Thursday, 24 November 2016


Clue: Star Wars, Hasbro, 2016

8+, 20-60 minutes, 3-6 players, Competitive

Remember back when you were young that you played Clue and loved it and then as you grew up realised that actually it wasn't a very good game after all because you spent so long moving between rooms? In their infinite wisdom, Hasbro have decided to redo Clue but try to make it better. How? By changing the game mechanics and then making it a Star Wars game. But no-one murders anyone else in Star Wars.... so instead of a murder game, it becomes a game where you're the Rebels running around the Death Star in Episode IV and you have to work out (a) which planet Vader is going to destroy next, (b) in which room are the Death Star plans hidden, and (c) which vehicle will you use to escape? Hasbro even try to make the game look more interesting by making the board 3-D, rather like the old Death Star playsets that some of us used to have as kids in the 1970s. So, it's important to try to move away from the nostalgia value in reviewing this game, even though just walking around a Death Star is cool.

Because the original game was up to 6 players, this version is, too, meaning that Obi-Wan Kenobi isn't present. The characters are represented with miniatures that actually aren't bad - they're certainly not Imperial Assault standards, but Luke is clearly Luke, and Leia is clearly Leia. In fact, the detail on R2-D2 is probably the best of all the minis. The colours of the minis are clearly different, meaning that you never lose your miniature on the board.... so long as you can even see it (more on that later)!
"Beep boop boop."
"Shut your mouth, you filthy little droid."

"Aren't you a little short for a miniature?"
"I'm a gonna shoot ya in the balls."

The core mechanic of the game is identical to the original - there are three things to be discovered, and a card is taken from each and hidden away. In the original you have a nice sleeve to place the cards in, here you have a cardboard folder that doesn't close properly and just isn't as good as the original. You have a secret piece of paper on which to record your deductions. And once you have worked out the three things, you head to a room (in this case, the Docking Bay, which rather makes sense) and take your guess out loud. If you get it right, you win, but if you're wrong, you're out of the game. So far, so good, if you like that kind of thing. But if you're a Star Wars fan (and this game is clearly aimed at such people) then you might start seeing some issues. Firstly, it wasn't Vader who ordered the destruction of Tatooine, but Grand Moff Tarkin. Secondly, let's say there are four of you on the Death Star trying to escape. You discover that you're going to escape in the X-Wing. How exactly are you going to do that? Sure, R2 could fit in his spot, and Luke in the pilot seat, but where are the other two going to fit? What about if there are 6 players and you're escaping in a Y-Wing? Is someone fitting in the glove box? Maybe they're all sitting on the lap of the pilot?!? Maybe it's pedantic to ask such things, or maybe because it's a Star Wars game Hasbro should have considered this. And why is there an X-Wing in the Death Star in the first place? Or a Y-Wing? The Millennium Falcon, sure, but not the others. So, depending on whether you're a fan or a purist, you may have an issue with this or you may not care.

Escape in one of these, but is there actually room for everyone to fit? 
 The rooms themselves are fairly generic rooms on the Death Star - the Docking Bay, the Detention Block, the Tractor Beam Generator (seriously, we need Obi-Wan!) and so on. So far, so fairly standard. But what comes next is where the game is really different to the original.

 Ask anyone who has played Clue (aka Cluedo in Great Britain, because we like to add letters to our words) what they dislike about it and they'll talk about movement, either rolling to move or just taking so long to get from one room to another. Clue: Star Wars tries to address that. Remember that you're Rebels sneaking around the Death Star so walking around corridors isn't wise. With that in mind, if you end your turn not in a room, you have to draw a corridor card. If you draw 'Stormtrooper Ahead' then you roll again. If you don't end in a room this time, you go straight to the Trash Compactor and end your turn. Thematically, that's rather cute, and it helps movement. If you draw Comlink, you get to ask a question of one other player, and they have to answer. That helps everyone because they hear the question and answer, and that means the game moves along quicker. If you draw All Clear, you can jump to any room on that level, again reducing the movement delay of the original game. And if you draw You've Been Caught then you head straight to the Detention Block. Again, thematically that's rather cool. And to be released from the Detention Block, another player has to go there to free you, and you then have to show them one of your cards to say thank you. Conceptually, that sounds great. Practically speaking, though, it's a disaster for two reasons. Firstly, no-one likes games where you have to miss turns. Secondly, if someone keeps rescuing you then you can just show them the same card again and again meaning that there's no real incentive to keep rescuing someone. And that's a problem because if everyone is captured then it's game over. From personal experience, I can tell you that that's really not a fun way to end a game. Having a "rescue them or else everyone loses" mechanic really isn't a good incentive. A house rule might help here - showing 2 cards instead of 1. That would make it really worthwhile to rescue someone.

