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Sleuth is the fascinating detective game in which players call upon their powers of deduction and logic to discover the identity of the missing gem. Through strategic questioning, each player gathers his bits of information, then skillfully welds them together to form the clues which will provide the solution to the mystery. Clever question and skillful deductions, combined with some plain old-fashioned luck, will make Sleuth an absorbing game for 3 to 7 players.
Out of print for two decades, this classic Sackson design is being reproduced with all new artwork and in multiple languages.
Players: 3 - 7
Time: 30 or more minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 430 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).
- 36 gem cards
- 54 search cards
- 1 pad of investigation sheets
Average Rating: 3.9 in 4 reviews
Many years ago, Sid Sackson invented the game of Sleuth. The one version that I had was graphically bland, but the gameplay itself was excellent. This is a game of logic and deduction that resembles the sort of logic puzzle popularized by Dell Publishing in those magazines next to the crossword compilations.
While nominally similar to Clue, there is a greater depth to Sleuth due to its simplicity. Here the game is reduced to the interrogation of other players, and much can be derived from what is learned or even asked on other players' turns. This is a game that has stood the test of time and should be ranked only slightly lower than that other Sackson classic, Acquire.
Face 2 Face has provided Sleuth with a much more lavish production than it has had in the past, and it seems to fit the jewel hist motif much more than the clip-art magnifying glass used in my old edition. This is a game that takes only a little shelf space and has a heck of a lot of gameplay housed therein. Highly recommended for armchair sleuths.
Im a huge fan of deduction games, especially Mastermind; but I quickly found that regular Mastermind is too simplistic and easy. I finally found a fun freeware edition on the internet; one that really gives me a challenge. Still, Ive always found that deduction is more fun in groups; and Sleuth (Face to Face Games, 2004 - Sid Sackson) gives one the opportunity to play a deduction game with up to seven players. Its nice to see games by the late great Sid Sackson be reproduced; something the Face to Face company seems committed to.
I really enjoyed Sleuth; but was quite impressed at how difficult the game can get, depending on the number of players. My first game was with seven players, and it was extremely challenging; with many of the players getting completely lost and slightly frustrated. I really enjoyed it, on the other hand; but found it extremely challenging, more so than any other board game Ive played. When the number of players decreases, the game is much easier and quite fun, but still with a good challenge. For those who enjoy mind games, this one is demanding and fun, a true gem (excuse the pun - I must be reading GAMES magazine too much).
A deck of thirty-six gem cards is shuffled, and one card is set aside where no one can see (similar to Clue). The rest of the cards are divided equally amongst the players, with the remainder (if any) placed face up in the middle of the table. The gem cards are all different, and have three different characteristics each: type of gem (diamonds, pearls, or opals), color (blue, green, red, or yellow), and number (single, pair, or cluster). Each player is given a deduction sheet, where they can correctly cross out any jewels they were dealt, as well as the ones face up in the middle of the table. Another deck of Search cards is shuffled; four dealt face up to each player, and the remainder put in a face-down deck in the middle of the table. One player is chosen to go first, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On their turn, a player can use one of the cards in front of them to question one of their opponents. There are three types of cards, each with a different use:
- One-element Cards: These cards show one characteristic of a gem, such as yellow, or diamonds, or clusters. The person being questioned must state how many cards they hold that have that characteristic to all other players.
- Two-element Cards: These cards show two characteristics of a game, such as diamond pairs, yellow opals, or blue singles. The player being questioned must slide any cards they have that match both characteristics to the asking player, who then returns them. No other player can see the cards, but everyone can know the number.
- Free Choice Cards: These cards can be used as One or Two Element cards, giving the player a choice of characteristics.
- A player can forgo questioning another player, replacing all their search cards with new ones.
After questioning, the player discards the Search card, replacing it with the top card from the deck.
Players keep track of all information in the game, trying to identify the missing jewel. If any player knows (or thinks they know) the identity of the set-aside card, they can announce the fact at any time, even out of turn. They then check the missing gem card, and if correct show all other players, winning the game. Otherwise, they replace the card and are out of the questioning phase of the game, although they still must answer questions from other players. If a player waits until their turn to guess the missing gem, they can ask any one player any one question of their choice before guessing. The game ends when someone correctly identifies the set-aside card.
