Games that feature Deduction

We all love to play the sleuth and crack a tough case. Deduction games start with a mystery and many possible solutions, as the game progresses you eliminate options until finally you arrive at a solution. Cluedo, Mastermind and Battleships are the classics of the genre, but there are many newer games which add new layers of fun! Here are 8 of our favourites that are widely available or even free!


Designer: Anthony Pratt
Publisher: Hasbro
Players: 3-6
Playing time: 60 minutes
Suitable for: Families (ages 8 and up)

Deduction: Find the answer to three questions: who committed the murder, with what weapon, and in what room? One card in each category is removed, the other cards are dealt to players. The information on these cards is revealed in private in response to a player asking a question.

You’ll love it because: One of the few games to achieve byword status: few people will not know what “Colonel Mustard, with the lead pipe, in the Conservatory” is a reference to! The name is a play on Ludo, an old Parcheesi dice game, itself a play on the Latin for “game”. The game is still fun today, more than 60 years after it was first released. You need to pay careful attention to the questions that others ask and to which player passes the questioner a card as these will be essential to solving the mystery.

Also available as Clue: the Card Game, which keeps all the deduction but dispenses with the die rolling!


Designer: Mordecai Meirowitz
Publisher: Hasbro
Players: 2
Playing time: 15 minutes
Suitable for: Families (ages 8 and up)

Deduction: This game is pure deduction. Four coloured pegs are hidden from the guesser by the puzzle setter. Each guess is answered by the puzzle setter with black and white pegs indicating

  1. a peg of the correct colour in the right place
  2. a peg of a correct colour, in the wrong place.

You’ll love it because: The rules are simple and play is fast. You can vary the difficulty of the code by restricting the puzzle setter to fewer colours so that even fairly young children can play. As there are no other players to benefit from your guesses, you can play a purely deductive game without needing to worry about how to throw the others off the scent as in Cluedo.
Sleuth – Face 2 Face


Designer: Sid Sackson
Publisher: Face 2 Face
Players: 3-7
Playing time: 60 minutes
Suitable for: Families (ages 8 and up); adults

Deduction: Pure deduction. A piece of jewellery is missing (one of 36 cards is put aside and the rest are dealt between players) and you must determine the gem type, colour, and number of stones on the missing piece. You are restricted by cards in the questions you can ask, and the information you get is a mix of direct revelation of cards and indication of holdings of other players that match a question category (such as pieces with a single gem).

You’ll love it because: This is intriguing deduction distilled to its basics. It has the best parts of Cluedo in that there is lots of deduction as well as scheming to try and not reveal too much by your own questions. The level of deduction is more involved because the 3 categories all overlap so you can’t deduce the number of jewels in isolation from colour or type. A good system of recording information is essential to succeed in your detective efforts!

Mystery of the Abbey

Designer: Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Players: 3-6
Playing time: 2 hours
Suitable for: Families (ages 10 and up); adults

Deduction A murder has been committed in the Abbey by one of the monks (one of 24 cards is put aside, and most of the rest dealt out between the players). Monks belong to orders (Benedictine, Franciscan, Templar), have ranks (Father, Brother, Novice), and may be fat, bearded or hooded. You may make revelations about traits you believe the murder has or can make a complete accusation of one of the monks.

You’ll love it because: This is The Name of the Rose brought to life! The board and pieces are very evocative of the theme. The board shows the abbey complete with chapel, confessional cells, a scriptorium and restricted library. The books are represented by cards that may give you some special benefit. Every few turns the players are summoned to mass which is an opportunity for gossip and swapping of cards.

Deduction is mainly driven by questioning the players that you encounter in the grounds of the abbey and is completely free form: you can, for example, ask how many skinny Franciscans and bearded Templars they have been able to eliminate from their enquiries!

Of course if you ask too revealing a question, the other player can take the vow of silence and refuse to speak. Unusually for a deduction game, it is also quite silly: you ring a little bell to summon the players to mass, you might be required to conduct all questions and answers in plain song (chant) until the next mass and so forth. Good fun!

Mr Jack

Designer: Bruno Cathala & Ludovic Maublanc
Publisher: Asmodee / Hurrican
Players: 2
Playing time: 30 minutes
Suitable for: Adults; families ages 9 and up, though the theme may be disturbing for younger children.

