In the footsteps of Sherlock

Written by Benjamin Seibert and Florian Lutik

High ratings for “Tatort” prove that the Swiss are crime lovers and love investigation. But it is not only on television or in novels that a passion for espionage can be pursued. Publishers also chose direction and brought board games to the market where the goal is to track down the culprit. True to her motto: “Killing is her hobby” – even on her living room table.

“We feel at home in crime fiction, because you know what you’re getting yourself into. “It’s less abstract than other games and less intense in the rules,” says Stefan Kessler, for whom crime games are a true passion. The 42-year-old German teacher has published the crime game as the author (“Ausspiel!”) and offers crime games he designed for larger groups for download on the Internet.

“Crime games are juvenile games.”

As early as 1985, the critics’ jury voted “Sherlock Holmes – Criminal Cabinet” of the year, and “Tatort Nachtexpress” received a special award in 1987. But the matches were almost ahead of their time at that time. Crime games have made a big boom after about 30 years. Today they are very fashionable and guarantee interesting and atmospheric evenings.

As a blogger and podcaster, Stefan Kessler is nicknamed “Krimimaster”. He likes crime games very much because they combine two of his favorite genres: one is stories and the other is deduction, i.e. derivation of knowledge or combination. “Games are often collaborative: this creates a great sense of community. Crime games are event games. These are unforgettable nights.”

For the experts and jurors of Game of the Year, a good crime game should, above all else, “create an authenticity that I really feel this is real. It should give you the feeling: I am now a private investigator or a policeman.”

Film buffs: “City of Angels”
Even the huge box of 3.5 kilograms is impressive. Filled with nine cases, the game transports you to Los Angeles in the 1940s. The game can be played against each other, alone or cooperatively. In the main mode, one person takes on the role of the master of the game – called “The Poke” – and the others, as rival police officers, try to be the first to discover the culprit, motive, and murder weapon. The interrogation of suspects is exciting. A tip for more flair: Synopses and epilogues for atmospheric crime stories are also available as audio files, with voice actor Oliver Rorbeck (“The Three???”).

For ‘Cluedo’ fans: ‘Unhappy guests’
Woodruff Walton was killed on his property – players must find out who did it, with what motive and with what weapon the murder. The principle looks similar to the classic “Cluedo”, but ensures more interaction: cards with clues are exchanged with each other, so that everyone slowly collects more and more information. If you want to solve the problem, you can enter your information into an optional application and you won’t get out even if you make a wrong guess. In the game there are 39 cases with different combinations of solutions and increasing levels of difficulty.

Card players: “Sherlock”
Crime for Your Pocket: There are 32 card clues in each case, but there are also a lot of wrong paths. Together, analysts try to determine what happened. Everyone decides whether to reveal their information publicly or ignore it without being seen by others. The deck must collect at least six cards on the trash heap. Not all cases are completely compelling, but at least they are amusing crime fodder in between.

For children: “The Detective: The Crime Board Game”
The game, which was nominated for “Kennerspiel des Jahres 2019”, takes a lot of time – one of the five consecutive instances of the base game can take three or four hours. But for reflection, the investigative team is rewarded with a deep story. Each day (the game round), all the members of the Antares Authority have to decide together which leads to follow, which suspects to question and what to dispense with due to lack of time. Because beware the extra work, it causes stress, just like in real life as a detective. A self-generated mind map on a pin board can be a good help. With a search database on the Internet, “Detective” perfectly connects the analog and digital worlds. The story blends fantasy and real events.

For families: “Redcliffe Bay Mysteries”
If Detective is too strong for you, you should take a look at Mysteries of Redcliffe Bay. Set in a 19th century English seaside town, the game is more accessible and shorter in time. Simple rules and well-crafted tutorial case make it easy for beginners to get started. Day by day, hour by hour, the team must decide which site to visit. In this way, one piece of information or the other passes through the interrogators. The lovingly curated family game of four is perfect on a Sunday afternoon.

For real detectives: “iDventure: Detective Stories” and “Hidden Games: Tatort”
Open the package and get started right away: documents, photos, invoices and more are scattered all over the table – after an introduction, the investigators must collaboratively gather the large amount of information and solve the case. Unlike the award-winning Exit series, which is one mystery after another, series like Detective Stories and Hidden Games look like real-life police work for advanced crime buffs. In doing so, technology is always intelligently integrated.

For those interested in technology: “Crime Records”
If you don’t want to pick up your cell phone or tablet while solving a puzzle together, you are in the wrong place with Crime Records. QR codes must be scanned on maps with clues, people and places, and the crime story can be experienced in an app. Eye-catching is a pair of simple 3D glasses that are placed on a cell phone and used to look around a crime scene. Some extensions have already been released.

For children: “Damn it!”
Which of the sixteen foxes stole the golden egg? In Kids Cutters game, the investigative poultry team has to use dice to search for suspects and collect clues. The fox scanner helps here: the offender’s card is hidden in a masterful trick. Information tiles with accessories like hat, watch, scarf, etc. can be placed in respite. Then it becomes clear whether the offender is wearing these accessories or not. Before the fox escapes, as many suspicious foxes as possible must be eliminated and the offender found guilty. Also exciting for parents.

For audiobook lovers: “Echoes”
Not a classic detective game, but here too, all players slip into the role of detectives. They have a special gift: they can hear purported past echoes on objects – like conversation scraps or noises. To do this, item cards are scanned using an application. This then plays the associated audio file. The investigators have to put the audio excerpts in the correct order in order to correctly reconstruct the individual chapters first and then the occult stories. It is also good to play on the sofa.

Scary: “Nightmare: The Thriller Game”
Even the subtitle “Find the killer before he finds you!” In fact, it says it all: only superficially, it’s all about solving a horrific murder case 15 years ago on an old estate. This real-time game focuses on the suspense and the scary factor. Excitement is almost guaranteed in this unique event. The game works best with exactly five people, so each person plays a different role in the family clan. Even if the story has room for improvement, the effects of horror and big surprise are compelling and blazing. A laptop or tablet is a must.

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