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The box is small, sturdy, and easily portable, covered with Sherlock Holmes-type artwork. The cards fit securely in a plastic insert in the box and have more of the 1800s era artwork on them. The front of all the cards are fairly easy to distinguish, although I could see that a color blind person might have some trouble distinguishing between the color characteristics of the gems.
2.) Information Sheet: The information sheets may be daunting for new players at first and how to use them can be a chore. I personally drew out my own charts on the back of the sheets and used them, but other players have suggested other means of keeping track of who has or doesnt have each jewel. Many of these suggestions are posted on the web in various places, such as www.boardgamegeek.com, and will help different people. Ive found that everyone has a different way of keeping track of the jewels; so if youre having trouble, seeing what others do might help some.
3.) Rules: The rulebook is thick with over fifty full-color pages. This, however, is because of the many translations in different languages. The rules are actually fairly short, simple, and easy to explain; but some things are only mentioned once and could be easy to miss. I found that the game is easy to explain, but the methodology for keeping track of information is not quite so easy. People who are adept at puzzles will probably pick it up quicker than others, as many logic puzzles have the same characteristics as Sleuth.
4.) Strategy: The game is going to be more intuitive for those who have a logical mind, but there are several methods for tracking down the correct card. I prefer to eliminate every card, working with all gems concurrently, ending up with the correct missing gem; but others eliminate each jewel separately, thus possibly ending up with the missing gem faster. As long as you get a system and stick with it, asking the correct questions to the right people; you have a decent chance of winning. One of the biggest detriments Ive found is incorrectly recording information, and then asking a question to someone that has already been asked. This is just wasting one of your questions and can conceivably cost you the game.
5.) Fun Factor: The atmosphere of the playing of a game of Sleuth is very similar to that of Ricochet Robot - almost dead silence - with each player mulling over their information. This is not your joyous, happy party game; but a serious mind twister. This doesnt mean that the game is any less fun - I really enjoy it! The game has a certain appeal that many people would probably wish to avoid.
6.) Amount of Players: The amount of players greatly affects both time and difficulty. When there is a full compliment of seven players, the game takes a while, because there is so much information to keep track of. Questions that reveal a lot of information in a three-player game reveal only a smidgen with seven players. I really only recommend a seven player game to dedicated logic problem solvers; with three to five players it is a much lighter game.
Sleuth is a fantastic game, originating in 1967, and now finally reprinted in 2004 for all of us who never had the pleasure of playing original Sid Sackson games. Its not a game that elicits laughter and shouting, but rather one of deep concentration. While this may not entice everyone, one cannot deny that a win in Sleuth is a great achievement; and one can feel a certain pride in their victory. The three-player game is fairly light, but still has some hefty meat in it, in the form of logic. If you love logic puzzles and want a good deduction game with only a smattering of luck (instead of mind-numbing Clue), then this is the game for you!
Real men play board games.
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Originally released in 1967 by the 3M Game Company, Sleuth is a masterful deduction game from master designer Sid Sackson. Players must deduce the identity of a missing gem by skillful questioning of their opponents, using logic and the powers of deduction. Only one will prove to possess the skills to earn the title “master sleuth”.
I must confess that I am absolutely HORRIBLE at this game. I played it numerous over the decades and have always lost. Always. I’m fairly certain that there are police forces that are very thankful that I never pursued by childhood dream of becoming a detective! Still, in spite of my clear lack of deductive skills, I admire the purity of the game’s design.
After being out-of-print for far too long, Sleuth has been given new life by Face2Face Games. The new edition features redesigned packaging and cards, which while more attractive, are a bit less clear than the very plain cards in the 3M versions. It also includes a thick rulebook, which at first glance is quite formidable, until you realize that it includes the instructions in six different languages. The actual rules are quite brief, and easy to understand.