Deduction Jack the Ripper could be any one of 8 characters, represented by figures on the game board which depicts the shadowy alleys of Whitechapel. One of the players takes the part of Mr Jack and wishes to escape, the other is a detective trying to catch him. Each turn four figures on the board are moved around, some into the shadows and some under gas lamps. Mr Jack then announces whether or not he is visible. The detective must quickly deduce which character is Mr Jack and then move to arrest him, while Jack wins by avoiding capture for the whole night.

You’ll love it because: This game combines deduction with a simple game of chess-like movement. At the beginning of a turn, four character cards are revealed, and the players will each move 2 of these characters. The characters have different powers: Dr Watson has a lantern with a beam that can illuminate a whole row of the board, Inspector Lestrade is able to reposition the police cordons that prevent Jack from escaping. The players are engaged in a cat-and-mouse struggle of bluff, deduction and brilliant manoeuvre.


Designer: Dirk Henn
Publisher: Queen
Players: 3-5
Playing time: 45 minutes
Suitable for: Families (ages 10 and up); adults

Deduction The oases of the desert are unfriendly places for honest merchants: luckily you are not an honest merchant and your thieving family are able to provide some hints of where thefts will be occurring. Each turn you receive information about a theft specifying one of the 5 oases, two of the 5 pens there, and the two of the 5 available good types that will be stolen. Unfortunately each night brings a total of five thefts and information about the other four targets only trickles in to you over the day, and you may already have settled some of your caravans in dangerous locations!

You’ll love it because: This is an interesting game in which, unlike other deduction games where there is a final all-or-nothing accusation, your success is judged by how many of your goods you are able to bring through the desert to Timbuktu. You operate with imperfect information: some of it comes too late to be useful, some never arrives at all. However, by watching the movements of your opponents who will have access to different sets of information, you can make reasonable conclusions about the safest sites to set down your caravans for the night.

Success in this game requires rigorous deduction as well as the ability to see the patterns in the movements of your opponents. Simple rules and complex play are enhanced by cute camel figures for the player’s caravans.

Scotland Yard

Publisher: Ravensburger
Players: 3-6
Playing time: 45 minutes
Suitable for: Families (ages 10 and up); adults

Deduction “Mr X” is on the loose in London, and a team of detectives have assembled to catch him. Mr X and the detectives can move on a map of London by Underground, bus or taxi, although tickets for each transport type are limited. Mr X is not normally visible on the board, instead the detectives must deduce his location. Every few turns Mr X has to reveal himself, and then the range of transport options available from this site will help the detectives narrow the field of the hunt. If a detective manages to catch up to Mr X then the team of detectives wins, but if time runs out before Mr X is caught then he has successfully escaped!

You’ll love it because: This is a great game for families to play as the detectives need to all co-operate and work as a team. This lets children younger than 10 years of age play and enjoy the game while still leaving a real challenge for all the other players. If just adults are playing, 2 players is perhaps best: one to control the detectives and one for Mr X. The stress of playing Mr X is quite intense, as you must plan ahead for safe locations where you can reveal yourself, and to win, you must break through the tightening police noose which will involve some close range dodging around the detectives!

The detectives require methodical plodding: better to leave no gaps in the net than to make a bold guess and let Mr X slip away! Simple, well-presented fun, with the bonus of learning the layout of London.

Deduce or Die!

Designer: Larry Levy
Publisher: available free Boardgame Geek
Players: 3-6
Playing time: 90 minutes
Suitable for: Families (Ages 12 and up); adults

Deduction You are criminal lawyers, stranded on an island. You wake to find there has been a murder and your job is to determine who did it and successfully accuse them. This game is a deduction game of fiendish difficulty: the first aim is to deduce the two missing cards evidence cards out of a set of 27.

Once you know the missing evidence cards, these will unambiguously identify a third evidence card, and your second aim is to determine who holds this card as they are the murderer. If you hold the evidence card, you can pin the crime on the player holding the next highest card in that suit. The questions you can ask are restricted by a set of interrogation cards, but still permit considerable ingenuity.

You’ll love it because: This game offers the greatest deductive challenge of any of the listed games. Once you have played Cluedo and Sleuth and can cross off the deductions without much thought, Deduce or Die! will have you pondering how to track all the information you are receiving, as well as how to frame questions that don’t give too much information away. The fact that the game is playable with just a few decks of regular cards and is available free adds to the pleasure!