Dale Yu: Review of Museum Suspects

Museum Suspects

  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Played review copy provided by publisher

museum suspects

The blurb from the rules: “DRRRiiiiiiiiinnnnng! Hurry, close the doors, a museum piece has been stolen! The director calls in a number of highly skilled investigators to find the thief or thieves amongst the 16 suspects held inside the building. Some clues are more valuable than others. Find the best ones to solve the case while obstructing your competitors’ investigations! The culprit and his possible accomplices may still be around!”  

In this game, players will make notes in their notebook to try to find the thief/thieves from amongst the 16 different suspects.  A museum layout is created at the start of each game; from the 24 Suspect tiles, 16 of them are dealt out in a 4×4 grid to make the 16 rooms of the museum, each with a suspect in them.  The emergency exit tile is placed off to the side.  There are 8 types of clues (Corner, Column, Line, Decoration, Accessory, Clothing, Hat, Animal) – one of each type is selected at random and placed around the museum grid.  Each player gets the stuff they need – a notebook, a pencil, a detective and the 12 investigation tokens in their color (which are numbered from 1-6)..

The game is played in 6 rounds, with each player getting one turn per round.  On a turn, the active player must first investigate a clue and then suggest a suspect.


To investigate a clue, one of the 8 clue cards is chosen, reviewed, and then put back in the same spot that it was taken from. When you choose a card, if there is no investigation token yet on the card, after you review the card, you placed one of your unused tokens face up on it.  If there is an investigation token there, you must be able to place a token of equal of higher value on it in order to look at it.  The information on the clue card tells you information about who DID NOT commit the crime.    The notebook page has schematics of all the different possible clues; you should mark off the clue you just saw on the top, and then also eliminate rooms on the 4×4 grid at the bottom.


Now, you must suggest a suspect.  You now place another of your unused investigation tokens face down on one of the suspect tiles or the emergency exit tile.  At the end of the game, you will score points equal to the number on your investigation token – if it was placed on the correct answer!  

Continue this process for 6 rounds; at which point, all the investigation tokens will be placed on the board.  Now, flip over the clue cards one at a time, and the group can eliminate the innocent suspects (easiest to either remove them from the grid or flip them over).  Once all 8 clues have been resolved, the remaining suspects must be the culprit!  OR, if all the suspects are exonerated, then the emergency exit tile is the winning tile as the thief must have been able to escape the museum…  Add up the values of the tiles on the face up rooms – and if there are multiple thieves, each player scores a 1 point bonus for each thief they correctly caught (once per thief, not once per tile on the thief).  The player with the most points wins! There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

Phil Walker Harding is one of my favorite designers; in part because he is constantly designing games of different styles and types.  Some of my favorite games in the past few years have come from PWH – and I am always looking forward to trying his newest designs.

Here, the game purports to be a deduction game.  You get a chance to look at clues – six of the eight possible in each game – and then try to place your tokens on the eventual culprit(s).  In a way, this looks like a more adult version of Guess Who…  Unfortunately, to me, the game feels more like a guessing game rather than a deduction game.


As you have no idea of the category of the clue card, you’re really just guessing when you choose your card.  Sure, you might be able to infer something from the value of the chip placed on it by the players who previously looked at it – but they’re just as likely to be bludding as anything else, so I didn’t really gain much information from it.

As you look at clues, you do get to mark off a few pieces of information – you get to first cross off which card you looked at (to remind you of what you’ve already seen).  You also mark off the boxes in the 4×4 grid which you’re able to rule out.   As far as the first part goes; the sheet isn’t great for this – you get full color pictures of the card information, but the saturation of the printing makes it nearly impossible to see your pencil mark.  AS far as the second part goes; it’s obviously useful to know who you’ve ruled out; but it would also be nice if this portion was larger so your could log more information – such as which boxes were bet on by which player and on which turn.  

On the first few turns, you’ll likely eliminate 3-5 different suspects with each card (though likely a few will duplicate previously eliminated suspects).  Thus, any culprits fingered on these turns are essentially just guesses; as you don’t have enough information yet to really make a meaningful deduction.  You should be able to think the same about your opponent’s early guesses.  I’ve tried to log this information, but I’ve ended up needing a second sheet in order to have enough space to do this.

Also, I’d highly recommend that players who are not sitting head-on to the 4×4 grid to make sure that they mark their grid on their sheet based on the orientation they are viewing the grid.  Those players do seem to be at a little disadvantage as some of the details (accessories especially) are small-ish, and you really can’t go and pick up cards to examine them closely as that action alone would give away what you might be looking for…


As the game comes to a close, you can likewise expect that your opponents guesses are more likely to be right, and certainly, guesses that coincide with your remaining possible choices should be taken more seriously.  There’s really no point in trying to bluff near the end of the game as you have so few chances to make a bid for points; you really can’t waste one just trying to fake out your opponents.

I think it might be an interesting idea to have labels for the eight types of clue cards – make it known which type of clue you’re going to look at when you choose your card. In this way, based on the information you already have, you might be able to leverage your knowledge to look at a card that is more useful to you, rather than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

In our games so far, most people have been able thru brute force to narrow the choices down to 3 or less by the sixth and final clue card; and hopefully you’ve been able to drop some point tokens on the right cards earlier on.  What tends to make the difference in our games so far is whether or not someone had a lucky guess in the first two rounds and just happened to place a token on the right card – and this extra 1 or 2 points turns out to break the tie from all the other educated guesses with a 6 in the final round.  It’s enjoyable enough, but ultimately, it feels more like luck than deduction.

This would be a good game for younger gamers to help hone their skills of elimination and probability management.  The game plays quickly, with only six short turns.  It’s fine as a filler/closer.  But, for a ture deduction game, I’d recommend trying something different.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • 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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1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of Museum Suspects

  1. Geoff says:

    “I think…YOU’RE a museum!”

    “No, you’re a museum!”

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