Games: CLUE Secrets and Spies

There are actually two games called CLUE Secrets and Spies, as I discovered when I tried to find a link to include here. One is an online game, which I haven’t played. The other is a board game, which I recently purchased at Goodwill.

I bought CLUE Secrets and Spies because it can be played with only two people, unlike the original Clue board game. This is important because usually it’s just Al and me, when it comes to playing board games, especially now that Zach is at college most of the year.

As it turns out, there isn’t much this game has in common with the original game besides the brand name and the colors (scarlet, mustard, green, white, peacock, and plum) used to identify characters. And there is a certain amount of mystery involved – though you could say that about just about any game that isn’t based just on luck.

As the review I linked to points out, this game’s appeal is largely in the way it features modern technology. Of course, as fast a technology changes, it will become dated pretty quickly. Even the box itself warns that the text messaging feature may not be maintained past a certain date (which was well in the past when I bought this). But it’s an optional feature of the game anyway, and from reviews I’ve read, one of its weakest.

So the 21st century feel of the game is more in the gadgets that agents try to collect, the idea of hopping from city to city around the world (rather than from room to room in an old mansion), and the use of a special light (I was happy that its batteries still work!) to read the name of the agent to meet up with at a secret meeting.

I tend to ignore the storyline that is supposed to give meaning to the game, focusing rather on what I actually have to do to score points. So until I read the reviews (which I wait to do until after I’ve played and formed my own opinion – unless I am checking before I buy to decide if it’s worth it), I hadn’t figured out – or really cared – what the role of Agent Black is. It makes little difference to how to play the game.

Unlike classic Clue, the problems to be solved are relatively short-term, rather than spending the whole game figuring out (or failing to figure out) what you need to. But there is a certain amount of strategy required, and it took me several turns the first time we played to get the hang of how to get what I needed.

There are “missions” which consist of having one agent get hold of two particular items (of which there are seven). Depending on which activity card you play, you may be able to steal an item from another agent, give one to another agent, or swap one with another agent. Complicating matters is the fact that you activate a different agent each turn, and your choice is limited to those that haven’t just been used. So it takes some thinking ahead, and other players’ choices can easily mess up your plans.

The other way to get points is to get to secret meetings. First you have to get an agent to the city shown on the current secret meeting card, so that you can use the special light and read the name of the agent to meet. Then you have to find a way to get that agent to the same city. Each activity card lets you move to a nearby city, call another agent to the city you are in, or swap places with another agent. So again, it depends a lot on which agents are available for activation, whether you can do something on any given turn to bring about a successful secret meeting.

That probably sounds either too complicated, or not particularly interesting, but when you’re actually playing it makes sense, and it is a level of challenge that makes it fun – not too easy and not too hard. What I haven’t yet figured out is how to – at the same time I am trying to complete missions and secret meetings – put my “secret identity” agent in a good scoring position to win the game.

Your final score depends on two different things – both the number of missions and secret meetings that you as a player have completed (regardless of what agent you were running at the time), and the number of missions and secret meetings that your “own” agent completed. It’s hard enough to complete missions and secret meetings, however, without finding a way to have your secret identity agent be the one to complete them.

I’m curious, now, how the online game compares with the board game. But as it hasn’t successfully loaded for me yet, I haven’t been able to try it.

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