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Castle: The Detective Card Game - Board Game Box Shot

Castle: The Detective Card Game

| Published: 2013
6 4

There has been a murder, and the stars of ABC's Castle are on the case!/p>

In Castle: The Detective Card Game, an easy-to-play murder mystery card game, 2–5 players will play as one of six major characters from the show – each with a unique ability to use during play – as they collect and use investigation cards to narrow down the suspects until they find the guilty party! Special event cards change the dynamics of the investigation as a new suspect could enter the fray, or you could get a new set of investigation cards to aid you.

Castle: The Detective Card Game includes two ways to play. You can play a single game, which simulates a single episode from the show, or you can play a whole season. If you play a single episode, whoever finds the killer wins the game. If you play a season match, you play multiple games until one of the players has won two games.

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“A Complete Sleuthing Experience”

The maker of Castle: the Detective Card Game has managed to create a truly unique sleuthing experience for fans of detective-themed games and of the hit ABC television series Castle alike. My wife and I are long-time fans of Castle, so we especially appreciated the many layers in which the theme is integrated: on the surface, the cards and characters are beautifully designed with the “look” of the show, but it took us a few plays before we realized that we really felt like we were sitting at Richard Castle’s elite mystery writers’ poker table!

Replay Value: 4/5

It’s a small game: there are a total of 18 Suspects, and each “Episode” features 5 Suspects, so you burn through them pretty quickly if you play a “Full Season,” (as many Episodes as needed for one player to solve three Episodes). There is not much variety or difference between Episodes, except in what cards are drawn and played.

That being said, the right group could enjoy this game as a quick filler between larger games, or as a marathon of one or more Full Seasons. Fans of Castle will likely participate more eagerly, but knowledge of the show is absolutely unnecessary to play the game and enjoy it immensely.

Components: 4/5

The “discovery” element for the actual detective work is a set of 12 beautiful, weighty poker chips – 2 “Guilty” chips that end the Episode and 10 “Not Guilty” chips that implement a specific consequence before the Episode continues toward its completion. These chips are a really cool, surprisingly simple, uniquely fitting mechanism for gameplay.

These chips are assigned as randomly as possible to 5 of the 18 oversized, thicker cardstock Suspect cards. The figures on these cards are thematic silhouettes of such stock murder mystery suspects as “The Bullying Brother,” “The Cheating Spouse,” and “The Thieving Accountant.” While the Suspect’s identities are probably the shallowest level of the game’s theme, groups of Social and Family Gamers with creative storytellers will enjoy speculating about the Suspects and creating complicated cases tying these characters together. My wife pointed out immediately, though, that there is no stated victim. A curious vacancy, but another fun chance for storytelling, which is what Castle is really all about in the first place.

Each Suspect card requires a combination of 3 “Investigation” cards to be confronted. There are 90 Investigation playing cards (9 cards of each of the 9 different actions, with 9 “special text” cards), which are well-designed but quickly show wear around the edges if not handled carefully (sleeves might be in order). A player’s turn involves one of the following actions: drawing a card, discarding a card and drawing two cards, playing a special text card and following its instructions, or playing 3 Investigation cards to Confront a Suspect.

A fifth action is possible: each player plays as one of the 6 main characters of the series: Kate Beckett, Richard Castle, Kevin Ryan, Javier Esposito, Lanie Parish, or Captain Gates; and each player has a special ability to be used once per Episode. While players obviously work together to eliminate suspects to find the guilty party, this is not a cooperative game. I was actually surprised how little interaction there needs to be between players. Turns move quickly, and unless someone plays one of the special text cards or flips over a “Not Guilty” chip, players affect each others’ turns very little. Again, this can be seen to be either a theme-light component, or an opportunity to discuss other things than your turn, such as Castle’s mystery writers do around their poker table. Develop your case; hash out the story; tease your opponents for their latest pandering, pathetic mystery novel.

There are also 12 cardboard “Solved” tokens, which might be superfluous if only playing a single Episode as a filler game, but add to the fun poker feel of gameplay if playing a Full Season.

Easy to Learn: 5/5

The rulebook is only a few pages. A quick skim is sufficient to play the first round or two. The rulebook also offers a page of suggestions for increasing difficulty, and a variation that boosts cooperation. We were playing within 5 minutes, and our first Episode lasted maybe ten minutes. The second Episode lasted far longer, and we almost lost by reaching the end of the Investigation card deck. Gameplay is probably 80:20 in terms of luck:strategy, which will quickly frustrate Strategy and Power Gamers. There is also no deductive aspect to gameplay, which may mislead or disappoint gamers expecting a more thoroughly implemented detective theme.

Overall Impressions:

This game is both a great filler game or full game saturated with layers of theme, tons of fun for Castle fans and detective theme fans alike. When a player lays down the three Investigation cards necessary to Confront a Suspect, everyone tenses: will the Episode end? Will the Suspect be “Not Guilty”? If “Not Guilty,” what does that mean for continuing the case? It’s great fun, a cool-feeling game with simple, easy-to-understand mechanics, and very few components to manage.


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