Review – Suspects

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Designer Guillaume Montiage

Artist Émile Denis

Publisher Studio H

Category Mystery Solving

Length ~2-3 hours per case

Release Date 2021 (US version in 2022)

Player Count 1-6

Suspects is a cooperative, episodic game of solving criminal cases. Players represent Claire Harper, an adventurous young investigator bent on piecing together answers and bringing the guilty parties to justice! Do you have what it takes, gumshoe?

Spoiler Note

This review is largely spoiler-free, but for the sake of illustration, it includes images of several items from the first case. These images shouldn’t give anything away, but consider this a disclaimer/warning.

Review

I’m no stranger to mystery-solving games, and I always enjoy trying new ones when they come out. Suspects, from publisher Studio H, is a recent one in which players work together to solve murders over 3 distinct episodes/scenarios.

Each case is driven by a scenario-specific deck of cards, as well as an introduction that sets the stage and 2 supporting documents that players find along the way.

At the beginning of each case, players read the introduction and examine the questionnaire, which they will complete as the game goes on. Unlike some “whodunit” games like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, in which players don’t know the questions until the end, Suspects gives players all the questions right from the get-go. This is important, because players need not wait to record their answers. Their score is determined by how quickly they can answer the questions correctly.

A correct answer is worth the maximum 5 points if players figure it out by the time they draw their 30th clue card. It is worth 4 points if they get it by their 45th card, and 3 points thereafter. A wrong answer, naturally, is worth nothing.

The game ends when players run through the entire deck. At this time, they check the solution card, which is kept in a secret envelope, and score their answers based on when during the investigation they knew things.


I’m always excited to try new mystery-solving games, and Suspects is in the higher echelon of the genre. It’s not as sprawling a narrative as, say, Sherlock Holmes or Mythos Tales, but its relative minimalism helps to keep things focused. Whereas Sherlock is heavy on literary storytelling—sometimes to the detriment of the experience—Suspects is more of an actual sleuthing exercise. Players can focus on the mystery at hand without getting sidelined by a half-page of rambling text.

I like that this game gives players the option to record hunches. They can always change their answers later, but if an early-game hunch turns out to be correct, their score will be better as a result. Story-wise, Suspects has fewer red herrings than many mystery games, which I personally enjoy. (Sherlock Holmes has so many that the stories can easily become bloated and frustrating.)

This game uses a very clever system of linking cards. Suspects often have colored lines on the side of their cards, and these lines can link up to item cards, as shown above, to determine if an item fits with a suspect.

The notion of working through a deck of clue cards to solve a puzzle makes me think of the Unlock! series. Suspects is not an escape-room game, but it seems to draw inspiration from them; it’s a nice blend of classic mystery games and modern escape-room mechanisms (e.g. go to this location, talk to that person, etc.). As with most mystery games, Suspects can’t well be replayed once completed, but it can be passed on to a friend to try.

The production of this game is pretty minimal, but what it does have works well. The art is clean and evocative, and the supporting documents help to draw players into the game’s world like the newspapers in Sherlock Holmes. Game sessions tend to last a couple of hours, so it is a satisfying way to spend an evening (or 3, as there are 3 cases in the box).

Overall, I really enjoyed Suspects, and I’m excited to see future installments of this series. Fans of puzzle and/or mystery games should check this one out—with streamlined play and engaging cases, tabletop sleuths should have fun with it.

A review copy was provided by Hachette Boardgames.

The Bottom Line

Suspects is in the higher echelon of mystery-solving games. It is more focused than the sprawling narratives of Sherlock Holmes/Mythos Tales, and its 3 cases are each fun and engaging. Recommended for fans of "whodunit" games.

 

8.0

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.