There has been a heist from the local art museum. And you take the role of a detective trying to determine which of the 16 suspects that are still trapped inside the building are guilty. Clearly, these cartoon animals aren’t the best thieves considering they didn’t make it out of the building… Ocean’s 16 they are not.
Regardless, Museum Suspects is a family weight deduction game that will have you eliminating suspects and hopefully narrowing it down until you can reveal the culprits.
The gameplay in Museum Suspects is as simple as can be. The suspects will be laid out in a 4-by-4 grid and eight clues will be put at the ends of each row. Players will get a stack of twelve tokens, numbered 1-6 (the mix is slightly different for each player depending on turn order).
On your turn, you must look at a clue card and put one of your numbered tokens on it. If there is already a numbered token there from another player you have to use an equal or higher token. Each clue will help eliminate suspects from the grid. Each card will eliminate up to 4 suspects. However, since the game comes with 24 suspects and you only use 16 there is always a bit of variance in how useful a clue might be.
After looking at the clue (and probably marking it down on the helpfully included tracking sheet) you must then place another token on a suspect you believe is guilty. This token is placed face down and hidden from other players.
Play continues in this way for 6 rounds. There is a possibility that no one is guilty and you can place a token on the exit to get on that. After that last turn, you’ll reveal all the clues and find out which suspects, if any, are guilty. Players get points for their tokens on the guilty suspect(s). The player with the most points wins.
If you’ve thought about breaking out Clue to play with your family, you should probably just grab Museum Suspects instead. It’s easier to learn, plays more quickly, and it’s thematically similar (although a cartoon heist rather than a murder, which might play better with kids).
There is still, similar to Clue, a heavy reliance on luck. Some clues will be better than others. After the first turn, you’ll have eliminated, at best, 25% of the suspects but you still have to make a guess. Which may ultimately work to your benefit… or against you if you use your low-point tokens early on when things are less clear. Even on the last turn, you are almost never totally sure who is correct.
The strategy, so much as it exists, really lies in evaluating the guesses of other players. Especially the players who have seen clues that you have not. Given that the clue cards follow a pattern (one excludes an entire row, one a column, one based on the background color, etc…) you can try to use some fancy deductive reasoning to get some insight into what other people at the table know.
The “bidding” for clue cards is the most underwhelming part of the game. Even with the full 4 players you pretty much will just want to use the lowest possible tokens to put on clue cards and the highest value to accuse suspects. Early in the game, you might use a lower value when you have little information. But, given that each clue is going to provide very close to the same value there is little incentive to put a high-value token on one to prevent other players from seeing it.
Overall, my son and family have enjoyed our plays of Museum Suspects. It’s quick to learn and the theme really works well as a family game. The end game of revealing the clue cards and slowly eliminating the suspects always brings plenty of tension and the occasional bit of trash talk.
There isn’t a ton of strategy. Luck plays a huge role. But for something you can learn and play in under 45 minutes, Museum Suspects is a good candidate for the kid-game shelf.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid family weight deduction game with a great kid-friendly theme.
• Luck plays a large role in your success or failure.
• Using tokens to prevent others from seeing a clue doesn’t seem as valuable as it should.