Col. Mustard, with the revolver…


On any given day since the coronavirus confined us to our home you’re likely to hear the following exchange at our kitchen table:

“Miss Scarlet, with the candlestick, in the dining room.”



“I’ve got something.”

Need an explanation?  Well, if you do it means you haven’t experienced the greatest game ever invented:  Clue.

Ok, perhaps I exaggerate.  But with board games suddenly making a comeback in our new Covid 19 home bound reality, someone needs to make the case for Clue.

First a brief overview:  Clue, originally titled Cluedo, was invented in 1943 by the Englishman Anthony Pratt.  The game was licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States in 1949, renamed Clue, and the rest is history.  Over the years the game has spawned books, movies and spinoffs.  Search for Clue on Amazon and you’ll find versions customized for Star Wars, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey.

The object of the game is to be the first to solve a murder by correctly identifying the killer, weapon and room in the mansion where the crime took place.  The British influence is apparent just by looking at the gameboard.  Names of the room include a conservatory, a lounge and a hall.

For years I had no idea what a conservatory was until Wikipedia told me it was a fancy name for a sunroom.  I don’t know about you, but a conservatory sounds like a much classier place to get offed than a sunroom.

The house that I live in and those of my friends don’t have rooms called “lounges” or “halls.”  I guess that probably means that neither I nor my friends are worth killing.  Speaking of not being worth as much, I bet Harry and Meghan have trouble finding a place with a conservatory or a lounge when they move to LA.

My lame attempts at humor aside, even if you aren’t much of an anglophile or have never been in a lounge, Clue is still an excellent game.  The manner in which the game is played offers the perfect antidote to our information-flooded, highly distracted world.

First, players have to pay attention throughout the game.  During some board games it’s possible to check Facebook, text or generally zone out when it’s not your turn.  But the nature of Clue is that you can learn as much, if not more, about the solution to the crime during other people’s turns. It’s a fun way to force everyone to put down their phones and really pay attention to one another.

Also, players have to rely on their wits and deductive reasoning (or “the little grey cells” as my favorite fictional detective Hercule Poirot refers to them – but that’s for another blog).  It’s almost impossible to win if you don’t draw conclusions based on the actions of your opponents.  To win sometimes you will be forced to solve the crime absent perfect information, in other words you aren’t 100% sure if one your opponents is holding a card you think is part of the solution.  The risk/reward adds to the excitement.

Lying is never permitted but trickery and misdirection are essential strategies in Clue.  If you have the card for a suspect your opponent guesses, you must show it.  However depending how clever a player is, it’s quite possible to confuse and confound one’s opponents.  I played with someone once who guessed a suspect, weapon and room when they held the cards for each.  When everyone passed the other players were sent on a wild goose chase, giving that player a distinct advantage in seeking the real solution.

Lastly, Clue can be played in under 30 minutes.  It’s just the right amount of time, especially if you play the way we do and use two die instead of one to determine movement.  There’s nothing more frustrating than moving only 4 spaces after 3 rolls and never getting into a room to make a guess.  If that happens even the best of us are reaching for our phones.

I could go on but I’ve rambled enough.  Sadly we didn’t get a chance to discuss suspects like Colonel Mustard or cool weapons like the candlestick.  No matter, see for yourself.  This evening before turning on Netflix gather the family and enjoy a good, clean murder with Clue.  Just don’t play in your conservatory.




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