List Price: $22.00
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(Worth 1,760 Funagain Points!)
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You are a team of private detectives solving such cases as Theft, Smuggling, Blackmail, etc. You move around the Big City looking for clues, trying to avoid Locked Doors, Guard Dogs, Getting Tied Up, Secret Codes, even Mob Tough Guys, & using Disguises, a special Tool Kit, Fast Moves, but mostly your Quick Wits to get out of Tight Corners. Can we solve the case to get our client out of trouble? Yes, if we pool our strategies, use some intuition and help each other out of tough spots. A quick moving game with lots of opportunity for sharing, consultation and decision making.
Investigators is a great entry level game for introducing the idea of "cooperative play" seen in more sophisticated games like "Arkham Horror" and "Shadows over Camelot." The official age rating of the game is "8 and up", but my son bought the game when he was nine and his seven year old sister had a great time playing it. A year later, and they still ask to pull it out and play.
The basis concept is that all the players work for a detective agency trying to solve a crime. At the beginning of the game a crime is drawn at random and an envelope is secretly filled with the solution to the crime (the suspect, motive, method and also the key piece of evidence that will solve the crime). Up to this point, it may seem reminiscent of "Clue," but the similarities are superficial. Rather than trying to compete against one another and pin the crime on one of the players, in "Investigators," the players work as a team and everyone keeps playing until the game is won, or the game beats the players.
Game play is straight forward to the extent that you have a board, roll dice, and move around to find information that allows you to eliminate suspects, motives, methods and evidence to narrow down to the solution. However, as you do that, the real fun part of this game comes into play. Different locations will have different potential clues, but laced among the real clues are red herrings (literally dummy cards with fish on them) and complications. The complications not only are dummy clue cards, but also stop you from advancing in play and getting any clues, and maybe even moving until the complication is resolved.
Never fear, you may have an M.O. (modus operandi) card to resolve the complication. An this is the real mechanic of fun. The M.O.s are general classic detective fiction attributes (disguises, "rough stuff", toolkit). The complication may be a guard dog, a sniper or an alarm system. The trick then is to play your M.O. card and describe an imaginative way of how that M.O. gets you out of the jam you are in. If everyone at the table, perhaps after encouraging some more detail (especially from a younger child) is satisfied with the solution, the complication is gone. This really lets the players get into the spirit of the game, and makes the replay value high.
What if you already played your M.O. card, are you stuck? No, another player can come to your rescue (you are a team after all). You can replenish your M.O. back at the office.
There is also a money mechanic. You pay $500 before each move. Run out of money, someone needs to come bring you some cash. Run by the bank when you get low so you don't get caught out. Everyone runs out of money? Time to make your best guess at the crime if you have missing pieces. Your intuition may make up for missing evidence like the great detectives. Then again, the game might beat you that time, but everyone shares victory or defeat.
The game can take from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half in my experience, and in general has no trouble holding everyone's attention. The team nature keeps everyone supportive and having fun.
The quality of the game components is acceptable, but nothing special. On the one hand, the art and theme of the components are great, really evoking the style of old detective crime movies and pulp magazines. On the other hand, the chits for clues and complications are on the thin and flimsy side, and I have found that it helps to supply your own zip-lock bags, marked with a sharpie, to keep the pieces separated for a faster set up, as the game box itself does not supply much in the way of organizational components. However, these are minor issues.
The game delivers a lot of fun, a lot of replay value, and lets kids really use their imagination to solve problems while getting into the theme of hard boiled detection.