"Leia, we're all locked up and we're never getting out.
The game's over. So now I'm going to destroy R2
so he doesn't get to see what we're about to get up to."
 In a six-player game, it might be worth rescuing someone for more information but the only reason to do it in the 3-player game is to avoid the frustrating "everyone loses" ending. That means that you're not moving to win the game, you're moving to not lose, and that's not fun. An alternate house-rule saying that you escape the Detention Block after two turns might make it more playable, even if it's not thematically sensible.  However, in a 6-player game, the chances of everyone being captured are small, so then there's really not much reason to free someone because it's better to have an opponent not actively play the game that it is to have them give you just one piece of information. After all, they can't beat you if they can't even play the game!

What is a good idea about the "You've Been Caught" cards is that once they're used, they're discarded so that means that once you've gone through the deck once, things really speed up in the second half of the game. You're almost jumping from room to room. And while that addresses the biggest problem with Clue, it's also a bit weird because none of the characters can teleport and by the end of the game it seems like you're regularly just doing that. Hasbro have fixed the movement issue by kind of removing movement altogether, and that's just awkward.

The Death Star itself is kind of cool. Some rooms, like the Throne Room, are difficult to access, and so are probably worth waiting until the second half of the game when you can basically teleport there with an All Clear card. The 3-D map is nice and you can access differing levels by using the elevators at the end of each corridor. But the map is also too wide so there are times when you move to the War Room, for example, and then can't even see your own piece if you're sitting at the other side of the table. Even in the picture above, you can't see all the rooms - there's one behind the wall to the left on the bottom level. This can easily be resolved by placing the whole game on a lazy susan, but you shouldn't really need to do that. In truth, this game could have been put in one level and not really lost very much at all (the All Clear card would have to be changed slightly, but not tremendously). So, it's cute, but it's not entirely practical.

So... did Hasbro succeed? It depends who you ask. I played the game with a more seasoned gamer and with someone who said how much they enjoyed Monopoly. The more seasoned gamer really didn't understand why we were playing such a bad game, and the inexperienced gamer had a fantastic evening and loved the game. At the end of the day, this will always be a game of Clue and Hasbro will never be able to hide that. For introductory gamers, there's nothing wrong with this. For more experienced gamers, though, this is not going to be a frequent game choice.

  • The Star Wars theme
  • The miniatures
  • Minimising the slow-movement issue of Clue
  • It is actually better than the original Clue

  • Getting Caught and especially losing turns
  • The board being too wide to sometimes even see your own piece
  • The more frequent teleportation near the end of the game due to All Clear cards becoming a higher percentage of the corridor deck
  • It's still basically a game of Clue

Accessibility: 5/5 - This is a game that children could play, and would possibly be more suited for them than the original Clue being about escaping the Death Star and not about Colonel Mustard bludgeoning someone to death with the lead piping in the living room.
Design: 2/5 - Kudos to Hasbro for improving on Clue, but it's still basically Clue.
Depth: 1/5 - Roll, choose a direction, move, ask questions, work out which cards are missing.
Replayability: 2/5 - If you're the kind of person who actually rather likes Clue, then there's no reason not to play this again and again. But if you're not, you'll be thankful you only spent $20 on this game.
Availability: 5/5 - Easily available online and in many stores at a good price for a board game.

Summary: I'm aware that there are people who will love this game because it's Star Wars Clue. Most of the people who read this blog, though, are not those kinds of people. I rushed to buy this because surely it would be better than the original Clue. In some sense it is, and in some sense it's worse, especially with being detained and losing turns. Losing turns is just the worst experience in gaming because you're sitting at a table watching other play the game that you had started playing. Adding some house rules would make this game better, perhaps even playable. Star Wars fans who are parents and who want to play a board game with their young children might have fun with this. I can see myself playing this with my children, but I would probably never bring it out again for game night with grown-ups.

Final Score: It's not as bad as Candy Land, although both games make you lose turns. The small element of skill is in asking the right questions from the right room, and in some sense I won't deny there's a simplistic enjoyment factor here. So, it's an improvement on an otherwise fairly poor game, but in this golden age of board games, it really doesn't compare to so much else on the market. It's a valiant effort by Hasbro, but it will always be a game of Clue. Playing it makes you feel warm like a Taun-Taun's innards because of the nostalgia factor of the game and of the theme, but then the icy cold of Hoth descends upon you as you sit in the Detention Block for turn after turn, remembering why you haven't played Clue in thirty years. 32%.

No comments:

Post a Comment