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Subject: The Day I Murdered Clue - Why I'll never play again... rss

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Tony Archer
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I want to tell you about my last game of clue (or cluedo as we call it). It was most likely the last game for all present. This was the day I discovered a fundamental flaw in the game that makes it virtually unplayable, at least for me.

I'm not sure if this is a Review, a Session Report or Strategy but I'll go with a Review because it exposes a potential problem that ultimately breaks the game.

The game is a murder mystery that revolves around finding clues, mostly from other players, concerning who dunnit (murderer), with what (murder weapon) and where (scene of the crime). These three cards, having been randomly and secretly chosen, are hidden. Using the cards that remain the crime must be solved through a process of elimination.

Each person is given some of the remaining cards and as the game progresses and questions asked and cards revelaed various suspects, weapons and places are crossed off the list. Eventually someone makes a stab at solving the crime. When the three concealed cards are correctly 'guessed' then the game ends.

I enjoyed playing this game as a teenager. Then I saw a strategy book at the library that I picked up and read and learnt.

***Skip the next two paragraphs if you are weary of an ultimate strategy that is a game killer***

The method was basically that every time a card is shown to someone I would mark the first letter of their name and a consecutive number. Thus every accusation is recorded with a unique number.

So John is asked about Professor Plum with the Candlestick in the Library. If John has none of these I put a JX next to them if he shows one card then I put a J1 (or a J2 if there is already a J1 etc...). As the game progress I will able to eliminate two of the J1's, say, and therefore I will know what card John has shown. Ultimately I rapidly discover every card that is shown during the game.

*********************************************************************

Armed with my new strategy I visited some friends who had just received the game for Christmas, the day before. We played three games and I won every game significantly ahead of everyone else.

Everyone was frustrated and they begged me to reveal my strategy which I reluctantly did. Big mistake. We played a few more games and found that we all discovered the murderer, the weapon, and the room in the same round each time.

The end result was that we never wanted to play again and I felt guilty for making worthless someone's Christmas present.

*********************************************************************

Clue is a good concept for a game but ends up going the same way as tic tac toe. With a few simple strategies you win every time or each game effectively ends up as a draw.

I was delighted to recently discover the game Mystery of the Abbey which has been described as 'Clue on Steriods' and has enough variables to make this Clue strategy unusable.
 
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Tim Seitz
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Yea, duh. It's a deduction game. Deducing what other players are shown is very helpful. If you were playing the game before without taking into account opponents' cards, then congratulations on your new-found enlightenment. But clue is not intended to be a satisfying game for adults.
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Mendon Dornbrook
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I've seen this method stymied, once. I played a four player game with three other seasoned gamers. We'd figured out your method back when we were in highschool and were all playing some variation of it. However, the player sitting diagnally across from me and I adopted a strategy where we took turns that were very uncharacteristic and seemingly illogical. We changed direction, we used pretended that we knew what was what, when other players knew perfectly well that we didn't know anything. If you sit back and ignore other players' actions, your method still can't fail. But, being seasoned gamers, we were all suspicious of what was going on. The other player won. Because bluffing only makes other players second guess their logic, any reasonably self-assured person would have seen through our facades.

Sorry that you lost a game that you once found fun. It's a shame when a game dies in your heart.
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Hunter Shelburne
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Yeah, I've been doing that for a few years, since I was a younger teen, and my friends still haven't figured it out. They just think I'm really good at guessing. We bring it out a few times a year, and I consistantly win on turn 1,2 or 3 every game.
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James Davis
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Ive been doing this for ages. I dont even bother using the sheets. Because you just watch. Its is nothing new in strategy wise. What undoes this strategy is when someone forgets to show you a card they have.

The other thing that can stuff you up is when people start making it look like they dont have cards. If done correctly this can stuff up any good system.

Im sorry if this sounds a bit harsh what I wrote but there is nothing new about this strategy its been around since the game came out.
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Hunter Shelburne
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jamesdavis wrote:
Ive been doing this for ages. I dont even bother using the sheets. Because you just watch. Its is nothing new in strategy wise. What undoes this strategy is when someone forgets to show you a card they have.

The other thing that can stuff you up is when people start making it look like they dont have cards. If done correctly this can stuff up any good system.

