Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day in the Museum

One of my wife's requests for Mother's Day was a family game.  Now, in my family, negotiating a consensus on a game to which everyone agrees is not easy.  I gave our two younger sons a list of 60 four-player games that we owned, that my wife likes, and that are age-appropriate for my youngest (ten-year-old) son.  I told them that they could each eliminate up to twenty games from the list.  That left twenty or so from which Kathy could choose.  She settled on three options, and from those the boys agreed to play Clue: The Great Museum Caper (designers John Labelle and Thomas and Dave Rabideau, publisher Parker Brothers).  (Surprisingly, this was not an easy process.)

This 1991 title was a gift from one of my siblings many years ago, and it has become an old reliable family favorite in my house.  Despite the title, this game is not at all a variant of the traditional and familiar Clue.  Rather, the game is a terrific mix of co-operative and competitive gaming.  Each player gets one chance to be the art thief, who by hidden movement attempts to make his or her way through the museum, steal paintings, and escape the other three players, who attempt to coordinate their efforts to catch the burglar.  The player who escapes with the most paintings in his or her opportunity as the thief wins the game.

The non-thief players ("detectives") can coordinate their efforts and have at their disposal video cameras and motion detectors, but the sensors don't all work at the same time and they are not sufficiently numerous to cover all the paintings vulnerable to theft, let alone all the numerous escape routes by which the thief can exit the museum.  The thief can disable cameras and motion detectors and even turn off the power to the entire security system, but he or she can get cornered if careless and end up caught red-handed by the detectives.

The really exciting aspect of this game is the hidden movement.  Sneaking around as the thief, who is always vulnerable to discovery and capture, makes for very suspenseful play.  The other players, meanwhile, feel as though they are fumbling around, trying to find the burglar somewhere in the huge museum with limited lines of sight and inconsistently functioning cameras.  The advantage goes to the last player to be the thief, because that person knows exactly how many paintings are necessary to win the game.  Our customary family rule, therefore, is that players take turns as thief from oldest to youngest.

As the oldest at the table on Mother's Day, I was the thief first.  I made my way through a back window into the center room of the museum, where I disabled a camera, then stole a painting.  Everyone knew basically where I was once the first painting was removed (they are each alarmed and so alert the detectives when "lifted").  I was able to make my way into the red room in the back of the museum - my favorite escape route, as it has two doorways for entrances and two windows for exit.  It also happened to have two paintings, so - in full view of the camera in that room - I stole both paintings in the red room.  Luckily for me, the detectives were moving slowly (due to low die rolls) and the first window I tried was unlocked, so I was able to escape with three paintings.

That turned out to be enough, as it happened.  When my wife was the thief, I happened to stumble upon her after only two turns and caught her before she laid her hands on a single painting.  Each of our sons ended up getting trapped in a room - in my youngest son's case, the power room, when he tried to disable the entire security system.  So as the only successful thief, I won the game (and some notoriety for catching Mom on Mother's Day).

It was admittedly a success born of a little dice luck and a little lucky guesswork, but that didn't take away from the fun and the suspense of playing.  We really like this game.

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