The deck of cards is divided into two components: gem cards and search cards. The gem deck consists of 36 cards in four colors (red, yellow, green and blue). Each color has three gem types – diamonds, opals and pearls – and each of these is subdivided into settings – solitaires, pairs and clusters. These are shuffled and one is secretly removed, with the remainder being distributed amongst the players.
The search deck contains cards which dictate the questions a player may ask of his opponents. They, too, come in several varieties. “One element” cards allow the player to ask an opponent to reveal the number of cards he possesses that depict either a type of gem, or a type of setting. The opponent must announce the number of cards he possesses that match the criteria to all players. “Two element” cards are a bit more specific, as the cards specify two criteria (blue opals, yellow pearls, etc.). The targeted opponent announces the total he possesses to everyone, but passes the matching cards to the active player. In this manner, the player gets specific information, while everyone else gets general information. There are also “free choice” cards which gives the player a bit more freedom when asking his question. A player discards the card after asking a questions, drawing a replacement from the search deck.
Each player is given a information sheet upon which he can record the answers given by opponents. The idea is to develop a system whereby answers can be cryptically recorded, helping to eliminate cards that are in the possession of the players. The ultimate goal, of course, is to eliminate all but one card, thereby correctly identifying the card that was removed at the beginning of the game.
The recording of information on the sheet is critical. Players must combine the information gleaned from the responses to the wide range of questions being asked, using logic and deduction to discern the identity of the cards being held by the players. Information which may seem useless early may later be combined with other information to help identify cards. Fitting these pieces of the puzzle together is the key to skillful play, and is obviously a skill in which I am woefully lacking.
When a player feels he has discerned the identity of the missing gem, he can declare this at any time, even if it is not his turn. If he is incorrect, he cannot win, but must still answer questions when asked. If correct, he is elevated to the “chief of detectives” position … and wins the game.
Sleuth is direct, pure and simple to play. While players are limited in the questions they can ask by the search cards they possess, deductive reasoning and logic will prevail over any luck factors. While the game can accommodate up to seven players, it last far too long with that many involved. It truly shines with 3 or 4 players.
While deductive games are not my forte, Sleuth is one of the best – if not THE best – of the genre. Fans of deduction and logic puzzles should certainly investigate this gem of a game.
Sleuth is a game for people who like logic puzzles. It is rather unique in that it is a rather heavy card game. Most card games that utilize a non-standard deck of cards are fluffy affairs that are suited to larger gatherings of casual or non-gamers.
Not Sleuth. Sleuth requires concentration and lots of it. Players try to discern what the missing card is by asking one player one question on each of their turns. You have to keep track of all the questions and answers asked and answered by other players if you want to win at all. You can only ask a question if you have a card for it. Players are limited to 4 question cards, so they rarely are able to ask the questions they want to ask.
Information comes out in bits and pieces and it can be hard to keep track of it all. A system is needed by each player to keep track of all the information given. I have tried several systems and haven't yet managed to find one to my liking.
The more people who play the less information you get from each question, as each player has fewer cards. For example if you are playing a 2 player game and ask 'how many yellow cards do you have?' the answer might be five. With this answer, coupled with the 4 yellow cards in your hand, you could easily deduce whether the hidden card is a yellow card or not. With 9 people playing the answer would likely be 1 as there are 9 yellow cards in the deck. You would need to ask that same question 7 more times to 7 other people to find out if the hidden card was yellow. And that is just to deduce if it is yellow, there are 2 more characteristics that must be deduced. Each of the 36 cards has a unique color, type of stone and number of stones.
My point? My point is that you need to consider the size, demeanor and brain power of your game group before starting a game of Sleuth. It is not for the faint of heart, especially with more than 4 players. It is a game that will appeal to a specific type of person. I am not that type of person. My wife likes it so I will play and I will have fun for a while, but I will be praying for someone to figure it out and win quickly.
I have a rating conundrum for this game. Given my druthers, I really would rather not play it. But I recognize the system as very good and can see the appeal this game would have to a narrow audience. It isn't bad, I will play it again without feigning a heart attack. I would even suggest it for the right group. Just know that I almost gave it a 2.