Im sorry if this sounds a bit harsh what I wrote but there is nothing new about this strategy its been around since the game came out.


What undoes the strategy is OTHER people using the same strategy, or holding multiple cards!

When everyone uses the strategy, that takes the game to a quick, interesting level.
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When all players do this, you get no particular advantage. In fact if you can manage to hold cards to force other players to ask multiple questions to determine what you are really holding you can potentially misdirect them for a while.

We have just brought this back off the shelves after a long absence to play it with our Daughter the Elder (aged eight) and it is quite enjoyable.
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Tony Archer
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out4blood wrote:
Yea, duh. It's a deduction game.


It's amazing how long it takes people to deduce that. Not all deduction is so formulaic as this though, and for my first review I though it would be helpful to point this out.

I struggled with loving the concept of Clue but the game was now broken for me. I was releived to finally find on BGG that there were other more creative alternatives.

jamesdavis wrote:


When everyone uses the strategy, that takes the game to a quick, interesting level.


I found that if everyone used this strategy correctly (and there was no cheating - intentional or otherwise) that we would all arive at the solution in pretty much the same round. This was much less interesting than before. It felt too inevitable/predictable.
 
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James Davis
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thats when you use deception to put the other players off. Its all about mind games.

I can see why you wouldnt bother giving it another go, but if you do try this sort of stuff it works and makes cluedo a very enjoyable game.

PLus its fun when no one else knows why you win!
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Nate Straight

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Dude. This doesn't break the game. The entire freaking point of playing Clue is coming up with a better deduction method / method for confusing your opponents than anyone else.
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Neil Coulter
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I agree with the others here in thinking that this was just the obvious way of playing the game. I'm not sure what you were doing with the paper and pencil before! This strategy is, of course, most useful if everyone is only asking for cards they don't have. Personally, I never ask for a combination that has three cards I don't have. Usually, I single out one card I'm interested in and then use two "dummy" suggestions. It works best if I can manage to keep one or two cards in my hand completely unseen by the other players. Anyway, if everyone else is using this bluffing as well, then your deduction system is not quite as slam-bang, because you're never sure that what a person asks for is not already in his hand. But it's still the best way to deduce in this game. I taught my 6 year old son all this when I first introduced him to the game.

I also agree with others, that this is mostly a game to play with kids. And for that, it's a really good game. The latest edition, with the painted figures, is really snazzy too.
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Huckleberry Carignan
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ethnosax wrote:
If John has none of these


That's a bad assumption. We know of this deduction concept and will often ask for items (person, weapon, room) which are in our own hand or things we know someone else already has. You do this and you're sure to confuse the other players.
 
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Clue used to be one of my favorite games when I was a kid. But then I figured out how to systematically track what everyone asked and the response (very similar to your strategy). For my turn, I would also try to confirm the status of an unknown card by purposefully asking about 2 cards I knew the target player didn't have. And I also recorded which cards I revealed to which players, so I could show the same one over and over again before showing a card I never revealed. After a while, this spreadsheet method of playing made Clue extremely boring.

UPDATE: I recently played Clue Express and it was awesome! Pretty much the same game as regular Clue, so why like it? It takes a fraction of the time to play - rolling around the house map board in regular Clue is fun, but it does take time. Although the express game is the same bookkeeping-deduction format, you get to enjoy it in a more concentrated way.
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John Clark
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aPilgrim wrote:


Clue is a good concept for a game but ends up going the same way as tic tac toe. With a few simple strategies you win every time or each game effectively ends up as a draw.


Wrong on all fronts. You have just scratched the surface of the strategy in Clue. As others have pointed out, the strategies you describe are well known and well used. I have described the same thing here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/19573

Here is the true strategy in Clue, assuming you are already doing the obvious bookkeeping stuff you mentioned already:

You need to work out what are the best suggestions to make which most optimally balance you finding out new information and you revealing information to other players.

Remember, whatever happens on any suggestion will reveal information to the other players. The real skill is minimising this - while at the same time finding out information.

That is, if you were playing against other players who were all doing the obvious record keeping, how would you gain an edge over them? For example, if there is a clear best suggestion for you to make to discover something crucial, can you judge if making that suggestion will also reveal (or mostly reveal) that same information to other players? If you think that there is a good chance of this, then that 'best' suggestion is no longer an optimal play.

