Tavener's Treasure Trove
In this exciting installment of Tavener's Treasure Trove, I thought I'd cover some of my favourite deduction games; I'm afraid one or two of these may even still be available.
Runes is a clever word/deduction game from the Eon team. At the start of the game, each player secretly writes down a word (usually 5 letters). The game contains large quantities of 4 different cardboard shapes ('runes'); long and short straight pieces, a gentle curve, and a tight curve. A chart shows how each letter of the alphabet can be made from of one or more of these shapes (for example, C = gentle curve, D = gentle curve + long straight, E = long straight + 3 short straight). Each turn, a player chooses a letter in another player's word, and either (a) guesses a shape that occurs in that letter, or (b) guesses what the letter is - in either case, a correct guess earns 1 point and another turn. At any time, any player may guess another player's word; a correct guess scores 1 point per piece in the word, an incorrect guess loses the same number of points. You'll be surprised at how much you can infer from a scattering of runes throughout a word.
Code 777 is the invention of Bob Abbott, and published by Jumbo. Each player is dealt a hand of 3 cards in various colours, and numbered 1 to 7. The cards are arranged so that they are visible to all players apart from the owner, and the owning player tries to deduce which cards they have in front of them. The game is driven by a pack of question cards; each turn, a player draws a card from the deck, and answers the question… for example "How many green 7s can you see?" - needless to say, this answer gives information to all players apart from the one answering the question… it can be quite frustrating when you draw a question which would have told you your code if only someone else had answered it!
There have been, and perhaps still are, innumerable variants of mastermind on the market. The version I play most is as follows. One player is the "codemaker", and sets a code which the other player must guess; each code consists of 4 pegs, and each peg may be any of 8 different colours. The guesser plays their own code, and is scored as follows: 1 black marker for each colour in the right place, 1 white marker for each colour in the wrong place; simple rules, but guaranteed to give your brain a good workout. With practice, you should always be able to solve this version in 6 or less guesses... unless your name is Rosie, in which case you'll probably get it in 5 (how does she do it?). At this point, you might want to try a diabolical twist that R. Wayne Schmittberger suggests in his book, "New Rules for Classic Games" - the codemaker is allowed to lie once when scoring the guesses!
An old Waddington's game produced by Dr. Eric Solomon. One player hides 4 or 5 "atoms" in an 8x8 grid; the other player must deduce where the balls are by sending "rays" into the grid (each ray is deflected by a near miss of an atom, absorbed on a direct hit, and passes straight through the grid if no atoms are near). The game can be fairly challenging for the solver, and the codemaster can have a lot of fun making patterns which cause a misleading sequence of bounces.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Published in the US by Sleuth Games, this is a paragraph-based detective game for 1 or more players. Each case starts with a briefing at - where else? - 221B Baker Street, after which players must use the information in the briefing to decide what to do next - snoop round the scene of the crime, interview one of the people mentioned in the briefing, or perhaps find out the results of the autopsy. To aid players in their searches, there is a book of newspaper articles from the date of the crime, a street map of London, and a 'directory', which lets players find the relevant paragraphs for the various characters and places. Unlike a lot of paragraph-based games, players are given a lot of freedom, and a good detective will have to use logic and intuition to decide which are the key places to visit. Like most paragraph based games, SH:CD has limited replay value, but I'd estimate that the basic set (10 cases) gives about 30 hours of enjoyment, which makes it well worth the purchase price. Incidentally, this game won the Spiel des Jahres award in 1985.