For this critical play, I decided to play Clue, the popular physical board game by Hasbro. Although there is no clear information about the game’s target audience, since I have been playing this game since I was a kid and it’s known to be a family game, I would say their target audience is ages 10+, since it involves the concept of murder. The game requires 3-6 players and everyone is individually trying to figure out the three main components of a murder mystery: who killed, where they killed, and what weapon they used to kill.
A deck with all the possible components is separated and shuffled—each card is drawn from the pile and stuffed away in a dossier (this is the correct answer). The remaining cards are split up and evenly distributed to all the players. Players have a sheet of paper with the possible people, locations, and weapons to keep track of. Players take turns navigating the mansion on the board and are trying to get into specific rooms in the house, where they then have the ability to ask another player a question about the murder (e.g. did X kill X in the X with an X?). The players have to be truthful and if the questioner mentions one component and they have the card, they must reveal it, indicating that is the incorrect answer. The game continues like this until someone wants to make an accusation. Once they make an accusation, they can open the dossier—if the accusation is correct, the player wins. If it isn’t, the player is eliminated.
I would say Clue is a fantasy fun game because of its make-believe branding and setting. It achieves this goal because those components really make players feel like they’re old-timey detectives trying to solve a murder. I also think this game is successful and is very balanced.
The challenge level is very fair, especially because players know that they have to solve something based on the name and “mystery” branding. There are not that many combinations so it actually depends on how the players want to manipulate and strategize, such as asking deceiving questions when they already know information. This means this game makes it easy for the challenge level to adjust. The beginning positions of the players are also fair because everyone starts in a place close to a room and they all have the same amount of cards (with different information) so no one has a location or knowledge starting advantage over others—the chance when rolling dice determines how fast players get to different rooms. The strategies used within Clue are very fair as well because there’s a wide variety of strategies that can be used, such as asking questions with clues they already know to throw other players off or hanging around a certain room to figure out the other aspects but have the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. Finally, the resources are distributed very evenly in this game, as everyone is randomly distributed cards ranging from the three components and people have the opportunity to gain more resources/knowledge as the game progresses.
While I think that Clue is a great game overall, one aspect I’d improve is making it accessible to smaller groups. When playing with less than four people, it becomes easy to figure out what cards people have/don’t have, ruining the mystery fun. One way this could be improved upon is by having more characters/combinations to make it harder for players to remember the different outcomes.