As the girls get older and we discuss their futures, I often reflect on what I once thought might be my career path. Believe it or not, the list included joining the military and becoming a lawyer. Ultimately, I ended up taking every business course available at our school and went on to graduate college with degrees relating to business, economics and marketing. Despite the idea of joining the Army, I never once considered any type of career in public safety. I often wonder if my interest in deductive reasoning, escape room games and puzzles might be an indication that I missed my calling as a detective.
Then I come to my senses and recognize that I need closure and would go nuts with unsolved cases. Instead, I get my fill of analysis and investigation by playing board games like Detective from Portal Games. With limited time and resources, this cooperative game is enough to satisfy any interest in pursuing detective work as a career. It isn’t an easy win and that’s a good thing. The struggle to succeed is what we like in games like Pandemic: Fall of Rome, Black Orchestra and Thanos Rising.
Detective includes a game board, casebook, character tiles, wooden markers, tokens (skill, special and character) along with 5 different case decks. One for each of five cases to solve throughout the campaign. While we’ve played many games that include a website or app (Stop Thief, Paramedics: Clear, Alchemists), the Antares Database is more than a timer, randomizer or narrator, it’s a tool to use for evaluating the data. It’s like you’re tapped into the game’s virtual police department! When data is entered and evaluated, it will provide history, information on suspects, give access to police reports and documents and even show results of field tests.
To begin the game, place the board within reach of all players then give each player an investigator tile and Skill token. Place the Time marker on 8 AM and the Day marker on Day 1. Start at the Headquarters by placing the Investigator Team marker at that location on the board. Log into the Antares website, take the case deck and read the introduction. Have a whiteboard or notepads available to make notes to share.
We’ve played a lot of games of this nature, but they often include some final action that indicates a win. Unlike many escape room games, Detective doesn’t run on rails. There isn’t a straight line to the finish nor is there one set of answers. If you’re taking adequate notes and researching the leads, you may solve the case in a completely different way than another group would. It’s also unlikely that you’ll utilize all the cards in the case deck.
The game board includes five locations for you to visit in your quest to solve the case. You will also find a Day and Time track that is used to monitor the amount of time allowed to complete the mission. As you receive leads from the case deck, you’ll need to investigate each for clues.
Lead cards represent crime scenes, witnesses, evidence and other information that can be obtained during an investigation. Each includes a number, location, instructions, text and duration (hour value) that requires the team to advance the Time track. There are also additional leads that it can open up.
You’re working as a team in Detective so there are no individual turns or phases. Discuss course of action together. During the day, you can follow a lead, dig deeper into a lead, write a report, use an investigator’s abilities, perform an action, browse the database or search the internet. Depending on the options you choose, you may need to move the day or time markers. When the time reaches 4:00 PM, you can end the day or opt to work overtime. Overtime is an option, but it adds stress to your team. If you reach a designated stress level then the investigation is over and you’ll need to write your final report. If you end the day, you’ll move the Day marker to the next day and reset the Time tracker to 8 AM. You’ll move the team marker back to the Headquarters and discuss any notes you’ve taken.
What I think is one of the most unique aspects of Detective is that it not only uses components of the game and the proprietary database, but it also encourages players to “Break the 4th Wall” and utilize search engines, Wikipedia and Google Maps. Don’t worry, these aren’t spoilers. The game has specific places where it encourages internet research.
When you think you’ve gathered enough evidence or have run out of time, you wrap up your case with a final report. You’ll earn points for answering main questions, additional questions and matching evidence in the database. You’ll lose points for each Stress token received. The final total is calculated and you’ll be told whether you’ve won or not. Detective goes a step beyond an escape room game and gives players an immersive crime experience. Copies are available on Amazon as well as direct from Portal Games. Each of the five included cases is intended to take around three hours so the entire game box will get you many hours of quality entertainment. If you want to investigate what else Portal Games is working on, check them out on Facebook and Twitter.
Have you ever considered a career in police work?