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2019’s Best Mystery Board Games: 7 Curious Cases

August 26, 2019

What’s life without a little mystery?

Nothing at all!

Maybe that’s too nihilistic though. Mystery is great, and it comes in few forms as lovable as mystery board games.

Who are you? What’s that man doing here? Who are your friends? Who killed Professor Plum? Did he bleed plum juice when he got shot by Colonel Mustard’s condiment cannon?

The answer to all of these questions is “Yes.”

Would you like an explanation? You don’t get one!

This is a list of the best mystery board games. 7 of them, in fact. Why we chose 7 is a mystery to even us, but one thing is clear:

These games are awesome.

1. Mysterium

Have you ever wanted to host one of those ritzy whodunit parties?

One with a big murder mystery and a Beetlejuice-style seance?  

Only you know that the only people you can invite will arrive in unwashed shorts? And t-shirts that are too small and read, “Roll my Dice” on the front? 

Also, you know what? 

Whodunnit murder mysteries and seances are a lot of work, dang it! 

Who wants to go to all that trouble when you can just buy Mysterium instead? 

Mysterium is the perfect beverage to whet your murder mystery whistle. Have you ever played Dixit? Mysterium is basically just Dixit. 

Okay, that’s an oversimplification. However, Dixit is a really apt comparison. That’s because 1 player is the murder victim and the others are psychically gifted occultists.

The latter have all arrived at a haunted house to solve the nefarious mystery of the ghost’s death. 

You know ghosts though, right? 

Those guys are always forgetting things. Maybe they’re too busy being spooky, which we have to admit does seem rather like a full-time job.

The ghost player does not remember how he or she died. They only have vague impressions that they are able to deliver to players in the form of psychic flashbacks. 

In other words, cards. 

But not just any cards – really cool Dixi-style cards with surreal art, and full of beautiful clutter. 

Let’s say the ghost wants to indicate to a player that he or she was murdered by a fat chef with a large fork. They may do this by sending them a psychic vision that contains a plate of food and some silverware on the table. 

Of course, that vision will also feature any number of other random-ass things. Things like suits of armor, wilting flowers, or a collection of unanswered letters from your poor grandma. The one who keeps sending you the same VHS copy of Aristocats for your birthday every year.

So good luck picking out the exact thing the ghost wanted you to see on that card. 

This is just a surprising amount of fun though. You almost want to be permanently stumped so that you can rag on the ghost player after the game.

You showed me an old man in a wheelchair because were murdered with a stiff old block of cheddar cheese? 

Get ready to feel smug when you guess correctly though especially when the other players. 

2. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong 

Come on, more death-themed mystery games? 

Why can’t we ever solve mysteries like The Case of the Gentle Conversation That Resulted in a Polite Disagreement That was Ultimately Resolved by Years of Underlying Respectful Friendship?

Fine, more death and killing. Sure, here we go.

So in Deception, there’s been a murder. The players are investigators who must examine a series of clues. They’ll discuss among themselves how best to draw conclusions from the available evidence. 

One of these players is secretly the murderer.

This player is trying to lead the other investigators astray with faulty reasoning. Oh, a bloody knife? Someone probably just had a nosebleed. Also, let’s not analyze the DNA from that blood. Also, give me that knife.

One of the players will be a Forensic Scientist who knows the identity of the murderer. This player is not actually allowed to speak but will strive to lead investigators in the right direction. 

This game combines elements from some of the most successful hidden identity board games. Like Werewolf’s Orcale and Avalon’s Merlin. 

There’s no magic here though – it’s just straight-up noir crime scenes and paranoid investigators struggling to correctly interpret evidence. 

This is the next best thing to actually being in CSI, and there is no rule that requires you to play with Ted Danson – although you may house-rule Ted Danson’s participation. 

Tell us more about Ted Danson!

Well, keep in mind that there is an extremely long list of Deception players who want Ted Danson to wear sunglasses and play the game with them. He has yet to respond to any of these because he thinks he’s too good for Hong Kong. 

Sorry, we just have a long history with Ted, and it is clearly coming out in the form of passive-aggressive commentary in a list of mystery board games.

The moral of the story is to buy Deception, especially for that player in your group who doesn’t like hidden-identity games because they hate lying. 

You know who we’re talking about. They can just play the scientist every time, and that way they never have to be dishonest with other players.

Ted Danson enjoys being dishonest, so he would never volunteer for the specialist role.

3. Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space

As with most hidden identity board games, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space emphasizes the mystery of the other players’ identities. 

But in this game, there is an added element of mystery: Where the hell are the other players?

No one has arrived, and we’re already getting Cheeto dust on our fingers because we haven’t eaten and no one is stopping us from dipping our hands into this bowl. 

