on the cards that you are dealt, the cards you are dealt do impact how you have to play the game. I liked that every card has two actions since it makes it more likely that you will get one of the actions that you actually want. While all of the cards have helpful actions, some actions are better than others in my opinion. Easily the best action cards in the game include both the lucky lift and peek at an invitation actions. These cards are powerful since you get a gem and information on the other players and give out no information to the other players. Being able to get the right cards at the right times will really help a player in the game.
While not as big of a problem as the reliance on luck, I think the deduction element of the game is a little on the easy side. I think Suspicion gives you too much time to figure out the other players’ identities. Most players should be able to figure out most of the players’ identities and the ones they don’t know for sure they have narrowed down to two or three options. While the deduction is not so easy that it is boring, I think the game could have made it a little more challenging. The good news is that the difficulty can be adjusted pretty easily. If you want to make the game more difficult you just need to remove some of the gems. With less gems the game should be shorter which will then make it harder to guess the other players’ identities.
While it won’t come into play often, I do not like Suspicion’s tiebreaking system. While it makes perfect sense thematically, I don’t like that ties are broken by which player was identified by the least number of players. I don’t like this tiebreaker because you don’t have a lot of control over it. While you can easily blow your identity by being too aggressive, your identity could be blown due to no fault of your own. You have no control over how many players ask you questions or whether they will ask you questions that will easily reveal your identity. Personally I think a much better tiebreaker would be which player figures out the most secret identities.
Suspicion also has the same misinformation problems as almost every other game from the deduction genre. Since each player holds secret information in the game, players need to be honest and not make mistakes when taking gems or answering other players’ questions. Every question you answer and every gem you take gives the other player’s information so if you make a mistake you will lead them in the wrong direction. If a player wants to cheat they are basically guaranteed to win the game if they give the other players false information. Unfortunately there is no way to prevent these issues from happening so players need to pay attention so they don’t make mistakes.
While this is being a little nitckpicky, I think the game’s components could have been better. I like the game’s artwork style but you can tell that the game was more of a budget board game. The board is a little on the small side and could be a little thicker. The gems are made of moderately thick cardboard and the cards have a somewhat thin cardstock. I will say that I liked the wood components though. Even though the components aren’t great I can’t be that critical of them since the game only retailed for $20. A $20 game is never going to compare with a $60 game. For a $20 game the components are quite solid but don’t expect the quality of a $60 game.
Should You Buy Suspicion?
Overall I enjoyed my time with Suspicion. While it shares a lot in common with a lot of other deduction games, Suspicion does some interesting things. The mechanic of trying to grab gems while also keeping your identity secret is an interesting trade off mechanic. You need gems to win the game but you don’t want to tip off your identity to the other players. While it is not highly strategic, Suspicion has some interesting decisions to make for a light to moderate strategy game. I do think Suspicion does rely a little too much on luck though and it is a little too easy to figure out the other players’ identities.
If you don’t like deduction games or want something more difficult than a light to moderate deduction game, Suspicion may not be for you. If you like deduction games like Clue or Heimlich & Co though I think you will enjoy Suspicion. I would probably recommend waiting for a good deal though.