Dale Yu: Review of Decktective: Nightmare in the Mirror

Decktective: Nightmare in the Mirror

  • Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 1-6
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: about an hour
  • Played with review copy provided by dv Giochi

decktective mirror

Decktective is a sort of sibling line to dV Giochi’s Deckscape series.  Whereas Deckscape presents the player(s) with a series of mostly self-contained puzzles with clear answers, the Decktective series pushes towards the mystery end of the puzzle niche, where players will take on the role of detectives solving some crime. 

Rather than individual puzzles, most of your time will be spent observing evidence and considering the possible implications for all of your W questions.  At the end, expect a series of Big Picture questions, that while not explicit before the end game, should likely be predictable (e.g. whose crime is this crime?)


In this game, Danielle Dove has been kidnapped, but she is able to ask for help.  Your team will get to collect clues (in the form of newspaper clippings, pictures, witness statements, etc.) to try to solve the mystery.  

While the structure of Deckscape is largely “here’s a stack of puzzles, do them in order” and there aren’t too many rules past that, Decktective has added a bit of gamey-ness as it shifted towards the mystery section. Depending upon the player count, you’ll each have a hand of 1 to 5 cards – the number of cards in your hand is dependent on the number of players in the game….  Actually, before we get to that, we need to follow the game’s setup –the setup that happens prior to getting your hand of cards…

decktective mirror example

You end up constructing your own little crime scene!  Look at it all around.  Maybe there are clues that will help you solve this mystery… Anyway, there’s been some sort of abduction.  There is a woman that appears to be bound and gagged, and you can get a glimpse of the mostly bare room. 

Most of the deck will look like the cards below.  Blank. At least, on the side you can see.  Rather than each player having access to all of the cards, you’ll need to be able to earn the ability to share the information that is on the reverse (though you can always share the title of the cards in hand.)  


The cards have different values (one to ten), and in order to play one face up, you must have a number of cards face down in a communal discard pile equal to that value.  So it will be up to you, largely individually, which of the pieces of evidence in your hand do you think will be unimportant to cracking the case such that you can afford to not share the information and set it aside to perhaps unlock more fruitful attestations from other players’ hands. 

That’s how your turns will go: play a card or discard; then draw a replacement.

Other than that, communication is largely open and you and your fellow players are free to discuss the face up cards and the who what where and whenceforth. Play continues until the evidence cards are exhausted and then the players are faced with a series of questions. (As I said before, these are largely predictable, but I’ll avoid specifics.) In a simple-but-elegant component, the game comes with a set of plastic paperclips to mark your guesses on one side, and if correct, when you flip the card over, the clip will be outlining how many points you earned! (You don’t flip any of the cards until you’ve answered all questions.)


In this game, I played with one other player, and we each had a hand of three cards (If I had played solo, I would have had a single hand of 5 cards).   The decision of which evidence to keep and which to discard was at times an anxious one, but one which made you really think about what was going on in the case.  While I did not play this one solo, I have played other games in this series solo – and I do appreciate the give and take that you get with other players.  When you do it all on your own, you have no one to help give alternate theories, and…. There is less mystery as the solo player sees all the cards.  That being said, I don’t know how I’d feel with more than 3, because at that point, I think that I would maybe miss out on seeing enough info.  The hardest part is figuring out what is extraneous information (especially in the early stages of the game), and that would be much harder to do with a smaller sampling of the overall deck.

The story is well scripted and I feel like we had a fair chance of figuring everything out.  As you only get one pass through the game (it is not replayable), I think the puzzle designers have to tread a fine line between making the story challenging enough to be interesting while making it accessible enough for the gamers to actually figure out what is going on!  In this case, the designers have perched themselves perfectly on that line…

Overall I liked the story and I liked the freedom of deciding which information was important and which was extra.  This same idea was used in another series, the Sherlock games, but here i feel like the investigator has a better chance of being able to figure out what is important and what isn’t.  (In the Sherlock game, it felt more random and you could throw away the piece of damning evidence because you didn’t know any better!)  Of course, maybe we just got lucky with our guesses…. But in any event, we had a fairly successful play, scoring 9 out of a possible 10 points – and we had an enjoyable hour spent together.  And, as a bonus, as with all the Decktective games – the game is fully playable by someone else – you do not destroy any of the components, so you can give/trade the game with another gamer!

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Decktective: Nightmare in the Mirror

  1. Fred Weller says:

    Thank you for the excellent, clear description. I notice that your playing time was exactly as estimated on the box (1 hour). My crew and I haven’t historically hit playing time marks, and I’ve always assumed that game makers cook the books on the playing time to make it as low as possible. For example, it takes my family double the supposed hour to play Catan and double the 45min to play Pandemic. Based on these 2 games, would you say the issue is just that my household is a den of dithering slow-pokes? If I address this concern with my family, it will lend gravitas to my criticism if I can say, “Dale You says you guys are too slow.”

    • Dale Yu says:

      Fred, you guys are too slow! Just kidding – I find that time estimates are tricky things. In general, my group tends to play games at the low end of box recommendations; but only once we understand the games. Part of that is that everyone in our group tends to play quick; also, we tend not to chat much during the actual game as to not distract people. In a convention setting, where there is plenty of extra conversation, games could easily stretch longer.

      For comparison, I would expect a 4p game of Vanilla settlers in my usual group to run 30-45 minutes. Pandemic honestly around 30-40, but we’ve also had lots of experience with the game as well as the Pandemic Legacies.

      In the end, I don’t know if it matters how long it takes for you to play a game so long as everyone is enjoying their time playing it. If no one in your group is bothered by the longer game times – then everyone is getting two hours of enjoyment out of your Catan game. Does it matter that you only played once where my group would probably have played twice/thrice? Not really. An enjoyable evening is had in either situation.

      In the case of this game, the game takes as long as you want/need to try to figure out the clues on the cards. If it takes you three hours, no biggie!

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