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– by Fox Troilo

Detective Club by Blue Orange Games
Price:
~$25.00 (pre-order)
Players:
4 to 8
Playtime:
45 minutes
Perfect for:
Big groups that enjoy creativity and bluffing.

Detective Club is a lightweight party-style game where players use social deduction to determine everyone else’s secret roles. To begin Detective Club, all players dealt a hand of cards that contain fantastical and whimsical art that are purposely open to interpret. Next, one individual is designated the Informer, and they choose both a word and two cards that they believe reflect their word choice. The Informer then writes the designated word on a number of pads of paper (with one pad intentionally left blank) and randomly distributes them to the other players. The player who receives the blank pad therefore doesn’t know the word and is now the Contributor for this round.

From here, the Informer plays their first of two cards, but says nothing, and the other players do the same in clockwise order until everyone plays a set. The goal here is that the Informer is hoping Conspirator can deduce the secret word from all the cards played (and the other players are trying to catch the Conspirator). The Informer then reveals the secret word and how the cards chosen represent that theme. The other players then do the same—defending their selections, trying to convince everyone that they are NOT the Conspirator and clearly knew the word the whole time because their cards align well. Then, everyone except the Informer votes for whom they think Contributor is. If players are correct, they get points. However, if the Conspirator goes mostly undetected, they and Informer score.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review: Gorus Maximus

What works in Detective Club is the stunning and imaginative artwork from designer Oleksandr Nevskiy. The painting-like style visualizes the stuff of dreams—inventive combinations of objects, places, and styles that are a delight to the eyes. You could very easily pass around the same card to an entire cohort of individuals and each person would like notice a different feature and derive a unique meaning. Given that visual interpretation is the core mechanic, Detective Club is wildly successful in this regard.

For players who don’t enjoy luck being spontaneously creative or bluffing, Detective Club may not be for you. Furthermore, Detective Club certainly works better the closer the size of the group is to the 8-person maximum. Winning the game inevitably means that plays once in a while must lie, and the strength of their deceit is dependent upon their ability to generate a convincingly imaginative argument as to why their cards correspond with the secret word, possibly within a few seconds of learning what it actually is. And in smaller groups, it’s simply easier to quickly and reliably identify the person with the made-up pretense.

Detective Club is great for a group of friends who all enjoy taking the abstract and creating meaning from it in a somewhat competitive environment—almost like an improvisational comedy exercise. However, for smaller gatherings and people who don’t love coming up with yarns under a time constraint, other options might be more enjoyable.

Recommended if you like: Mysterium, Dixit

Final Grade: B

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Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.