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Average Rating: 4.6 in 5 reviews
One of the simplest, most enjoyable games I've ever discovered. The first time I ever played it, with three other friends, we intended to play it once and then move on to some other, more complex game. We never got around to that other game because we just kept playing this one over and over. Truly a remarkable creation.
The mechanism is extremely simple, and in a three-person game, it's not a whole lot harder than 'Clue'. But the game gets an order of magnitude more difficult with every player you add. This game is unique in my experience in that just figuring out what information you need to write down is part of the game, one of the first challenges you'll overcome as you learn how to play. This is a game that needs to be put back into print as soon as possible!
This game has been a family favorite for years. After college I married and moved to another state -- and discovered the game was out of print! My sleuthing wife, however, called Avalon Hill and discovered that although the game is no longer for sale, all the individual bits are available as replacement parts -- the gem deck, the question deck, the rules, and the scorepads. We purchased the card decks and rules but opted not to buy the scorepads. (I've never liked wasting all that paper, so we designed our own laminated, reusable scorecards that we mark with dry-erase pens.) Voila -- the complete game!
Another reviewer (Virginia gamer) has done a great job of praising the game, so I'll devote some time to a more detailed description. The mechanics of the game are very simple. At the beginning of the game, one or more 'gem cards' are removed from the 'gem deck' and set aside, hidden. The gem deck consists of 36 cards made of up of 4 colors (red blue green yellow), 3 gem-types (diamond pearl opal), and 3 setting-types (solitaire pair cluster). (eg. 'red diamond solitaire', 'green opal cluster'). The remaining gem cards are dealt equally to the players, who note them on their scorepads. From the 'question deck', four 'question cards' are dealt face-up to each player. Question cards may have one or two elements, such as 'greens' or 'pearl solitaires'.
On each turn players use one of their question-cards to interrogate a player of their choice. If the question card contains two elements the asking party is entitled to see any matching cards. 'John, show me your red diamonds.' John would then announce how many red diamonds he had: '1 red diamond', and discreetly show them to the player who asked him. Here's the rub: the asking player learns specifically what cards John has, while the other players must simply jot the information down and wait to correlate it later on. If the question card only contains a single element -- 'Sally, how many opals do you have?' -- only a count is given in reply and no cards are revealed to anyone. The asking player draws a new card from the question deck to replace the one they've used, and play rotates to the left.
When one player thinks they've deduced the identity of the missing gem card(s), they cry out and check their findings. If they are correct, they are the winner and the game is over. If they have stumbled along the way and guessed incorrectly, they must sit out the remainder of the game but continue to answer questions posed by the other players.
One particularly nice aspect of the game is the ease with which you can adjust the difficulty level. For beginning players, a large number of 'gimmes' can be used -- gem cards turned face up at the beginning of the game for all to see. For more experienced players, the number of hidden gem cards can be increased and the 'gimmes' eliminated to minimize the chances of one player solving the game through lucky coincidence. The variation my family and I most enjoy is to never show cards in response to questions, removing the advantage of the asking party in seeing specific gem cards.
A very fun logic/thinking game. Highly recommended!
I firmly believe this is the best board (box) game ever invented. How's that for hyperbole? In fact, that belief is the only reason that I am filling out this review. The principle of 'Sleuth' is similar to 'Clue' in that one is attempting to deduce which cards are not being held by other players. It lacks 'Clue's flaws, however, such as the excessive role of luck, and it adds additional virtues, such as the greater role of logic and deduction, and greater flexibility in terms of questions to be asked. One can ask some 'Clue'-style questions, which require another player to show you certain cards held, or one can ask vaguer ones, which entitle one to know the total number of cards another player holds of a certain type, but cannot see them. The questions one can ask are a function of cards drawn, although some cards contain options. It has all of the elements of a truly elegant, satisfying game. The rules are simple, and easily understood, but the strategy is wonderfully complex, and will tax the capabilities of the best logicians. Each person develops his/her own method of working their way through the problem, and each knows slightly different information about what is held in each hand. Another wonderful feature of this game is that it never feels like a 'blowout' -- each person playing inevitably believes that they are one question away from deducing the answer, when their opponent makes their guess. So be efficient -- the move you wait to guess might be the one that enables your opponent to win! I have been a lifelong game enthusiast, but this was the game that convinced me that Sid Sackson was a true artist. So elegant, so simple, so entertaining, and so much fun for everyone. I have played an embarrassing number of games in my life, but this one is, in my opinion, as fun as any. It's one of the few games I've ever played where, after I played it with friends for the first time, we all couldn't help but comment on just how cleverly designed it was. It's addictive, and it's testimony to the unique genius of its creator.
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