- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 20 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Bluffing and Misdirection
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Find the thief before the other detectives do to prove your deduction skills
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
Places of culture and antiquity are true treasures. These collections of great art and artifacts are lovely, cared for, and displayed for all to observe, wonder about, and enrich their understanding of the world. For some, however, looking and learning isn’t enough. They must possess that which is behind glass and bar. They do it for the thrill and the money, for priceless artwork is genuinely a concern for an elite few with the funds to pay the thief for their trouble. That’s why it’s up to you, detective, to find the culprit who stole from the local museum. Find them, and you find the stolen goods. Are you clever enough to catch the thief? I hope so because time is short!
Museum Suspects, designed by Phil Walker-Harding and published by Blue Orange Games, is comprised of 24 Suspect tiles, one Exit tile, 32 Clue cards, 48 Investigation tokens, four Investigator tokens, four notepads, and four small pencils. The game component quality is excellent, with thick cardboard tiles and durable cards. Throwing in the small pencils is a nice touch to help players get into the game immediately. Just be sure to have a pencil sharpener handy if needed. Illustrations by Maxime Sarthou are bright and detailed, bringing the many occupants (and suspects) of the museum to life.
Preparing for a Night at the Museum
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, find and place the Emergency Exit tile off to one side. We’ll come back to this tile in a moment.
Second, shuffle the remaining Suspect tiles and deal them out to create a four-by-four grid for a total of 16 Suspect tiles. This grid represents each room of the museum and the one suspect per room that was kept for questioning. Any Suspect tiles not dealt should now be returned to the game box.
Third, take the Clue cards and divide them by type. This is quickly done by looking at the face of the Clue cards and dividing and placing like-colored Clue cards into a stack. Eight Clue card types detail clothing, the suspects’ physical traits, and rooms. Once each Clue card is divided into unique types, flip them back over and shuffle each separately. Now deal one of each type to a new pile, creating a small deck of eight cards. Shuffle this new deck and deal one Clue card face-down to the left and right of each row in the grid. Any Clue cards not used are returned to the game box.
Fourth, give each player one pencil and one notepad. Each notepad includes a list of types and a four-by-four grid. This is where players will mark off the information they find during the game to help them determine who the suspect is. But, of course, each player must keep the information they discover a secret!
Fifth, give each player one Investigator token and the 12 Investigation tokens that match the color of the player’s Investigator token. Players can organize their Investigation tokens however they like, but they should remain face-down once given. Players may look at their unplayed Investigation tokens whenever they want but should keep the values of each of the tokens hidden from their opponents. All tokens not used should now be returned to the game box.
Sixth, take the Emergency Exit tile (We haven’t forgotten about that tile, have we?) and place it above the four-by-four grid.
This completes the game setup. Time to find the thief!
Information and Misdirection
Museum Suspects is played in rounds and turns for six rounds. During each round, the player will take a turn that will help them learn more about the possible suspect or suspects still in the museum (maybe) that is the likely thief. I say “maybe” because the thief may have already left the crime scene! A typical game turn is summarized here. Good luck, detective!
Step One: Investigate a Clue
A player first investigates one of the eight Clue cards that they have not yet taken the time to inspect. At the start of the game, all the Clue cards are free of any Investigation tokens. Whenever a player secretly looks at the Clue card, they must pay for the information it contains by spending one Investigation token.
- If there are no tokens currently on the Clue card, the player may first look at the Clue card and then must select any Investigation token value they like, placing it on top of the Clue card with the number facing upward for all to see.
- If the Clue card does have an Investigation token, the player must first place one of their Investigation tokens of an equal or greater value than the highest-valued Investigation token currently on the Clue card. If they can, they may then look at the Clue card. If they cannot, the Clue card cannot be viewed.
After paying for the Clue card, the player then opens their notepad and marks down the information the clue provided. All clues are “negative,” meaning that what is shown on the Clue card is no longer true. For example, if the Clue card shows a tail, the player should mark off the tail image on their notepad. Similarly, if the Clue card indicates several squares in the grid, the player should mark them off on their notepad. In both cases, this information gives the player insight into who the suspects might be based on what remains “true” (at the moment) as recorded on their notepad.
Players who cannot pay for a Clue card during their turn skip this step.
Player Note: This game is as much about finding information as it’s about misleading others in thinking of what you know. Each player competes with the other and has limited time and resources to determine who the suspect is. So, when you reveal a Clue card, put on that Poker face and make sure your opponents don’t get any free information from you! However, you should also be crafty. Make suggestions like “this is a great clue!” or “well, that’s not helpful” to confuse your would-be competition. You can also use the Investigation tokens to suggest the value of a Clue is important or not.
Step Two: Suggest a Suspect
The player now reviews their notepad and determines what they know based on the clues they have collected. Given what they know, they must now indicate who they believe is a possible thief from the visible suspects. This is done by taking one of the Investigation tokens and placing it on the Suspect card found in the grid, face-down.
But hold up a moment.
Before you do so, players need to consider that their Investigation tokens are limited and the number values of each Investigation token are meaningful. The goal during this step of the player’s turn is one of two things, which is only known to the currently active player.
- Place an Investigation token number side face-down on a Suspect card that the player believes is the thief.
- Place an Investigation token number side face-down on a Suspect card they want their opponents to believe is a thief.
The differences here are not subtle. A significant part of the meta game of Museum Suspects is not just deduction but also manipulation of others. There are no rules here regarding bluffing and purposely putting red hearings in front of the player’s opponents. Feel free to be as noisy as you like when placing your Investigation token, distracting others. Just know one thing: once played, it’s locked, and the player will not be able to pick it up to look at or remove it. Investigation tokens are in short supply and a powerful resource. Use them wisely.