As others have noted, you can try spoiler suggestions which are intended to mislead, but at some point you must try to actually discover information without revealing too much information. This requires real skill, beyond what is discribed in this review.

This also leads to what I think is a genuine fundamental problem in Clue: inexperienced players will often inadvertantly act as spoiler players, revealing lots of information to everyone, reducing the standard of the game. For it to work properly, everyone needs to know what they are doing, and this is difficult to achieve.

Finally, playing Clue properly does involve a lot of 'spreadsheeting', as someone else called it. I find this fun. If you don't find this fun, then don't play Clue. Uno might be a good game for you.

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Flying Arrow
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Well said, john clark.

Properly played, someone will guess before the solution is known. When it is down to two rooms and you know everything else, and you know that someone else will solve before your next turn, you have to guess. Knowing when to guess and when to count on getting another turn is part of the game, too.
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Simon Lundström
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Or you can play the hysterical Hina Clue, and use the "You're LYING!" rule.

…or just adapt that rule for standard Clue.

This rule states that you can out of turn shout "You're lying!" when another player makes an suspicion (says "I suspect X in room Y with weapon Z"), if you believe he/she is sitting on one or several of those cards. IF he is sitting on one or more of the cards, he/she has to show you his ENTIRE HAND. But if he's not lying, YOU have to show him your entire hand.

In the original setting, it's limited to once per player and game. You could adjust the details to fit proper Clue (Hina Clue contains other strange things) but I like the general idea.
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Simon Taylor
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I've only ever played Clue (though it's called Cluedo on my version - but that's just another name for the same game, right?) with my family.

We've never discussed our tactics, nor shown our sheets to each other after the game. Independdntly, my mother and I quickly worked out a similar method to the one described in the review. We both know we're doing something similar, because we tend to work things out at the same times, and can make knowing comments to each other, while everyone else looks on blankly.

Everyone else in the family just marks little more than what they actually get shown, and as such are far, far behind us in terms of what they know.

Bizarrely, though, neither my mother nor I ever seem to win on the few times we've played. The game has usually ended when Mum and I have narrowed it down to about one of two in each category, or better, and then my sister, vaguely asking about things that Mum or I have looked interested in, seems to guess it right just before we can get to the right room to make the accusation.
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hauahauahaau...so you have "No Clue" what method your sister is using ? Cool...
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Noah Fang
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Indeed Cluedo is not a complex game. But you can still have fun playing it even you're a adult.

Only after 3, 4 games my friends and I played it, we decided to get rid of the recording sheet. And this has helped us finding the game enjoyable.
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John Clark
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FlyingArrow wrote:
Well said, john clark.

Properly played, someone will guess before the solution is known. When it is down to two rooms and you know everything else, and you know that someone else will solve before your next turn, you have to guess. Knowing when to guess and when to count on getting another turn is part of the game, too.


Yes, this is a crucial part of the game, which is often neglected. You are not trying to solve the puzzle completely - you are just trying to get to a point where you think making an accusation maximises your chance of winning - weighing up how much information you know (or are pretty sure about) and how much you think other players might know (and therefore beat you to the solution).
 
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Woah, this is hilarious. Yes, if you record everything that happens (like a good detective should) you will eventually get the answer. And if your opponents dont record everything they see and hear, then you will win!

As John Clark and the Arrow mention, Clue is about misdirection, timing and guts more than it is about deduction. Certainly you need good bookkeeping and logic skills, but you're going to have to play some hunches (why does so and so keep going back that room?) or hmm, Ms Peacock isnt guessing herself very often. You'll have to make educated guesses. And yes, if you're playing with good players, you will all know with certainty around the same time. Which is where the guessing comes in. I don't think I've played many games where someone actually knew for certain the answer and got to the middle first. SOmeone should be making a well timed guess if they know what they are doing.

And finally, on to one very specific flaw in your system (if you are looking for it). If someone guesses three cards which they have in their hand, this will short circuit your system. I've used this to fool people on multiple occasions. It is quite effective.

In conclusion. Clue is a great game for adults, so long as they're all good players. My friends and I love this game, and part of the reason is to push the limits of how early you can make a guess. What hunches are you playing? How can you fool your opponents?

