13 Clues Board Game Review (CMON)


It looks like Clue, but it's really a puzzle of deduction and elimination. In 13 Clues, each player has a set of items in front of them: weapon, person, and location. Though they can see the items in front of everyone else, they cannot see their own. They can ask questions of other players, investigate excluded items, and make guesses -- that's it. Through the course of the game, players race to figure out what's in front of them faster than the others. 13 Clues takes a fairly old deduction mechanic and dresses it up with attractive art, set pieces, and a refreshing theme.

Game Details

Players: 3 to 6

Game Time: 30 Minutes

Age: 14+

Genre: Deduction

How is 13 Clues Played?

"What if we just took Clue and shoved it into a guessing game?" was probably the premise here. At the beginning of the game, you draw a weapon, person, and location. You then draw two random cards. You select a weapon, person, and location from that stack, and you place it in the holder of the person to the left of you. This means that everyone has a random set.

The streets of London have been overrun with crime. Scotland Yard is at their wit’s end, and they need the assistance of a master detective.

Everyone has a useful little elimination tracker. From the outset, you can eliminate anything that you see. You can then ask questions, such as "How many men do you see?" "How many ranged weapons do you see?" "How many purple cards do you see?" But that's complicated by the fact that each player still has two cards behind their screen (remember, they drew a total of five). You're simultaneously trying to figure out what you have and trying to figure out what everyone else has.

How Does 13 Clues Look?

13 Clues is a hodgepodge of borrowed mechanics, but that's just fine. Not only is the art clear and attractive, but they didn't use dry erase markers! It's come to the point where I'll simply refuse to purchase any game that comes with a dry erase anything; the markers last one game session, maximum, and the dry erase board always becomes a smudged mess. Instead, 13 Clues has an exorbitant number of tear off paper sheets, and for that I thank them.

13 Clues imparts information well. Its art is serviceable and makes it easy to setup the game; every slot is clearly marked and distinguished. It's an attractive game and easily read.

What's in the Box?
30 Clue Cards * 6 Hiding Screens * 6 Pencils * 1 Pad of Casebook Pages * 8 Magnifying Glass Tokens * 8 Letter Tiles * 6 Top Secret Tokens * 1 Rulebook

How Does 13 Clues Feel?

13 Clues has a "give a token" mechanic, in which the actions you take either give tokens to whatever player doesn't have tokens, or the player to the left. You can take as many actions as you have tokens for, but no more than that. This keeps the game going, as no player is ever without actions, while also making it more of a strategic decision regarding whether you might want to burn a guess.

The game starts slowly and then rapidly becomes tense, as everyone begins to get close to their answer at the same time. There's no penalty for guessing multiple times, so the last few rounds included a lot of blind guessing and hope. In terms of strategy, players had to try to gauge how close other players were to guessing their answers, in terms of whether they wanted to keep guessing or keep eliminating possible answers.

With a play time of only about 30 minutes, 13 Clues is a solid game for those who like deductive reasoning and logic games. Be forewarned that there's not much else there: it's purely a logic game, and not a very complex one at that. (There is an additional variant, however, that includes "top secret" tokens.)

13 Clues Board Game Review
  • PRO: A strong entry into deduction game mechanics, with casual play and attractive art.
  • PRO: A good price point, at $30.00 MSRP, with high quality game pieces and simple setup.
  • CON: Probably not infinitely replayable, as the mechanics are fairly light.