*Brrrrrrrring!* The alarm blares throughout the gilded hallways of the museum, red lights begin to flash and steel gates descend from the ceiling… There’s been a robbery!
In Museum Suspects 1-4 players take on the roles of detectives working to uncover who has stolen a precious artefact from the museum. Can you uncover the suspect's identity, or have they already made good their escape?
24 Suspect tiles
1 Escape tile
32 Clue cards
48 Investigation tokens
4 Investigator tokens (A, B, C, D)
As with all Blue Orange games Museum Suspects is a well put together package. Everything looks fantastic, the art is delightful, with each suspect being unique and incredibly characterful.
I also love the design choices here, each suspect tile looks like a polaroid photograph, while the tracking sheets are actually designed to look and feel like a detective's notebook.
The rulebook looks like a meaty tome, but it is multilingual so the actual rules are only four pages long and do a good job of explaining the gameplay.
One minor usability issue that came up multiple times with the groups I played with was the concept of orientation. There are many clue cards in the game that refer to grid positions, each of these does have an indicator at the top to show which way they are orientated but still players were confused. I don’t know that there is a good fix for this, other than placing all players on the same side of the table though.
A Quick Overview
To set up a game of Museum Suspects players shuffle each of the eight stacks of clue cards and deal one of each type into a facedown pile which is also then shuffled. The suspect tiles are shuffled and dealt into a 4 x 4 grid. The clue cards are dealt next to the grid. The players are then each given a handful of investigation tokens numbered from 1-6 and a notepad.
On their turn each player must first choose a clue to view, if the clue already has an investigation token on it, they must have a token of equal or higher value in their supply in order to view that clue. After they view the clue they must place an investigation token of equal or higher value on the card than any already there.
They must then place a second investigation token on one of the suspects or on the exit tile indicating they believe that the suspect already escaped.
After six rounds the game ends and the clue cards are revealed. Each of the clues will eliminate a certain number of suspects. Once all clues are resolved the remaining suspects are the culprits and players score points equals to the tokens they placed on those suspects. If no-one remains after resolving the clues then the tokens placed on the exit tile will score instead. The player with the most points is the winner of the game.
Museum Suspects has a really clever central system for randomising the potential suspect, in as much as it always works. Sometimes it's multiple people, sometimes it's no-one but in our games usually a single suspect was generated and it's never, like, 6 different people. It's obviously cleverly worked out with mathematics but I like that you don't have a set series of puzzles with a solution and a particular set up, you just shuffle and go and it works.
However, while the presentation is beautiful and artwork is charming, Museum Suspects is just not for me. Phil Walker Harding has a reputation in the gaming industry for taking a concept and distilling it down to its essence, making his games uniquely simple and approachable. However Museum Suspects should be a deduction game but it isn't really.
Over the course of the game each player at the table will unlock 6 out of 8 pieces of information and usually this will leave you with one or two suspects. You didn't deduce anything, you just crossed off known information, there's no thought needed, you can't infer information or use logical reasoning.
If, instead of randomising the clue cards at the start of the game, they were laid out so you knew which aspect the clue was related to, then you could make informed choices based on which suspects you had left. For example, if you only had two suspects remaining but they were wearing different hats you could choose to see the hat clue. Instead you see clues basically at random and may get zero information.
You are also forced to continue viewing clues even if you think you know whodunnit, instead of being able to spend your remaining point tokens doubling down on your suspect.
And because of all of this, for me, Museum Suspects feels completely random. You are forced to make guesses early, expending points when you don't have enough information while late game the information you pay your points for could be completely useless.
The system attempts to give players agency by allowing them to set the value of a clue but you're also losing those points yourself and given that seeing any 6 of the 8 clues will put you close to the answer, it feels like you're just wasting points inflating the cost of a clue card.
So then, if it's not a deduction game, it's a betting game? But you're forced to bet before you have enough information, so you're just doing it at random and once you do have enough information, so does everyone else so it just comes down to who guessed best soonest.
What did others think?
Dave - "Fun little game, nice artwork and pleasant to play. Easy-ish to get the correct suspect, but getting the most points is more challenging."
Museum Suspect is beautifully produced, gorgeous to look at and quick and easy to play. However, as a deduction game, I found this one missed the mark, lacking meaningful decisions and agency and relying more on luck than skill.
A review copy of Museum Suspects was provided by Coiledspring Games