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SLEUTH

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Face 2 Face Games; 3-7 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes (or more); $16.95)

 

In the long list of games designed by the legendary Sid Sackson, games of deduction hold an honored place. Sid designed Ellery Queen: Case of the Elusive Assassin for Ideal back in 1967. Sid then streamlined the play of that game to come up with Sleuth for 3M. Avalon Hill later published Sleuth in 1981 but then the game, sadly, went out of print. Now, this classic game of deduction is back in a new edition from Face 2 Face Games.

Sleuth comes in a small box that holds two decks of cards: a Gem Deck consisting of 36 cards and a Search Deck of 54. There is also a pad of Information Sheets and a rulebook (in SIX languages!). The premise here is that a jewel has been stolen. You, as a detective to rival Sherlock Holmes, must be the first to discover the identity of the missing gem.

The 36 cards of the Gem Deck represent a variety of jewels, each of which fit into each of the three elements: gem (diamond, pearl or opal), type (solitaire, pair or cluster) and color (red, blue, green or yellow). This deck is shuffled and one card removed. This is the missing gem. The rest of the cards are dealt to the players (11 cards if 3 are playing down to 5 cards if 7 players are in the game). Any cards remaining are placed face up for all to see. Players record the information they have (from the face up cards and the gem cards in their hands) on their Information Sheets. Now, the Search Deck is shuffled and each player begins with a hand of four cards.sleuthnew

There are three types of Search cards: One Element cards (featuring a single gem, type or color), Two Element cards (featuring any two of the elements) and Free Choice cards. On a turn, a player may interrogate one opponent by using his Search cards.

When playing a One Element card, a player asks how many gem cards that player holds that contains that specific element. The number is revealed to all. With a Two Element card, the detective may ask any player to PASS all gem cards held that match those two elements. The number of cards is announced but only the detective can SEE the actual cards and record the information. The cards are then returned to the owning player. Free Choice cards are “wild”. They may be used as either a One or Two Element card. After the interrogation, the detective draws a new Search card to replace the one spent and play passes clockwise. (If you’re stuck with a handful of Search cards that don’t meet your needs, you can use a turn to discard your hand of four Search card and draw four new ones.)

When a player believes he has deduced the identity of the missing gem, he can declare it immediately without waiting for his turn. This is done by circling on the Information Sheet the missing gem. If wrong, that player is out (although he must still answer interrogation questions) and the game continues. If correct, that detective is the Master Detective and wins the game!

Virtually everyone has, at some time or another, played the classic game of Clue. Sleuth is different. No travelling from room to room, no dice rolling, no board. All of that extraneous stuff is removed. Sleuth is the distilled essence of that game. As a result, the game may be a little “dry” for some. Certainly, the “sweet spot” for play is 4 players. With more, the playing time significantly increases; with fewer, the deductive challenge is lessened. (To increase the challenge, variations are suggested: remove 2 or 3 gem cards and/or play so that no cards are passed between players.) Despite the Sherlock Holmes motif, any relationship between this game and the World’s Greatest Detective is purely coincidental.

In the genre of games demanding deductive reasoning, only a few occupy the upper level. Sleuth, created by Sid Sackson, is one of them. If you like the cerebral aspects of “crime solving”, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to recognize that “the game is afoot” once again when you are tracking down the missing gem with your favorite Sleuth. – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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Fall 2004 GA Report Articles

 

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