Beyond the Box Cover – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

Beyond the Box Cover – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

Now I was tempted to just go straight into a TableTopTakes review of Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game because the first case lasted about three hours, but I do want to get another case under my belt before I do that, just to see how the experience really repeats with a new case.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is a card driven and website assisted mystery game from Portal Games. In it you are a team of former detectives, FBI analysts, and others related to law enforcement who are trying their best to solve a series of related cases to the best of their ability. You do this by looking up clues on the Antares Database, reading information off a cards, and researching history of real world events and things that are tied together with the case.

Some light spoilers to come just in the general plot. In the first case you are tasked with figuring out where a golden watch came from that showed up at an Auction house near Richmond, Virginia, that was stolen from Poland during the Nazi occupation. Obviously, Poland is interested in getting this watch back, and the team at Antares has been been tasked with tracking the history of the watch back from when it was stolen by a German name Blutholz to how it ended up in the hands of a petty criminal Rupert Owens.

It gives you a few leads, a few things to look up in the database as you can look up Kurt Blutholz to see what you have on him and then Rupert Owens in the Antares database as well. That is going to give you more leads as you can push further into various lines of questioning, checking out the watch in question and taking it to the lab for testing to be done on it, or even checking out things like Rupert Owens law firm when you interview Rupert to see where he got the watch from. From there is branches out even further and you’re given more and more options to do, so many in fact that you won’t get through all 35 cards, guaranteed, because you’ll run out of time. And you can push yourself and work overtime, but that means that you’re going to dock points at the end of the game when you answer questions and get scored by Antares.

Let’s talk about that a little, is the end game good? There’s no card that says, congratulations, you’ve figured everything out. There’s no final bit of information that is going to make everything click into place, and in fact, you probably are going to hit a point where you just know you won’t be getting everything and you’ll have to guess, or not answer questions at the end with any level of confidence. Is that okay for a game like this or does it lessen the enjoyment level? For me, I personally thought it worked just fine. We weren’t given unlimited time to find information and to track the provenance of the watch, this was an attempt to get ahead of information coming out about how it ended up in the US, that was it. So the time constraint made it work well.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

The next big thing is the blend of technology and cards, which I think generally worked quite well. They tell you not to rush through the cards, and I don’t think that we did much of that, but we did a little bit of it, and that probably hurt us in the end. We were also doing this in May of 2020 in Minnesota with a Shelter at Home order, so we were playing via Zoom. I think that’s certainly possible that it made it a bit more difficult than if it had been in person. But I don’t think it was massively more difficult. We were able to share screens and I could hold up cards and other things so that the other players could more easily see them on camera. It required that the person with the game, myself, had to repeat what leads were more often, but that wasn’t an issue of the game itself, it was more just a situation from having to play via zoom.

I want to touch on the length of the game. The first case, we got through it in about two hours and forty-five minutes or so, maybe a little bit less. We went through probably slightly faster than you are supposed to go through everything, but I think that it worked just fine to do that. And I don’t think that the time is an issue in this game. It took us almost three hours, and I was engaged the whole time and didn’t realize it was nearly as late as it was when we wrapped up. I would have guessed a couple of hours because my old fashioned was gone and had been for a little bit, but beyond that, time moved by really quickly. I have to give credit to Portal Games for creating such an engaging game, the story was well put together, we got a lot of the information, but not all of it that we needed, and we felt, for the most part, that we didn’t go down too many rabbit trails. And the fact that the five cases in the core box tie together is amazing. In the first case we got an additional four cards to add to other cases that could help us then.

Finally, replayability is going to be a question about this game. Is it worth it for five cases at three hours per case, is there value in getting the game, or can cases be replayed? Now, I think if you wanted to min/max your score, you certain could play again. With that said, a case is not extremely replayable, at least not in rapid succession. I could see playing it again as the case runner where I’m handling the cards, reading out information, and answering questions about the game in general, but I don’t think I could sit down and replay the case answering stuff myself and tracking down a particular order for quite some time. So that is a negative to the game. However, this game as an event with a group of friends works really well, and it depends on if you want a game that maybe doesn’t offer as much experience in the story and deduction as this does but that you can replay again and again. For me the experience just through one case has been very much worth it.

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