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Investigation mechanic idea

4 replies [Last post]
larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I decided to work again on my city cooperative investigation game. I want to gather some comments and alternative ideas. I just designed a mechanic with some ressemblence to clue which seems to work.

I thought that I could use a system like Arkham horror where you accumulate clue tokens to unlock stuff, but I find it really cheap and it gives no investigation feeling.

Situation: There is a map of the city with location to explore. Locations can be either Suspicious, public. There are 4 vilains with an hideout in an suspicious location, each vilain is going to attack 1 public location. And the master plan is hiden in 1 public location.

problem: make an investigation mechanic that will allow me not to sue a game master.

Solution so far: explained briefly.

hideout location
- The is 1 card for each location.
- Deal all suspicious cards except 4 to players.
- when player investigate a location, if another player has the cards he shows it, else the first vilain's lair is found.
- Which mean that the villains location is not attached to the villain

target location
- Place 1 public location on each villain, this is where there will attack.
- An event card will trigger the attack
- if the player already know where he is going to attack, the only thing he can do is wait for the villain to attack. So agai no problem.

Master plan
- Public locations are not distributed to the players they must be draw throught the course of the game.
- public location is set aside as the master plan location.
- Players need to pick all the location cards before the game ends to uncover the location.
- OR players must camp the places they think the master plan is when the games end to engage the final battle.

What do you think? I somewhat used many ways to take advantage of the mechanic in clue. Do you have other ideas Do you think it makes investigation interesting.

Another idea that I could implement is a trail system like in an adventure book. But in my case, I don't want any book. Or I could add quest to the system above instead of trails?

A trail is like a series of locations to visit in order to get what you want. I thought that when a locatio is investigated, the players give their location card to the investigating player giving indications on where he can now go.

Joined: 08/04/2008
The mechanic feels too much

The mechanic feels too much like clue to me and less of an investigation.
I think maybe using cards where each card will have investigation areas in top left then below that will have different stages of investigations.
Beginning of the game flip over first card put a marker on the place in the top right of the board. Flip the next card over to look at #1 to see what the rumor is there. Perhaps a drunk was heard talking to athorities. you'd go there and roll persuation or something similar to get info from him to unlock the next part of the quest. Also items could boost rolls. if you have booze you get a +2 to your roll. Something like that.
Then if you succeed repeat the process but look at step 2 in the investigation on the card. Each step of investigation will give clues which you can use for whatever you want. Or just have 3 difficulties of investigations at each marker. And each one gives different amounts of clues. Ex. easy would be 1 clue, normal 3 clue, hard 5 clues. Each would be different or something. And since you have 4 villians you'd have 4 tokens on the board at all times. Perhaps depending on the villians you'd have to pay x clue tokens to find a lair.

kungfugeek's picture
Joined: 09/10/2008
How many possible locations?

If you have 36 locations, you could do something like this....
The board is broken up into 4 quadrants. Each quadrant has 9 locations in a 3x3 grid. The 3 rows on the grid are A, B, C. The 3 columns are X, Y Z. The four quadrants can be named anything: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow. But each grid has to have the same names for its rows and columns as the other grids.

A location is then determined by three cards: Quadrant, Row, and Column.

For each location that you need to find, spread one Quadrant token, one row token, and one column token around to various locations in the city. The tokens are the clues. Might have to have some way of marking quadrant/row/column tokens as belonging to the same villain, so players know which villain they found a clue for.

Probably group the tokens in piles by type (quadrant, row, column) face down by the board. Each villain has 3 markers that identify him. Grab a villain's markers, and put one face down on a location and then draw a quadrant token and put it face-down on top of the marker. Put a second marker on a different location and draw a row token and put on top of it, etc.

As the players peak at tokens, they start narrowing down the locations...

The old game Castle of Magic had a lot of different deduction elements rolled into one game, some of them very interesting. Might be worth a look.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Warning, long and heavy

Warning, long and heavy message

First, replys to your replys

you'd go there and roll persuation or something similar to get info from him to unlock the next part of the quest.

There will be some sort of roll, it will only change the degree of success. The investigation will always work, it's just the consequences that changes.

Perhaps depending on the villians you'd have to pay x clue tokens to find a lair.

This is an "Arkham horror" and "touch of evil mechanism". It's just a really cheap mechanism that does not allow any deduction.

The board is broken up into 4 quadrants.

Fits perfectly with my game, it has 4 quadrants.

A location is then determined by three cards: Quadrant, Row, and Column.

