My in-laws enjoy playing board games when The Wife and I come to visit. Last night, with my brother-in-law around, we had five for dinner and games. So the game of choice was Clue.
They have a classic game — the original issue that was published in the U.S. in 1949. The graphics on the board are very old and charmingly antiquated, and they have all the pieces of the game still, except for the “lead pipe” piece. This apparently caused my mother-in-law some amount of distress; she didn’t want to use a broken toothpick to substitute for the weapon, so we went to Wal-Mart and got a new game.
To our surprise, the publishers have changed the game considerably. There are more cards, more possible murder weapons, a better vision of the kinds of rooms one would expect in a rich person’s house in the early twenty-first century (we really don’t have conservatories any more, so a spa seems a much better substitute) and some interesting variants on the rules like unique abilities for each player and the possibility of being eliminated. It’s actually a better game with the updates. But we kept on using the old character names out of habit; even though the new character “Jack Mustard” is supposed to be a former football player, for instance, we kept calling him “Colonel Mustard” anyway.
Clue is not a fun game for two people. But when you get a larger group of people, the information becomes disseminated completely enough between a lot of people, and passed around parsimoniously enough, that the dynamic of the game becomes engaging and enjoyable. Tracking the questions and answers, without knowing for sure why different people are wrong, is where the real enjoyment comes from. The new game keeps that dynamic while injecting a larger degree of luck as well as methods to neutralize bad luck or to underline good luck.
It’s also a good choice for us to not play Scrabble. Too competitive.