Is Mysterium The Modern Day Clue?
I have a really bad habit when it comes to gaming. When talking about games I tend to relate them back to the classics. This has led, over recent years, to a lot of games being compared to Chess, Scrabble, Risk, and, the incredibly recognisable, Clue.
If I have to give a rundown of Clue (or Cluedo for those of us in the UK) then the odds are you clicked on this post by accident. Clue is one of the most famous games of all time, pitching players against each other in a bid to become the first to solve the murder of Dr Black, a man who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in his manor house. You play the roles of one of the six most iconic board game characters of all time:
- Mrs White
- Colonel Mustard
- Ms Peacock
- Miss Scarlet
- Professor Plum
- Reverend Green
Your goal is to find out which one of six to nine murder weapons, in nine rooms, and of six people committed the heinous crime.
In the modern gaming renaissance there are a lot of games to have come out that are similar in many ways to Clue(do) and many games that fall into the same sort of category. The premise of Cluem after all, ultimately boils down to three things – who did the crime, where, and with what?
Mystery games are games that I personally, as a player, tend to adore. Already, on our list of games we have love, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is one such game that really stands out. Although it came out in 2014, we only discovered Deception last year and we absolutely love it. It follows that exact pattern. You have to work together to root out the murderer in your midst. That being said, it is an entirely different game. Yes, the murder mystery is there, but the general theme and how that murder is framed are completely different.
That being said, there is one game that stands out as being a game similar to Clue in more than one way. I am also guilty of calling it “if Clue was good” or “yes, it’s like Clue but better”. That game, in case you really hadn’t guessed by the title of this article, is Mysterium.
Is Mysterium the Modern Day Clue?
Mysterium, released by Libellud and designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy/Oleg Sidorenko, is a superb game in which players are working together to try and find the murderer, location, and weapon of a poor ghost. The ghost is, in turn, trying to guide all the players to their own suspects, weapons, and locations, using only dream cards. Once all the players have their own solutions, they merge them into one final guessing round in which the players must figure out which of their solutions is the real case.
Instantly, hearing that description, you can see the parallels beginning to be drawn to Cluedo. You are guests at a mansion, a murder has happened, you must figure out the room/weapon/person who committed the murder. Yeah, “Mysterium is like Clue, right?”
Well, yes, kinda, maybe, I suppose. It is, and it isn’t.
As a gamer I am guilty of drawing the parallel between the two games and highlighting that as a way of selling Mysterium to people who haven’t played it before. That being said, when you think about it, they really aren’t that similar at all.
The biggest parallel between Mysterium and Clue is not within the mechanics of the game. Mysterium uses mechanics such as hand management and cooperative play; however, its primary mechanic resides in pattern recognition. As a mechanic, pattern recognition is not widely used, and this could be one of the main reasons Mysterium stands out.
Clue, on the other hand, has three primary mechanics of its own in accordance with BGG (the board game database). Instead of hand management, cooperative play, or pattern recognition, Clue is almost entirely exactly the opposite. Clue uses roll-and-resolve (or roll/spin movement, to use the official name), grid movement, and memory.
These are two games that are so similar in one way, but so different in another. They are the Sherlock and Moriarty of board games. They are the Luke and Vadar of the tabletop genre. They are the Papa Smurf and Gargamel of this hobby of ours.
Okay, that got a bit weird.
Still, the point stands that fundamentally speaking, Clue and Mysterium are completely different games that coincidentally fall under the same theme.
So why is Mysterium so popular considering the shared theme with Clue?
I think over time I, for one, will need to stop referring to Mysterium as the modern day Clue and that is because of the fundamental difference in mechanics.
With Mysterium there is a strong story and theme, and this flows through the game interweaving itself within the artwork of every single card. The production value, the love, and the care that have gone into making sure Mysterium is a unique game is truly remarkable. Both theme and game work well together with the pacing, bringing it all to a crescendo of magnificence (you can actually read my full review here).
That being said, the mechanics of Cluedo don’t really complement the theme and instead exist there because of, what seems to be, convention. The pattern recognition and hand management work in Mysterium because of the ghost, and the cooperative game makes sense because…why would you try to beat each other when solving a murder mystery? Surely it makes sense to work together?
On a similar note – there is no need for the grid movement and roll/resolve mechanic to be within a murder mystery. Why would the people trying to solve the murder be limiting how they walk? It’s a small point, and in the earlier days of board games (Clue dates to 1949), it was a well recognised mechanic that helped define a game as exactly that. The English name for Clue, Cluedo, is a combination of Clue and Ludo – presumably because of those mechanics. The latter of those dates back to the year 400AD and also uses grid movement and roll/resolve.
It is a small point, but the disjoint in mechanics and theme can make all the difference in how the game is perceived. Mysterium is more fluid, than Clue which, without the grid movement, would probably only be a 20 minute game.
That being said, Clue has a kind of charm to it. It is a classic and one that a lot of people do enjoy. I also enjoy the odd game at Christmas, and this is partially due to nostalgia. It will be a fair few decades before Mysterium gets the same treatment. Clue helped propagate the mystery game genre and we have to be thankful for that. It helped make that style of mystery game the genre powerhouse that it is today.
So we ask again – is Mysterium the modern day Clue?
So, to draw this opinion article to a close, is Mysterium modern day Clue? No. I don’t believe it is. I think that where Mysterium has adapted the theme of the game and evolved it, Clue and Mysterium are too far apart mechanically for one to be called a direct descent of the other. There is certainly enough to Mysterium for it to hold up without the association.
That being said, I am up for changing that opinion – so what do you think? Do you think Mysterium is the modern day Clue, or are the two completely different games? Let me know in the comments below.