Publisher: DEVIR Games. Designer: José Antonio Abascal
Artwork: Joan Guardiet
Note: This is for 3, 4 or 5 players it is not a 2-player game
CHECKPOINT CHARLIE was without a doubt the most well known crossing point of the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) between East and West Berlin during the height of the Cold War (1947-1991). You can find out all about Checkpoint Charlie in History Books or via Google etc but what neither Books nor the Internet knows is that during this period this famous Crossing was under surveillance by the famous K-Nine Investigator unit. The (al)most famous Secret Agents of this dogged bureau were Jimmy Laces, Miss Lansbury, John Britton, Martin Colombini and Marcus Meridian. They were there in disguise to discover the Spy Chief and his/her Assistants and prevent them from passing National secrets to the enemy. This game puts the players in the Rôle of those highly trained K-Nine Investigators searching for the clues that will uncover the furtive feline spies.
The players each has a Suspect/Clue identifying counter which they have secreted under the character card of their chosen detective. The side of this counter that they place face-up under the card has to stay as it was placed for the Round. They may look at this counter as often as they like but they should keep it secret from the other players; this is their first clue as to the Chief Spy. From now on it is up to all players to keep a watchful eye on what the other players are up to, as far as the cards they play in front of them or discard to one side.
The Cat Suspect cards are shuffled and placed face down as a draw pile - there are special rules that come into play when you have less than 5 players but this review is about the full game. On their turn, play goes clockwise as is usual in the majority of card games, the player takes the top card from the Draw pile and puts it face up on the table for all to see. The person who played the card then studies it while remembering the clue they have on the counter under their character card. Without saying what the clue they know is they then either keep the card (placing it face up in front of them) or discard it to one side. They must keep it if the illustration on the card has the Clue on it which is on your counter, they must discard it if it doesn't have the known clue. You will detect further clues throughout play, but even if you think you have deduced a clue from another player's face up cards if the clue on your counter isn't on the card you draw you have to discard it.
The 5 Clue counters will inform you of the following 10 Clues: Is the Chief Spy wearing a Hat? Is the Chief Spy Orange or Grey? Does the Chief Spy wear Spectacles? Is the Chief Spy carrying a Newspaper? and Is the Chief Spy wearing a Sweater or a Raincoat? However, at the start of the game you only know one of these clues and the longer you can keep this secret the better your chance of exposing the Chief Spy is. Let's say that you have the counter where the Cat is wearing Glasses on one side and not on the other. Your first action is to decide whether the Chief Spy will be wearing Glasses or not. So for this example you put the counter with the spectacles showing face up under your character card; you now know for sure that the Chief Spy wears glasses.
On your turn you flip over the top card of the deck. It shows the Grey Cat wearing a Sweater, a Hat and carrying a Newspaper but not wearing Glasses and so you discard this cat, he cannot be the Chief Spy because you know the Chief Spy wears Glasses. The other players look secretly at their own hidden counter and try to determine why you discarded the card. Then the next player flips over a card and it shows the Orange cat wearing Glasses, wearing a Sweater and Carrying a Newspaper; the player puts this card face up in front of themselves. You now know that the Chief Spy wears Glasses as per your counter plus at least one of the other attributes shown on the saved card. The game continues until you are sure enough of the Chief Spy to want to make a guess. You can do this at any time in the game, not just your turn, but game etiquette (as we play) lets the person who played the Suspect card in front of them has enough time to decide if they want to tag their card as the main suspect by placing their character token on it. The rules don't allow for this etiquette but as only one player token can be on the suspect card it is only fair that the person who just turned over the card be given a few seconds at least for it to sink in that this could be the Chief Spy. Don't say anything to them like "Do you want to put your token on that card?" because that shows you to be eager, you may be bluffing but .... If you don't allow etiquette then there might be a scramble to be the first player to put their token on the card, resulting in finger-nail scratches and possible damage to the card, or to the way the person at turn takes and displays the card from the deck - you are supposed to flip it straight over so everyone sees it at the same time but if there is no etiquette then you will have players taking the top card and secretly looking at it before placing it face up in full view, thus if they then think it's the Chief Spy they will place it face up with their token already on it.
Once all players except one has accused a suspect the Round ends. One player doesn't get to make an accusation and thus immediately gets a black mark, or in this case a Black counter (this will have a value of 0 or -1 never a positive). The player who identified and accused the Chief Spy correctly is given a Gold counter (3, 4 or 5 points) any Investigators who scored four correct clues are given a White counter (1 or 2 points) and everyone else gets a Black counter - all counters are drawn randomly from the face down shuffled counter supply. The first player to score 10 points wins. Other ways of ending the game are when there have been five completed Rounds or one colour of score counters is exhausted; in the last two cases the payer with the current highest score, according to the tokens they hold, is the winner.
There are a couple of Optional Rules, one is using the Stasi Officer card and the other is using the Cafe Adler score counters; neither of these made the game or gameplay sufficiently more enjoyable or different in our opinion, but they are there if you want them; we were not that keen on them and thus omitted anything from this review other than this brief mention.
CHECKPOINT CHARLIE comes along in the wake of the successful detection game of Vlaada Chvátil's CODENAMES from CGE and it fits just as comfortably into the genre for family and core board gamers. It is quite easy to wait too long for the true suspect to become visible in your personal detection radar so it is always advisable to know who the two co-Chiefs are so that when another player beats you to the punch you can at least quickly grab a possible positive score and move on to the next Round; those 1 or 2 points can be very useful on your way to either 10 points or the highest overall tally.
For about £20.00 CHECKPOINT CHARLIE is a good game to have on your shelf as one of the 30 minute filler games we all need at times.