The whodunit sleuth game that’s a cross between Clue and the Pink Panther movies.
Players: 2 – 6 Best with: 4 – 5
Age: 10 & up GN Age: Pre-Teen
Game Type: Board Time: 30 – 60 minutes
Publisher/Year: WonderForge / 2016
Game Play: Deduction, Token Placement
Score: out of 12
You are a jet-setting international jewel thief; suave, sophisticated, debonair. You’ve found the perfect mark. There’s a Masquerade Ball tonight at the estate of art collector Baron Whitetooth, or as I call it, the Chateau d’Convenience. Dozens of priceless precious gems will be on display throughout the mansion and security is non-existent. It’s as if the owners are trying to get robbed. There’s only one slight problem.
The competition. Every jewel thief in the country is going to be at the event, trying to steal the same things you are trying to steal. Will you be able to pilfer enough gems to satisfy your extravagant lifestyle? And can you identify your competitors before they can finger you? And can you ever play a game of Suspicion without making comparisons to Clue?
At the start of the game, you draw your identity from a deck of 10 possible suspects. Obviously, you want to keep this card a secret. The remaining “invitations” become a draw deck to help you identify the other players later in the game.
Each of these characters would feel right at home in an Agatha Christie novel. They all feel suitably suspicious enough. But sadly, there is nothing unique or iconic about any of them, so who you are is of no consequence, which feels like a missed opportunity. In fact, there is only one character that we all always hope is our character in the game, but only for reasons completely unrelated to the game.
Regardless of your identity, all of the player tokens, even the non-players, are placed in a random room around the board. As your player is moved around the board, you may have the opportunity to swipe a gem that is in that room. Of course, every gem you steal might be the clue that gives your identity away. There is no reward without risk.
Your turn consists of two phases, Movement and Action. Each of the ten suspects is represented on the custom dice. When a suspect is rolled, you move that suspect to any adjoining room. But choose wisely, for the position of each suspect will affect which Action Card you choose to play.
There are five possible actions in the game, and each Action Card allows you to perform two of them. One action allows you to steal any gem so long as it is depicted in the room your player is currently in. So, if you abscond with a green gem, then the other players can eliminate every suspect not standing in a green gem room as your possible identity. Some actions allow you to pocket a specific jewel regardless of your current room, which is great because it does not reveal any clue to your identity. Other actions allow you to move any player to any room via a secret passageway or to peek at an invitation card from the discard pile to further ferret out your pilfering friends.
The last action allows you to Question a Player and ask if they can “see” the suspect on the card. “Seeing” is determined by line of sight of the players on the board. A player can see another if they are on the same row of rooms, whether up and down or across. The answer is revealed privately via Yes or No cards.
This is my favorite element of the game. Like the action that allows you to steal a gem from a room you are in, who you move and where you move them is vital to your success. As the game progresses, you will need to maneuver specific suspects closer toward or away from other suspects as you narrow in on the other player’s identities.
Play progresses until one of the stacks of gems is depleted. Points are scored for each gem purloined with bonus point awarded for each complete set of gems (1 of each). The most points are awarded for each secret identity unearthed. Highest score is the Master Thief.
When we first obtained this game (by legal means, I assure you), both Diane and I really liked it. We felt it had a cool, different spin on Clue which we all love. And I really liked the retro heist vibe of the game. We both immediately put the game into our Top Ten.
On the flip side, neither kid really cared for it. Andrew thought it was “just okay”, and James just doesn’t like it. Recently, for this review we played it with new people and their reactions also placed the game in the middle of the road.
Part of the problem is the theme. I love the theme. I feel like I am “The Phantom” from the Pink Panther movies. I often hum the Henry Mancini theme song while playing. And yes, the Phantom is the name of the thief, the Pink Panther is the name of the jewel.
Unfortunately, my kids have never seen a Pink Panther movie, or “To Catch a Thief”, or “Charade”, or any of that genre from the 60s & 70s. I know, I’m a horrible father. So, my kids have no context for the theme. It meant nothing to them and subsequently the theme of the game meant nothing to them.
And then there is the execution. First, is the guest list of suspects. They each have a specific name but they are obscure and irrelevant. We don’t refer to “Mildred Wellington” as such, she is the Green lady. The “Earl of Volesworthy” is just the Purple guy. Can you imagine in Clue if you referred to Colonel Mustard as the Yellow dude? Blasphemy!
Second, is the game board. The board is really small, especially considering the large size of box. Because it is so small, the player pieces constantly block your ability to see the gems marked on the “floor” of each room. And each room is no different from another. Sure, one might have a drawing of “Egyptian” art in it as opposed to “Greek” art, but who cares? I’m the only one of my family that even bothered to look at the specifics of the board. Because the board doesn’t matter. And that is never a good sign.
Then there is the most important element of the game and the sole reason any one would buy it. The mystery deduction. Don’t get me wrong, it is good and fun, but it just falls short of being on par with its obvious inspiration, Clue. You only need to uncover one mystery, the Who. There is no What or Where. There may be 3, 4, or 5 Whos to uncover, but it is not very difficult to learn the identities of most of the other players within a few rounds. Plus, the deduction sheets don’t really have enough room for 6 players, and God forbid if two players share the same initial or if you mismark even one clue. You will screw up and never be able to untangle that web.
We just can’t put Suspicion into our category of Great games, which is usually a score of 9 or higher. It’s at the top of our Good games. The game is totally playable at the recommended level of 10 and up. But I would prep any children playing it with a viewing of a Pink Panther film before playing. Preferably, the vastly superior Peter Sellers version over the Steven Martin wannabes.
Suspicion is a fun game and a good way to spend 45 minutes with your loved ones, but in the end, we would all just rather play another game of Clue.
As Always, I am Mrs. Nesbitt, and Game On!
The Pink Panther. Such a prize he (The Phantom) could never resist. He would be bound to try for it. – Inspector Jacques Clouseau