Cool, some sort of matrix system like in "mystery at the abey"

The old game Castle of Magic had a lot of different deduction elements rolled into one game, some of them very interesting. Might be worth a look.

I just read the rule, Indeed it's a weird game with a roll and move mechanism.

I have analysed a bit the deduction mechanism and came with the following patterns:

Answer System: The card hold the answer wanted.

Matrix System: The card hold a part of the information. By combining these informations you get the answer.

Addition method: You add cards together to find the solution. In matrix system, you combine the clue, in answer system the card is the answer.

Rejection method: The card indicates the clues which are not the right one. In answer system there are all the other clues, in matrix system, it's the clues which are not part of the combination

So the clue game use the answer system with a rejection method.

Another method used in Castle of magic is value permutation. You just switch the position of the information so that nobody know which one it is.

Now about my game, here are some considerations to take care about:

No pen and paper: This can be a problem in deduction games but since my game is coperative, the clues can be shown face up tp everybody when asked.

Reveal anytime: Some location need to be revealed at anytime possible. For example, if the player investigate the right location right at the beginning I must be able to get the answer now.

Cannot peek at the answer: As opposed to clue where if you make an accusation wrong, you are out of the game because you glanced at the answer, I can't do that in my game. You cannot look at the answer

Force reveal: Some locations can be revealed by force by an event card (for ex: targets). So the answer must be easily accessible even if players did not draw all the clues.

Multiple exclusive answers: It's the situation where the same location cannot be targetted twice. Using multiple matrix system can lead to twice the same target.

ideas for my game:

> Hideout: ( matrix, addition or rejection, cannot peek, reveal anytime, Exclusive answers) 3 attributes:
Location type (x3): Dirty, luxury, etc.
Quadrant of the city (x4):
Villain (x4):

In addition mode: When investigation, player give up cards to investigator that match either quadrat or type. If a 3 card combination match, the hide out is revealed.

In rejection mode: you trade the wrong clues.

Problems with the system:
- Can start with a combination in hand that works.
- People need to keep track of clues that passed into their hands.
- I need to distribute all the clues at the beginning of the game.
- Multiple villains can be at the same place.

Partial solution: when a clue match, it is placed on the table face up. Hideout will be found much faster.

> Target (Answer system, Rejection, Force reveal, exclusive answer)

An event can force a target to get revealed and the players cannot reveal a target. This is why this mechanic is not as problematic.

So a location cards are placed on vilains, players draw wrong locations and try to guess the right location (camp the area before it gets attacked).

> Final Location: I am not sure yet. One thing for sure is that I can make sure that the end of the game trigger the revealing of the final location. I think the matrix system works best here because there is only 1 answer.


The Matrix system has the advantage to make people move around. It prevent people from doing every location in a row. It also only reveals a part of the answer to the players who hold the cards in their hands. It could get tricky with fewer players, Probably a min of 3 players would be required.

On the other hand, the matrix system can only hold 1 answer. If you need multiple answers, you need need multiple matrix system. Which could lead to the same answer multiple times.

I like the idea of gaining clue cards through the course of the game. So maybe if you investigate somewhere and all other players does not have enough clues to prove that you are right, you get to draw and additional clue cards. So people will gather clues at the beginning of the game making sure it's impossible to find the hideout right at the beginning of the game.

Finally, I also thought that player could exchange information by taking both player hand and making combinations to find the locations. It would be a way to cooperate.

Ok, my mind is getting tired with all the possibilities. I might test the clue system alone to get some feedback.

Thanks again for the feedback.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I kept thinking about it

I tried to solve the problem from the thematic point of view. In real life, how would an investigation work:

First it must be triggered. Most of the time, an event will trigger an investigation.

Then you need to find who did that or why he did it.

Either you use contacts to get information about the event.
Either you investigate the event.

When you know who or why, if opens you new investigation path.

For example, if you know who it is, you know which kind of places he visits so you know that you need to investigate there to get information about him.

That is why, I thought I could try focussing more on the thematic aspect of the investigation rather than the mechanis aspect.


What would be the difference between these 2 mechanics

A- accumulate clues tokens, pay the price to get the information.
B-Accumulate clue to narrow down the choice and find the answer.

The results is the same, the main difference is that with solution B you can try to guess the answer. Solution B is also much more immersive than solution A.


Other interesting mechanics idea from other games:

Sherlock holm adventure books: You gather clues and deduction. These can change the branching text in the history.

London 1888 : Each character has a set of cards which are either "false track" "suspect" "identify". When investigating a character, you pick a card and hope to get the identity card. "False track" cards are discarded, increasing the odds to get the identity card.

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