Cluedo must be one of the most famous and popular family board games, with names like Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard tripping readily from most peoples' tongues. Cluedo has appeared in many incarnations over the years and is mostly played as a board game. My version is the much smaller and faster Top Cards game, advertised as "a fast new way to play," it does not have a board or counters but still includes the famous characters and the murder mystery element. At the end of the day, the winner is still the person to guess Who Done It!
My game comes in a small box, measuring 12cm by 16cm. This makes it easy to take on holiday and to store. Inside the box, there is a deck of 21 Clue Cards, 39 Detective Action cards, 9 Destination marker cards, 4 small silver pencils and a pad of detective note sheets. All are stored neatly away in the moulded plastic insert so that they do not rattle around during transport. The game also comes with a detailed and illustrated instruction leaflet which makes the game very easy to understand.
The cards are all of very good quality and have not become dog eared or tatty over the years. The clue cards and the destination marker cards are all rather nicely illustrated; the destination cards contain photographs of the destination, each coloured according to colour theme. These include York Minster, The Giants Causeway and Alton Towers. The Transport cards and the Suspect cards are all colourful illustrations; the Transport cards including pictures of a hot air balloon and a sea plane, and the Suspect cards including rather glamorous illustrations of the usual suspects - Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Reverend Green, Mrs Peacock, Miss Scarlet and Mrs White.
This version of Cluedo can be played with 3 to 5 players, but I have found that the more players there are the more fun is had. The instructions say that it is suitable for ages 8 upwards and this is a fairly accurate assessment. There is a fair bit of reading involved, so reading skills must be good - a confident younger player could enjoy this too. The box claims that the game takes 8 minutes to learn and 45 minutes to play - and again I must broadly agree with their analysis.
The scene is set in 1949, where Dr Black is the murder victim, found in his own mansion and with a limited number of suspects. The attacker is now escaping in an unknown vehicle to a secret destination, and the player's job is to guess three key facts from a variety of clues - before the other players get there first.
To begin, each player receives a Detective note sheet and a pencil. This is used to keep track of the cards that you have seen and cross off people and places that are not a possibility.
Then the dealer separates the 21 clue cards into the three types and asks another player to pick one out of each category, making sure that nobody, even the dealer, sees what is on the card. These chosen cards are the answers that everybody is looking for; the murderer, the vehicle and the secret destination. The cards are hidden away somewhere.
The remaining Clue cards are then dealt to each player. The player looks at the cards in his or her hand and ticks them off the list on the Detective note sheet without showing them to anybody else. The game has already begun as each player already knows a select variety of facts and can start to guess who the murderer is.
The dealer than deals on Destination card to each player and shuffles the Action cards, putting them in the middle of the table.
Play can then begin in earnest. Play starts with the youngest and passes to the left. Each player takes the top card from the pile of Action cards and reads it. The action cards can say a number of things that will give you clues to the crime. Title of the action cards are Snoop (where you get an instruction to look at a certain card held by your opponent), Sleuth (where every player must show the card holder one specified card), Private Tip (where a secret question is asked of one other player) and Make a Suggestion . The Make a Suggestion card is the key - once you hold one of these you can have a guess about the crime - either from any destination, or from the destination of the Destination card that sits in front of you. If you guess correctly then you win the game.
Another variation of the game can be played, which is the One Against All version. In this version, one player assumes the role of the murderer and all the other players will attempt to discover who it is. This version is a good idea to play if there are 4 or more players as it adds to the fun. If there are only 3 players then I think it is best to stick to the normal version of the game as it becomes more obvious who the murderer is from the limited number of suspects.
The rules of the game are very easy to learn and the ability to win is as much through luck as quick thinking. This means that any person coming new to the game has as much chance of winning as seasoned players, which is always nice.
The game is a favourite with my family as it can be played very quickly. We usually fit in two rounds easily in one hour and this helped when the children were small. I have lasting memories of endless games of Monopoly played with my family as a child, and the way that the game seemed to go on forever. This game is much faster moving and hold the tension and interest very well. The excitement comes when you think that you have correctly guessed all three categories, but you still have to wait until you pick up a 'Make a Suggestion from any Destination' card to try out your theory.
I have to admit that I have never played the full version of Cluedo, but I can highly recommend this shorter version for families and children of all ages. My boys loved it when they were little and it is still a favourite now that they are in their late teens and early twenties.