Design by Martino Chiacchiera & Pierluca Zizzi
Published by daVinci Games
2 – 8 Players, 15 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Solving mysteries has been a fascination for most people quite likely since humans began to develop critical thinking capabilities. This fascination continues to the present day and is possibly even more alluring, as the proliferation of crime novels, criminal investigation television series, and Escape rooms attest. The gaming industry has also seen an increase in designs wherein players must discover clues and solve mysteries.
3 Secrets by Italian designers Martino Chiacchiera and Pierluca Zizzi is an unassuming yet excellent entry into this genre, providing an excellent detective-like challenge that is equally suitable for gaming sessions and parties.
3 Secrets is a simple game rules-wise. Each of the 50 cards depicts a scene, atmospherically rendered in black and white. Three features in the scene are highlighted, and players must successfully decipher the three secrets that relate to the story the artistic scene depicts. There is a time pressure, though, as players have a maximum of 15 minutes–usually less–to successfully piece together the story and reveal the secrets.
Before the questioning begins, one player secretly reads the story and secrets on the reverse of the card. The short, one-paragraph story tells an often macabre story of theft, murder, deception, infidelity, etc. The three secrets that players must uncover are also listed, as are three clues that players may request during the questioning. Requesting clues, however, halves the time remaining for the current segment, but is sometimes necessary to get back on track. It is best if the active player reads the story several times to gain familiarity and reduce the number of times he must consult the card during the questioning as this can cost the players valuable time.
Once the five minute timer is begun (the preferred method is to use a downloadable app), players begin peppering the “reader” with questions, attempting to figure out the story and reveal the three secrets. The reader can only give four responses: yes, no, not exactly or irrelevant. There is often a great temptation to give more information or clarify the answer, but that must be resisted. Players must figure out everything based on these short responses to their questions. This forces players to piece together the information gained from these responses and adjust their subsequent questions accordingly.
It can often be frustrating, as sometimes a “dead end” is reached after a series of questions. It is usually at these points where a request for a clue can be critical. However, players must exercise caution, as there are only three clues–one related to each secret–and each such requests causes the remaining time for that segment to be halved. If players successfully reveal a clue, the reader indicates this and resets the timer for another five minute segment. Any time leftover for that segment is not carried forward, so players generally do not have a full 15 minutes to correctly decipher all three secrets. If all three secrets are correctly revealed, the players have solved the case. Otherwise, they fail (although the rules do state that if the players secure two secrets, the criminal is ultimately caught!).
A word about the stories: they are usually not straightforward. Indeed, sometimes they are quite bizarre and require some leaps of the imagination. For example, one card (Clyde) depicts a man playing a saxophone on the street, with an attractive young lady attentively listening to the music. At the man’s feet lies an open case that holds the saxophone. Highlighted are the saxophone, case and the lady’s fur coat. What is the story?
Spoiler Alert! Read no further if you want to play this particular card.
The story is that the man is not actually a musician. He is attracted to young ladies and uses a musical device inside the saxophone to entice these ladies so he can seduce them. He, however, is quite disturbed, and has an obsession with pelts. He lures the young ladies, then kills and flays them, using their skins to make various objects, including the case that rests by his feet.
Wow. This is certainly macabre, and takes quite a bit of questioning and dark thinking to uncover the story and its secrets. This can be quite challenging and, as mentioned, can lead to some frustration. Still, this helps make the puzzles challenging, interesting and entertaining.
3 Secrets is surprisingly entertaining and challenging, and results in some clever questioning, reasoning and deduction. The time constraints keeps the game moving along at a swift pace, and everyone is engaged and thinking throughout. Players must cooperate and work as a team in order to be successful. The game has an addictive quality, with pleas of “one more time” being quite common. At the conclusion of each card, there is always quite a bit of animated discussion concerning not only the story, but how the questioning was derived and proceeded. These are all aspects that make for a truly memorable gaming experience. 3 Secrets has been a big hit, and I sincerely hope the game will be supported with more cards and intriguing…and somewhat disturbing…stories!
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y: This game was not for me at all. My group struggles with role-playing/story-telling type games, and it is no surprise that we didn’t get into this one. The artwork is actually quite nice, and I was checking out the cards, I was drawn to try the game after seeing the illustrations. The game is very reminiscent of the Black Stories series from Moses – and while I know many people that love that series – that one didn’t work for me either. I think that I just don’t have a great imagination, because I have a hard time making the ginormous non-logical leap necessary to “solve” the stories in this game. As Greg noted, there can be a lot of frustration in this game if you can’t make the leap and you get stuck. That’s where I always find myself with this game.
4 (Love it!): Greg S.
3 (Like it):
1 (Not for me): Dale Y0303