If you recall, there is also an Emergency Exit tile. The player may place their Investigation token on this tile if they believe or want their opponents to think that the thief has already left the museum, which is entirely possible.
This completes the player’s turn. The next player in the turn order sequence now takes their turn, starting with step one noted above.
The Game is Afoot!
The game continues with each player taking turns and the clues becoming more expensive, but it’s always worth the player’s time to dive deeper into the mystery. Finally, the game ends at the end of the sixth round, and the thief or thieves are revealed to be in the museum or have long since fled.
Turn each Clue card over one by one, revealing what information it contains. Then flip over the Suspect cards that the Clue card identifies either by physical characteristics or by room. These Suspect cards are free to go home, founding not to be the thief. Any Investigation tokens on the revealed Clue card and the flipped-over Suspect card are removed from the game.
Continue to flip over the Clue cards until all are revealed. When completed, there are three different possibilities.
- Only one Suspect tile remains. This is the thief! Count the total of each Investigation token owned by each player who placed on this Suspect tile. The player with the most points wins the game.
- Two or more Suspect tiles remain. It’s a gang of thieves! Count the total of each Investigation token owned by each player who placed on all of the Suspect tiles, plus one additional point for every Suspect tile they placed an Investigation token on. The player with the most points wins the game.
- No Suspect tiles remain. The thief escaped! Count the total of each Investigation token owned by each player who placed on the Emergency Exit tile. The player with the most points wins the game.
To learn more about Museum Suspects, visit the game’s webpage.
The Child Geeks had no difficulty learning how to play that game and jumped right into the investigation. We did have to remind a few of the Child Geeks when to show their Investigation tokens and when not to, and only a few times did we remind them not to spend Investigation tokens on Clue cards they had already revealed. Other than that, the only concern by the Child Geeks was correctly recording what the Clue card revealed in their notepad. However, this concern quickly dissipated when the Child Geeks found that it was nothing more than an easy exercise matching what the Clue card showed on their notepad. According to one Child Geek, “I liked the game a lot and thought it was much better than Clue. I felt like I was investigating and liked watching as the other players got excited as much as I!” Another Child Geek said, “I thought it was a fun game and liked how we all saw different things, but all had to make the same guesses.” When the thief was caught, the Child Geeks all proclaimed Museum Suspects a real winner.
The Parent Geeks also found the game to be entertaining and, best of all, engaging. According to one Parent Geek, “This might be a game playable by our youngest kids, but there is more than enough game here to challenge adults. A surprising level of thought into each play, and you need to watch the table closely to get even more information. I enjoyed it.” Another Parent Geek, just as eager to share their experience, said, “A great game! An entertaining whodunit that left me continually guessing who was the real thief and how much my opponents knew. It kept me super interested, and I was eager for the game to end, not because I was bored, but because I was so interested in finding out who the thief was!” When all the missing art had been returned, the Parent Geeks took a vote and found that Museum Suspects was a game well worth keeping on their table.
The Gamer Geeks were skeptical that a game for players as young as eight could be something of value to them. As I suspect, they played the game with preconceived notions and more than a few sarcastic comments as it was set up and played. Seldom are the Gamer Geeks wrong in their first impressions of a game, having played games for such a long time, they do seem to have an uncanny knack for judging a game accurately at a distance. In this case, they were wrong. They found Museum Suspects to be a genuinely entertaining game full of bluffing and deduction, watching the table closely, and trying to worm information out of their fellow players. According to one Gamer Geek, “I think this game plays at two levels. The first is the game that everyone sees and plays. You flip cards and record information. You learn more as you play, with what you have to guess being narrowed down. This is pretty uninteresting. Then there is the game behind the game, and that is where I fell in love with it. You are not just trying to catch a thief. You are trying to outthink and outwit your opponents. I liked this game aspect, and I hope others find it, as it takes the gameplay to new heights.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A good game. Surprised me. I would play this again as a filler without hesitation.” When the Gamer Geeks had completed their investigation, they found Museum Suspects guilty of being a great game.
Wow! What a surprise! I put this game on the table, thinking it would be a simple exercise of flipping over a card, writing something down, and then moving on. But, boy, was I wrong.
Like the Gamer Geeks, I made some gross assumptions. I was caught flatfooted when it became apparent that Museum Suspects was much more than what a casual glance provided. There is a real depth of play here, regardless of who you are playing with. You can learn a great deal from not only flipping over the Clue cards but also from your fellow players. Find their tells, watch how they look at the Suspect tiles, and how to determine which Investigation tokens to use. You can also determine – approximately – what values each player has left by reviewing what has been played on the Clue cards. Goodness, there is a lot of hidden information being provided! Never to a point where the smoking gun is put in your hand, but close for those who take the time to observe.
Best of all, this game was playable and enjoyed by all. Adults and kids played the same game, and we did not observe anything to suggest that either group had an advantage or disadvantage. The gameplay is perfectly balanced with the time it takes to complete the game itself. Everything moves at a natural and justifiable pace as the game informs the players and opponents misinform in turn. The mystery comes to a crashing conclusion at the end with an exciting reveal that not once ended in silence. There were always cheers, boos, muttered curse words, and high-fives. A great time was had by all.
Do try this mystery game full of deduction and bluffing. It truly is a game within a game and well worth your time. Investigate it at your leisure to deduce if it steals your heart.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.