TableTopTakes: Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

TableTopTakes: Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game

You pick up your doughnut and wait for the coffee to brew. Soon you’re pouring over notes, looking up clues in the database, all while waiting on the lab to finish running their reports. Detective is a game where you get a chance to dig deep into cases and try and figure out the whole story of what is going on, while not using up too much time.

In Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, you are playing cooperatively as a team of detectives/investigators who are trying to solve a series of linked cases. But can you figure out the links between the cases, what information from previous cases will be useful, and how much, per case, should you dig into the big picture? To do this, you have to travel around from your Antares HQ to places like the Courthouse, Richmond PD, The Lab, or various places that are all at fieldwork. At these places you’ll look at cards which will allow you to investigate a crime scene, or talk to a witness, or get some reports run on various clues. Doing any of these things costs time, and you only have so much time during the day, 8 hours, to get your work done, or you can work overtime, but too much overtime and you become too stressed and the case wraps up. At the end of the case, when you think you’re ready, you answer a series of questions about what you found out.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is an advancement in deduction sorts of games where you have a pretty small deck of cards, 35 per case, that you’re going through, and with that, you probably will see around twenty of them per case. So you are only getting a limited amount of information. With that said, there’s so much more beyond just those 35 cards, there’s the whole Antares database that you’ll be using a lot as well. This will have records of interviews you’ve done with witnesses, larger descriptions of crime scenes, or clues, police reports on people or old cases, ways to tie fingerprints together to determine who was at the crime scene. The Antares database is a website that is set-up by Portal Games that they can add new cases to whenever they want. This means for expansions they can add in new cases, redo the look of the database for the time period, or do whatever they want with it. How extensive the database is, is really cool. And it adds a lot of depth and theme to the game. You also can even google some things on the cards to determine what some real events that are referenced actually were.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Out of the five cases in the base box, we’ve played three so far, and while the first two cases felt fairly similar, the third case felt extremely different. I won’t go into spoilers, but it’s fun to see how they can create different almost puzzles for you to solve in the game. Some of them you might be digging up larger parts of an old story that puts together a grand tale that is tying all the cases together. Or you may be diving back into a cold case to figure out why there was such a rush to get the case closed and to find out if there is more to it. Or you might be in a highly time sensitive situation where you’re racing against the clock to stop some bad event from happening. All of them are possible in the game, and it feels like there is even more room to expand.

I do want to talk some about the thematic immersion in the game. I’ll start out by saying that of the three cases that we’ve done, two of them have taken three hours or just a little bit longer, the last one took just about two and a half hours. So this is a pretty long game for something that just have 35 cards per case. But the game is highly thematic, and you feel like you’re investigating to some extent. You’re looking through everything that’s going on, and you can see the threads come together, you’re taking notes and connecting things that seem like they might be separate because of a clue you find at a third location. And it’s not that the game is handing you those connections, you are having to use deductive reasoning to put two and two together and get the right answer. This game really has so much theme, and in fact, so much theme that you get immersed in discovering the story, not just “who done it” that you lose track of time. Each case doesn’t seem like a three hour chunk of time, because you’re puzzling over everything trying to figure out what is happening.

Finally, let’s talk about replayability. I would likely this to TIME Stories, where maybe, after a period of time, I’d be able to play it again, or if you wanted to see how good a job you could do you could play it again. But this game is not that replayable. You are solving a case, and once you know the solution you need to forget it to really be able to play it again, and I think unless five years have passed or more, I’m probably going to have my memory jogged by starting the case again and be able to take an ideal path. My thoughts, because we’re playing in a group of three, is that I might run the game again for another group, be in charge of the cards, like I am now, so that people can’t accidentally spoil themselves, but just sit back and watch someone else enjoy the experience. With that said, there is a Season 1 implementation of this coming out, there is the LA Crimes expansion for this, and there is a Dig Deeper expansion coming out as well, so there’s going to be added content for it, and for the amount of time that you’re playing each case, and the enjoyment from it, I think the base game is very much worth the value.

Overall, I love this game. I know some people won’t like the fact that is uses a screen, but that adds in a ton for the thematic element. Because even though I don’t love procedural cop shows on TV like CSI or Law & Order, Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game has that feel and when you’re the detective and heavily involved in trying to figure out who committed the crime or even how multiple cases tie together, it is so much fun, and the Antares database adds so much to that feel. This is a great thematic experience, and while the questions at the end can seem random if you chased a few red herrings, the story throughout the cases has been crafted extremely well.

Is this a game that you’ve tried, do you enjoy it? Is it something that seems interesting to you?

Gamer Grade: A
Casual Grade: B
Overall Grade: A-

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