Friday, August 05, 2016

Without A Clue

Clue makes no sense.  Most board games don't have narratives --- you're just trying to drop checkers in a row like in Connect Four, or going on a quest for self-actualization by stealing the identity of another in Guess Who, or whatever the hell Sorry was about.  Clue, however, takes things to a higher level by actually building a story around its premise and while some might admire their fortitude in board game innovation, I'm just going to write a snarky blog post about it since I'm a Guy On The Internet.

If you're going to build a narrative it should be a logical one, and here's where Clue falters.  Put yourself within the game's world: pretend you're Madam Peacock, a posh upper-class woman staying at a country manor. Suppose that your host, Mr. Boddy, ends up dead. If we go by the old-time mystery novel trope of the manor somehow being inaccessible to and from the outside world and the guests have to solve the crime themselves, then that accounts for the need to identify Boddy's killer. Obviously, if some maniac is killing people within the mansion you're all stuck within, you need to find that murderer post-haste, but other aspects of the game get a bit sticky.

For one, needing to discover the location of the murder. Now, this does make some sense within the context of the suspect search, since if Boddy was killed in the hall and someone saw Professor Plum skulking around the hall earlier, that would be an important piece of information. But though there's a storyline reason for KNOWING which room Boddy was killed in, there's less of a reason for the characters to SEARCH for this information in the first place. Again, put yourself in the position of an actual guest in this mansion who's found Boddy dead. Where did you find him? Was it in a specific room? Was he found on the stairs, a.k.a. the middle of the board? Unless there's a clear reason to guess otherwise (like, 10 trails of blood leading from the body to every room), you'd just presume that Boddy was killed whenever he was found. To think otherwise is to presume that an old lady like Madam Peacock or a svelte bombshell like Miss Scarlet was lugging a corpse around a mansion in the dead of night.

Now, the weapon. Put yourself back to the moment of discovering Boddy's, er, body. If the guests are able to discern that he's been murdered, then there should be a clear indication of that fact on his person --- after all, if Boddy was just found dead without a mark on him, the natural guess would be that he'd suffered a stroke or heart attack or something. Murder most foul wouldn't be the first conclusion. If you're able to identify that Boddy has been killed, then the weapon itself should be guessed at fairly easily. Like I said, poison isn't an option so we don't need too complex here. No ligature marks on his neck? Couldn't have been the rope. No gunshot wound? Couldn't have been the revolver. No stab wound? Couldn't have been the knife. No big ol' bump on the head? Couldn't have been the wrench, lead pipe or candlestick. This seems to be a bit of a plot hole....unless Boddy was found with ALL of these marks on him. Like, he was found hanging from a noose with a stab wound, a bullet hole and three separate gaping dints in his head. This would explain the question over how he died, though one might also assume that the actual method of murder wouldn't be weighing so heavily on the minds of the guests. If this poor Boddy was found butchered like Rasputin or Vigo the Carpathian, then it doesn't really matter WHAT method killed him, just that he's dead at all. If he was found shot, then one could think, "Hmm, Colonel Mustard is an expert marksman, he is the natural suspect" but if Boddy has all of these wounds on him and you don't have a CSI kit handy to determine the cause of death, then it's kind of a moot point.

And, finally, while it's an inevitable problem of the character process, it's always struck me as odd that one player can identify themselves as the murderer. Like, the person playing Ms. White is free to accuse Ms. White in the library with the rope or whatnot.  Within the game story, are we to assume that Ms. White's guilty conscience overcame her and she just interrupted the entire investigation to admit her crime? Maybe it was meant as a lesson for the kids who might play the game --- sometimes it's best to just come out and admit it when you've done wrong, children. No matter whether it's taking the last cookie from the kitchen jar or savagely murdering a millionaire in his country manor, it's best to just admit guilt and take your punishment. Clearly, Clue has no respect for the criminal defense system.

Most useless game pieces ever, by the way, were the actual murder weapon game pieces in Clue.  You know, when you accused someone in one of the rooms, you also had the cute little metal candlestick there, just to really bring the scene to life.  (Some poor sweatshop worker has been cranking out little metal revolvers for years, which is bound to create some psychological issues.)  There's another narrative gimmick that made no sense; why do you need the weapon present to accuse someone?  "You stabbed Mr. Boddy with THIS knife, Mr. Green!"  Why are you moving the evidence around?  Don't you know not to touch anything before the police arrive?  Mr. Green just got off on murder charges since the evidence was tampered with, you idiot.

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