Just kidding – people always show up to our game nights on time because they know what happens if they cancel. 

In Escape, the added layer of mystery is that you have no idea where the other players are located on the game map.

You and the other players represent a series of crew members and mutant alien creatures aboard a pitch-black ship. The lights have been cut, so you have to rely on your little map and your sense of sound. 

How sound is represented

Sound is represented by cards that you draw whenever you want to move to a new location on the ship. Players will take their turns moving into sectors, where they will draw either a red or a green card at random.

If you end up drawing a green card, you may name a sector on the map in order to mislead your opponents. 

If you draw a red card, you must announce your actual location – this is delicious news to the players who are secretly aliens and want nothing more than to devour the muscular thighs that you have been carefully exercising in the ship’s gym.

Escape is a marvel of efficiency in board gaming. A few dry-erase booklets, some markers, and a deck of cards are all you need to undertake sci-fi battle of wits with great replayability.

4. Fury of Dracula

For an extremely similar and equally cool mystery board game, we have Letters from Whitechapel on another list. 

For now, we’re going to talk about Fury of Dracula, the open-identity hidden location mystery board game. It is probably 666 times more accessible than Bram Stoker’s meandering novel about repressed Victorian sexuality.

In any case, Keanu Reeves is not in it, which makes it at least a 7/10 Dracula experience. Fury of Dracula is, all things considered, a 10/10 Dracula experience. It pits Van Helsing, Mina, Seward, and Arthur Holmwood against a pale man who likes to creep into women’s bedrooms at night. 

Jonathan Harker is not in this game. Probably because when he encounters vampires, he tends to become either uncomfortably sexually aroused or fall out of a castle window. Perhaps even both at the same time. 

But as Dracula sows seeds of vampirism, cult thuggery, and general chaos around Europe, the vampire hunters will be tracking him down and walking into his traps muskets blazing, polished crucifixes shining. 

Once they can hone in on Dracula’s actual location, shit gets real. Hunters will have to use all of their tools to deal with the dark menace.

5. Clue

Just what kind of mystery board games list would it be without the gateway board game to the whole tabletop mystery experience? 

Surprisingly, it’s as fun today as it was 700 years ago when King Mustardo IV murdered one of his servants with a turkey leg in the castle dungeon. In fact, it is more exciting now, because when a king murders a subject, he can pretty much just do it at his leisure. 

When modern-day Colonel Mustard commits murder, there’s going to be a little bit of jail time – except for the war crimes the colonel committed overseas, which, as far as we know, are just going to go unpunished. 

Figure out the murderer, the weapon, and the room in this classic old mansion that has served for a long time as the foundation of one of board gaming’s mysterious staples.

6. One Night Ultimate Werewolf

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a mystery board game in several senses, for one. what happens to players if they stop paying attention for 10 seconds? The answer is that they are left in the dark.

This game is an unparalleled madhouse of identity theft, mysterious hijinks, and chaotic scrambling for tidbits of truth. You absolutely have to watch closely if you want any chance of winning.

Set up is so involved (in a good way) that players actually have to create background noise. They must rap their knuckles on the table, clear their throats, etc.so that no one can be aware of who at the table is picking up cards and moving them around before the game begins. 

There’s actually a companion app that voices this part of the game for you so that no one has to remember all of the crazy rules in play.

Troublemakers, oracles, werewolves, alpha werewolves, seers, masons, robbers, and a wealth of other identities make this game a confusing blast to play.

And it’s extremely rewarding for players who are able to accurately deduce much of anything!

7. Mascarade

Mascarade is like One Night Ultimate Werewolf in that there exists a bevy of diverse roles to play.

The first portion of the game consists of pulling other players’ cards under the table, mixing them up, and giving one of the cards back without telling anyone whether you actually switched them. 

Your turns are limited to a single action, which generally makes it a bad move to perform the action of peeking at your own identity. If you do, it will consume your entire turn! And on another player’s turn, they could just switch cards with you again. 

Greedy bishops (Is there another kind?), sinister widows, jovial fools, and fiery inquisitors.

This is not a game for people who struggle with details or suffer from thin skin.

Mascarade is basically a game about mean people at a large, confusing party. Expect to look out for numero uno and steal from other players.

Also, expect to get robbed or otherwise screwed over. These are good things in our book, so Mascarade gets very high marks from us.

The Greatest Mystery of Our Time

The greatest mystery of all is why you haven’t been investing more time into mystery board games.

And we’re officially accredited detectives from Crime Kids University.

No wonder you haven’t heard of it – it’s shrouded in mystery. No one knows how such a ramshackle dump could possibly get people to pay money for fake detective credentials.

Yet here we are.

Say, can you loan us like $30,000 real quick? For, uh, mysterious reasons.


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