Sunday, April 03, 2005

Review: Sleuth

Back in 1967 Sid Sackson created a little card game called Sleuth. Since then, Sleuth has been printed all over the world. Until recently it was out of print but this last year Face 2 Face games reprinted it and the world can once again enjoy this classic deduction game.

Sleuth's rules are very simple. There are two decks of cards: the gem deck and the search deck. The gem deck contains 36 cards, each containing one combination of color, gem and style. The four colors are red, yellow, blue and green. The three gems are diamonds, opals and pearls. The three styles are solitaires, pairs and clusters.

At the beginning of the game, both decks are shuffled and one gem is removed from the gem deck. Then the rest of the gem cards are dealt to the players. Players mark on their tally sheets which gems they have and which gems they have seen throughout the game.

Each player is dealt four cards from the search deck. Each card represents a line of questioning. For example, one card might let you ask one player how many diamonds she has. Another card might let you ask a player to show you all of his opal clusters.

Play progresses with each player using one of his search cards to interrogate one of the other players and then drawing a new search card to replace the one he used. As soon as someone thinks they know what the missing gem is, they mark it on their sheet and take a look. If they're right then they win the game, but if they're wrong then they've lost and can only answer questions for the rest of the game.

Clearly, Sleuth has some similarities to the old standard Clue, but it distils the deduction genre down to its essence and it's a far more elegant and satisfying game. It's also a much more difficult game than Clue. I highly recommend it.


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