Updated: Aug 29
If you have ever listened to any true crime podcasts, then you are almost certainly aware of Casefile. As one of the biggest in the genre, it has currently released over 220 episodes of intriguing dark stories of real-life cases. And now, it has spun off into a board game! Backed by the family game experts at Goliath, Casefile: Truth & Deception blends clever card play, with an elimination mechanic seen in hugely popular games such as Clue(do). Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
Set-Up Give each player a dry erase pen, (provided with the game) and one case tracker board. Place the main board and dice into the centre of the table, then separate the deck of cards into the five types. Weapon, location, Motive, Suspect, and False Evidence. Shuffle each deck separately and then choose one card at random from the first four piles (exclude the false evidence pile). Place these four cards into the confidential folder so that no one sees what they are. This becomes the answer to the game you are playing. Then, add the five decks together, shuffle them up and deal five cards to each player. Place the remaining deck in the centre of the table on the main board. You are now ready to play.
How to Play Starting with the youngest player, all players will now mark off on their own sheet the cards they just received, as they know they are not the ones inside the folder. They can review any false evidence cards they were dealt, to ensure they understand how and when to use them. Then, they can ask about three separate pieces of evidence. Players can ask about any card from any category they want to find out if anyone else has. This could be to eliminate these from their investigation, knowing they are not in the central confidential folder. Or, to trick others into thinking they don't have that card, when in fact they do, so they start to think they may be in the folder.
When the first player says their chosen three pieces of evidence out loud that they are looking for, all other players must then see if they have any of these cards in their hand. If they do, and they wish to trade evidence, they must total the card value for any matching card(s) they have and state this. All cards have a numerical value of one, two, or three on the top. If they have a match, and wish to trade, they will then say this number out loud for all to hear. The starting player can then decide if they want to trade with that player and will then swap them cards of equal value in return. This is the main way you can see more cards and mark off more evidence on your sheet. But other players can take note of the cards they think may be being exchanged. If no trade is made, then the starting player can simply discard one card from their hand to the central pile and replace it with a new card from the top of the draw pile. This new card can then be marked off if it was evidence. So, you will always see at least one new card. At this point, the leading player can play one false evidence card if they choose, and then play moves to the right. All players will have one turn like this until it gets back to the first player again, who at this point, will roll the deception die. The result of this will cause them to reveal a certain card to all players helping them out, or if they are lucky and roll an X, they can do nothing. Play then moves to the next player who will roll the die at the end of that round.
Play will continue until one player thinks they have gathered enough evidence to make an attempt at solving the case. They must say out loud the four pieces of evidences they think is in the folder, and then have a look to see if they are right. If they are correct, they win and the game ends for all players. If they are wrong about any of the four cards, they are out and the game continues for all other players with that player out of the game. As you build up for you evidence, it is worth noting that other players may be trying to fool you, or bluff certain things. Also, when people say they match evidence players are looking for and say a number value, they may of course be planning to show you false evidence, or evidence you have seen before. It won't always be the card the player asks for. It is a game of bluff, and deduction, Much like Clue(do)
Is it Fun If you enjoy Clue(do) then you will most certainly enjoy this. It removes the tedious die rolling and slow progress of moving from one room to another, and focuses purely on the deduction and deception. I like Clue(do) don't get me wrong. It is a classic for a reason and I still own and cherish one copy now. But there is some frustration with it. That is removed on Casefile, and replaced with pure deduction. Adding fun and clever card play with the False Evidence cards which really do mix up the game quite a bit. You could be forced to swap your entire hand with the player next to you. Perhaps you may be forced to reveal one card from your hand to all other players. Or maybe, you could even have to give up your case tracker, and swap this with all your notes so far with another player. Being forced to try and understand their scrawl and short hand instead! If you enjoy this sort of chaos, then this game could be for you. If that sounds stressful and annoying, well, I suppose you could always remove that card. The art on the cards is all quite well done. The colour scheme is a little bland, but the pictures are clear and nothing is too gory or inappropriate for younger players. There is a small amount of flavour text on the evidence cards too, which is a nice touch, although largely irrelevant.
The pens provided are a slight disappointment. They are the standard fare often provided with board games made now-a-days. But out of the four in the box, two didn't work. I am sure if I contacted the publisher I could get replacements, but I have plenty in the house. So there is no need. But it was disappointing.
I like the similarities with Clue(do) but was surprised at just how similar it was. In each game of Casefile, the case is the same. All that changes is the four cards that are randomly dealt into the confidential folder at the start. It would have been interesting if the game had come with a number of different cases from the podcast, and you can chose a random one each game to try and solve. The game would be the same, but the story a little different. But perhaps each could change one rule. Or perhaps you could play a few in a row in a campaign. The absence of this seems like a missed opportunity to me.
But the game is fun. I like the challenge of trying to eliminate as many pieces of evidence as quickly as possible, and trying to get to a point where you can make an educated guess as quickly as possible. All the while, under the time pressure of knowing everyone else is wanting to do the same before you do. I like this pressure. Wanting to do something thoroughly and properly. But not waiting too long so you miss out.
Not many games have an ending like this. You will be familiar with it from Clue(do) but it really is quite rare. You are all aiming for a certain thing. That you can all try and do at any point. There are not set rounds. No game clock. No card or time limit. Just the players own choice as to when they go for it. It can be blunt and abrupt, and frustrating if you miss out. Frustrating too if you go for it, and get one card wrong. But the tension this brings would not be there if the ending was not as abrupt. It's hard to have one without the other.
Casefile is a good game, and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Clue(do) and is looking for something similar. I am a little disappointed it is so similar to Clue(do) but I do like the changes they have made. The game creates a lot of tension. There is a lot of satisfaction to be found in the game from working out the clues. And the interaction between players, trading evidence, tricking others with false evidence, and mixing things up with the cards you can play, is a lot of fun. I think most will have a lot of good times with this and can see this being a real family favourite. It is no where as dark as the box art and name suggests, and I fear this may put many people off. But if you can get passed that, there is a good game to be found here.