Great game! Only gets better the better your strategy. You can never kill it!
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Original poster:

Congratulations! You've reached a point where deduction is starting to become second-nature and the game will be about controlling information rather than merely solving logic puzzles on the fly. This strategy question is much more difficult to grasp than the deduction game, since you have to weigh the value of your choices. I haven't yet mastered the skill of information control.

I don't think you've discovered anything broken, though. Note that your friends were using the exact same strategy that you just taught them. When everyone plays exactly the same way, ties are unsurprising. Here's a metaphor:

You are playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. Everyone always chooses scissors. You realize that rock beats scissors, so you start choosing rock. Suddenly, you are winning every time. You tell everyone your secret, and then everyone starts choosing rock instead. Suddenly every game is a tie.....But why should you be terribly surprised? Rather than complaining about how powerful rock is, you should figure out whether the game has a "paper" strategy that beats rock.


That said, I like your record-keeping method. I will try using similar abbreviations the next time I play to see if I can speed up my deduction process.

For that matter, I think any good player will tell you that Clue is a game about taking notes. I LIKE taking notes, personally. You can call it "spreadsheeting" if you want to, but I find that a grid isn't always the best format for my notes, so you don't always need to work it like a spreadsheet.

johnclark wrote:
Finally, playing Clue properly does involve a lot of 'spreadsheeting', as someone else called it. I find this fun. If you don't find this fun, then don't play Clue. Uno might be a good game for you.

Ouch, man. Ouch. Uno can be a fun game, all things considered, but recommending it in this context just sounds harsh.


johnclark wrote:
This also leads to what I think is a genuine fundamental problem in Clue: inexperienced players will often inadvertantly act as spoiler players, revealing lots of information to everyone, reducing the standard of the game. For it to work properly, everyone needs to know what they are doing, and this is difficult to achieve.

(Quotes taken out of order because it worked out that way)

It's true that one person revealing their information haphazardly can tip the balance of the game, but the real problem I'd note is that anybody who has had enough experience to work out a good system of logic can totally trounce anyone who hasn't. Specifically, kids often fall victim to this. I remember my parents laying waste to me at this game when I was a kid. They revealed some of their more extreme methods of misdirection, but never explained how deduction can (and should) extend beyond what cards you are shown. It might've been educational if they had.

That's why I think this shouldn't be played with kids on the younger end of Clue's recommended minimum age unless they have an appreciation for logic (e.g. puzzle fans) and above average patience. And even then, it'd be good to explain the strategy in detail, either before or after their first game. Otherwise, maybe you'd better go with Uno after all...
 
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A little story, and then a quiz to test your comprehension.

My family and I have played this game a few times over the past couple of days. I have been pondering the best way to track all of the information, and trying to develop a notation style to do so. I didn't want to resort to the Internet for an answer, as that would be cheating in my mind. Maybe not "cheating" per se, but definitely obtaining an unfair advantage. Last night a solution finally came together in my mind, and I rocked the game.

Now I don't feel guilty for looking up articles on the Internet. And lo and behold, my solution is very similar to this one and others which utilize numbers to track the guesses. I think it could be improved upon, and that brings me to the quiz. More of a poll, really:

Poll
When taking notes on the provided sheets, do you:
Use one column per game: These sheets need to last a lifetime!
Use one side per game: There isn't enough space even then!
      35 answers
Poll created by Beowulf

And yes: I do realize that there are other vehicles for taking notes. Which user-created files make for the best note taking is a separate conversation.
 
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Hank Meyer
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If you want to throw your opponents for a loop, one that is sure to delay their figuring out 'who dunnit'..try this...at your first turn when entering a room (try to enter a room you hold), make an accusation with a suspect, a weapon and the room (the one you're in) with cards you already possess!!! the silence following everyone's reluctant acknowledgement that they cannot disprove a single thing you said will likely send them on a wild goose chase....and the one turn you spend laying down a false trail will often be paid back handsomely as your opponents waste time going after the cards you mentioned. Try as best you can to show each opponent only one each of the cards you mentioned to further their delay. To add to their confusion, when you enter a new room, make an accusation naming none of the cards you hold....and though someone will likely show you one, it will also draw attention away from the accusation you made earlier.....
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John Grivas
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I thought the strategy of using cards that you hold was a perfect way to confuse your opponents.:surprise:
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