Updated: Sep 12, 2019
A man dies in suspicious circumstances and you think nothing of it until a package arrives on your doorstep containing a notebook, a dossier of receipts and surveillance photos and a letter begging you to look below the surface and find the truth behind who killed Joseph Bremer.
Detective Stories from IDventure is a new detective experience in a box. Each scenario will provide you with a new case to solve. Unlike in other detective games you simply play as yourself and you can play with others or on your own. In case one, a journalist, Carl Notebeck, has sent you a series of clues he has gathered pertaining to the death of Joseph Bremer in a house fire. Carl believes the fire to not be an accident but is on the run from the police and so has asked you to solve the case.
In the box you will find a series of clues. In this particular box we had some photos, newspaper clippings, part of a bracelet, a letter, a notebook, a page of a diary, a matchbook, a crumpled piece of paper and a dossier containing around 25 other items of evidence.
Detective Stories doesn’t use artwork, instead the items you are given are “real” or at least a simulation of real, for example the newspaper clippings are formatted to look like clippings but are actually printed and cut out of paper. The pictures in the game, such as photos of suspects are actual photos of real people.
In this way Detective Stories makes you feel like you are actually doing some detective work as you sift through papers and receipts and even a medical prescription. The game uses physical props, which you can examine for clues, holding them in your hands and manipulating them in case information is hidden in unusual places.
It also uses real world websites, such as a photo storage website and you can even search for clues on a suspect's Facebook page. This aspect of the game does have its drawbacks though as some players might not have access to these sites or to the internet or, as happened with our play through, Facebook might be down that day. Yep we literally played on the worst possible day when Facebook could not display images. We did still solve the case correctly but this case and possibly others do require an active internet connection to complete.
How Does It Play?
Detective Stories drops you straight into the action, a single page explaining a few essential facts and a list of suspects is all the exposition you’re going to get. After that you’re on your own, there are no rules, other than you should try to eliminate all the suspects, until you are left with only one possible answer. When you have that answer you will follow the link set out in the game description and see if you were correct. If you got the right answer the website will show you the exonerating evidence for each suspect and you can check if you were right or not.
The game plays out as quickly or as slowly as you’d like, there’s no time limit and no set order in which you must do things. We played fairly leisurely with two players over the course of two hours. The publisher recommends that the game can be played in as little as 90 minutes and with up to 5 players.
Detective Stories doesn’t feel like a board game, it’s an activity that you can bring out with a small gathering of friends as something to pass the time with as you enjoy a glass of wine and a tray of nibbles. While it does give you the feeling of sifting through evidence, it never felt sexy or exciting like a TV procedural, it felt more mundane than that. It also didn’t feel too taxing, with the exception of the cipher which if anything felt a bit too complex.
Some of the evidence required a matching piece which would then unlock the evidence and allow you to eliminate a suspect, while others could be eliminated by simply reading everything carefully. The solution is not hard to find, you just have to be methodical and eliminate all the suspects.
We had fun. It was an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. The writing is a little corny at times, with people writing letters in a way that no person would ever do in real life but putting that aside Detective Stories produced a very pleasant, co-operative, logical thinking evening.
However, the problem, I think, is going to be the price. IDventures has quoted me 25 euros for the first case, which is £22.50 at time of going to press. This strikes me as a little too expensive for the games market right now. For a two hour experience that you cannot play a second time Detective Stories is more expensive than most other games of this style. For example Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game retails around £40 but provides 5 cases each with a playing time between 2 and 3 hours. The Unlock series provides 3 adventures for £20, Chronicles of Crime has 5 episodes for £25 and of course Sherlock Consulting Detective provides 10 scenarios for around £40.
The good thing is that playing Detective Stories doesn’t destroy any of the game components so when you’re done you can pop it all back in the box and hand it off to a friend to play, which is exactly what I did.
So, if you are looking for a one-off game to enjoy with a group of friends who aren’t necessarily gamers then Detective Stories might be the experience for you. The game is a pleasant experience that combines the use of real world props with an unfolding narrative to create a gentle puzzle for you to solve over a couple of hours and a bowl of chocolate swiss rolls. However if you’re looking for value for money then there are plenty of alternative detective experiences on the market right now that will give you more banh for your buck.
Detective Stories from IDventure will be released in the UK on September 1st 2019. This review is based on a pre-release copy provided by IDventure.