- Designer: uncredited
- Publisher: Buffalo Games
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Buffalo Games
In Junior Detective, “Curious things have been happening in the neighborhood, and it needs the smartest detectives to solve the case! Choose the mystery for each game from 40 unsolved case files. Decode clues using your trusty detective gear like your red spy glass, detective mirror, cipher solve card, and even the magic of your own hand! Be the first to identify the culprit and where they are hiding by interviewing neighborhood witnesses and taking notes.”
Though the game is targeted for gamers as young as 8+, the rep from Buffalo games (and the box) tried to make it clear that this game is suitable for all ages! So… we broke it out at a regular game night with our 40-to-50 something age group…
In the town of Evindenton, lots of crimes have happened – 40 to be exact. Each of them has a case file folder in your game box. There are 12 possible suspects – and you get a board which lets you see their pictures so that you can eliminate them as you learn more about them. There are 8 residents of the town that will help you solve the crime; 6 witnesses that you can visit at their homes, Mrs Wise – the town librarian who somehow always knows whether witnesses are telling the truth or not, and The Spy – who somehow knows where the culprit is hiding. There are four hiding tokens which are placed on the board on the designated hiding spots.
To play, choose a Case File, and read the mystery on the inside cover. This case file will instruct you to fish out 8 specific witness cards – find them and place them on their respective locations on the board. All players choose their detective figure and place them in the central Treehouse Headquarters. Choose a starting player, and then turns will go around the board.
On a turn, roll the die and move your detective the number of spaces. You have to always move forward; you cannot backtrack. If you reach a location with a card, you can stop to question the Witness (and end movement) or move thru. Depending on the card, you will need to use the red film, a mirror or the warmth from your hand to see the message. Again, the six witnesses will give you a positive or negative criteria. Mrs Wise can tell you if a particular witness is lying, and the Spy tells you which of the 4 Hiding tokens is the one being used by the culprit.
You cannot pass a Hiding Token – you must stop there. Hiding Location tokens essentially block a path – you cannot move through them. If you land on a red fingerprint icon, you take a sleuth card – read it and do whatever it tells you. If you land on a red Bicycle icon, you can move to any space on the board.
Each player has a notepad where they can take notes and try to eliminate suspects as they learn things. Once you have eliminated all but one suspect, it’s time to catch the criminal! Move your detective to the correct Hiding token, and then when you’re on that space, make your accusation. You only have one chance to do this; for if you’re wrong, you’re eliminated from the game.
Take the solve card and place it over the diagram in the case file. Only two of the holes will show information, and if you have stated both the current suspect number and the correct hiding place – then you win!
My thoughts on the game
Junior Detective is a fun game, aimed at families and younger gamers. I think it’s a challenge to make a deduction game that can be played by kids that is still interesting for adults. Here, the game provides you with a number of witnesses to the crime, but you also need to figure out who is telling you the truth or not.
The turn starts with a bit of roll-and-move; which the target audience will find comforting enough; the bicycle spaces also help mitigate bad rolls – as you essentially have to get to a number of the spaces to get enough info; and the ability to go anywhere on the board really makes up for any bad luck with consistently low rolls.
The different gimmicks to give you the bits of information are cute enough, and they help disguise the clues from other players. Also, for the younger set, using the mirror and the red film has elicited a certain sense of glee which I’m sure would not have come from just reading the information off of a card – especially the cards that reveal their info when warmed..
At some point, you almost certainly need to talk to the Spy to figure out the hiding spot of the crook – or maybe you could try to intuit the hiding location by watching where other players are moving after they have talked to the Spy. Additionally, it is usually necessary to know which suspect isn’t telling the truth; but if speed becomes important, you might have to go without and make an educated guess in order to try to get the answer faster.
The cases we’ve played have worked out pretty well – though I will caution you that it appears there is a typo in Case #2. I had read some questions online before we played, and we simply skipped that case – and I cannot confirm that there are issues with the case; but with 40 cases in the game, it seemed easy enough to just skip that one and move onto #3. (Further internet investigation reveals this fix: “ For Case #2 – players should be using the Peppy Roni card #93 instead of #78.”)
The artwork and styling is retro – and it is pleasing to the eye. The cards have all the info you need, and you just need to make sure that you put the right cards out for the particular case. As far as this being good for adults- I mean, we had an enjoyable enough time playing it, but there really wasn’t a tough puzzle to solve here. It worked just fine, but I think it will be enjoyed and better appreciated by the younger crowd.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor