The Cluedo Series, Art 5:
CLUE (DO) DVD GAME
As a self-respecting Cluedo fan, I bought the Cluedo DVD game (Dutch version) when I found it in the bargain basement. The game didn't sell too well, apparently.
I had a great laugh reading the back of the box in the store. The screenshot of the DVD menu had two appalling spelling errors. And at the bottom of the box, it says: "This game requires a TV and a DVD-player (not included).
The DVD game works differently from the regular board game. First of all, it's not about a murder, but about a theft. Second, there are 4 variables that need to be guessed: the culprit, the stolen item, the location where it was stolen, and the time at which it was stolen. There are 10 suspects, 11 items, 11 locations (the ballroom is for unknown reasons changed into a music room), and 10 times. This gives us 12100 possible outcomes. A player can only ask for 3 variables.
The item cards are not dealt out to the players, but are put in a separate section of the game, and the DVD tells us when we can look at them.
There are no dice to roll. Rooms are interconnected to each other and you walk to another room in every turn.
Some of the rooms won't open until later in the game, the DVD will tell you which doors are locked and when they can be accessed.
Players won't get dragged to another room when they are suspected by an opponent in another room.
There are 2 types of games to play. There are 10 pre-programmed games. A player must find the cards that need to be put in the envelope, using the concealed images on the back. The images can only be viewed using a special mini red magnifying glass. This way, the DVD knows which cards are in the envelope.
You can also play the "main crime". The DVD will still tell you when you can view a subject card, and will occasionally give "hints", but otherwise this is of little use.
The family Ploeg plays the Cluedo DVD game for the first time.
First of all, we are 3 grown people: two ladies in their 20s, and one man in his 50s. We are all well-educated. One still studies and the other two have all graduated from fine universities. Two of us are avid regular Cluedo players and a family game usually ends in a close battle between us. We have both studied how the game is best played and we both have won several times with our respective respectable strategies.
In other words, we are not stupid.
I started by reading the instructions, days before playing. I read them again. It was all very problematic to me: did the manual mean we were really playing two games at the same time? Fortunately my father did get that. We were supposed to play only one game: either one of the pre-set ones, or the main game.
I played the tutorial several times: due to the difficulty we have getting three people around the table (this is also a dreadful feat to accomplish at meals), there were 45 minutes between setting up the board and starting gameplay.
We all studied the rules again. We all viewed the tutorial at least once.
Getting the game started, with deciphering the pictures on the card backs and putting them in the envelope, all went well. We played with 3 people. The DVD told us to play with Madame Grass (or whatever she's called in English), Professor Plum, and Colonel Mustard.
That's 2 guys. We were with 2 ladies. Hum. Fortunately my sister loves being Plum anyway, so that was easily settled.
And then the first choice screen rolled up. We had only 2 options at this early stage of the game: taking a secret passage, or making an accusation.
I got to start, being Madame Grass. I clicked the Secret Passage option. Nothing special. I called my 3 and gameplay went on. At my sister's first turn, she was allowed to see a card in anyone else's hand, and with our competitive spirit, she chose me. Then, at my turn again, I landed in a trap and had to put one of my cards face-up in the centre room.
Absolutely NOTHING of interest happened afterwards. We all managed to deduce which were the culprit, room and time fairly quickly.
But no sight of the butler. What were we to do? Without butler we couldn't see any of the cards in the storage room; neither one of us could guess the final card although we had the other 3. Nor were we allowed to see the notes the detectives made.
We gave up. We had played for an hour and made several vain guesses. My father accussed once, then went on cooking. My sister and I proceeded guessing the last card. After a few guesses the fun in that had gone. We conquered our pride and finally checked upon the item cards in the storage room.
The game exterior is nice. The board looks pretty, the DVD is not that bad although the colours are too bright to give you that English Mystery Feel. The pawns are cute renditions of the game characters. The cards may be ugly (angular CG design rather than slick hand-drawn design), but the symbols on the back system really works. Peeping through the red magnifying glass is fun.
There are a lot of exterior flaws: ugliness of characters and used colours, bad voice acting from the Dutch characters (they really couldn't find anyone with a less strong Hilversum accent, could they?), music that becomes annoying VERY quickly, the same secret passage vid over and over gets very boring, and the magnifying glass system caused problems with my reading-glasses-using father. Plus, in European games (at least UK and Dutch), Mr Green is a Reverend. Yet, his pawn has the shape and looks of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And then there are the game flaws. With the butler never showing up, we managed to solve three out of four clues easily, but couldn't do anything about the fourth.
The whole notion of "only being allowed to guess 3 out of 4 variables" is stupid. There is no way any of your opponents could show an item card, then why ask for them? To prevent yourself from seeing a room card you've seen already? Perhaps, but your opponents will be able to guess that you already saw that room if you don't ask for it.
The notion of DVD-telling-you-which-character-to-play, is silly. It is not used anywhere in the game, except in deciding who goes first. For a game like Cluedo DVD that tells you to maturely decide which man has to play the extra female part, you can also safely assume that its players are mature enough to decide who plays first.
The game doesn't accommodate the Dutch rule that you can stay in a room as long as you want.
The ending for the 10 story cases is un-personalized. It will say "You are all great detectives" once the solution is found. Beh.
The game manual is overly complicated. And, at the same time, it's overly easy. It takes a long time explaining the simple things, and takes no time explaining the more difficult things. From on-line reviews I found that many people had the issue of taking secret passages all the time, which apparently was not what we were supposed to do.
The fact that three mature university-educated people all made this mistake in my household: this does say something.
The "hidden guess" for the 10 case stories is badly executed. A player needs to look through that red plastic, then he's given a (decoded using a color system) letter, then he uses this letter to secretly designate his accusation. However, it's always the same decoding picture for every letter. You can just focus on the top left square to find what your opponent selects. I am also not sure on how well this system works with the colourblind.
I won't easily forgive the designers for changing the murder into a theft. It takes the spice out off the game.
It's also disturbing that they keep referring to the "murder" envelope, making the switch from manslaughter to theft even harder. "I think that Ross killed Dr Black with the gold fountain pen in the fountain"...
Nor will I understand the age limit of 10. Kids at 8 can play regular Cluedo, and that deals with a murder.
The detective will only allow you to view an object card in a room if you answer a question correctly. In these questions, you get to see an image of the room where you are. Then you get a question about the image (while the image is concealed), such as "Was the fireplace on?". This is slightly underestimating the target audience. They're all 10 or over.
Worse, it would've been so easy to program the DVD so you'd have to enter "yes" or "no" straight away. But that's not what the Cluedo people decided to do: instead, you first look at the answer, then say if you were right, yes or no. If you were, the DVD allows you to view the card. How easy is it to cheat with that?
The main problem with the Cluedo DVD game is that it was clearly designed for people-who-play-Cluedo-at-face-value, people who don't deduce, but ask in true Ludo-style and only tick off the cards they've seen. It was not designed for the Cluedo-fans who are able to solve a game in twenty turns max by using every guess.
As such, my advice is for people to leave this game at the store. Unless they like Ludo games. Or unless they are Cluedo hoarders, like yours truly.