Board Games for Crime Fiction Fans

There’s never been a better time to be a board game fan—and as the hobby continues its current surge in popularity, it’s also never been a better time to be a mystery or thriller fan who also likes board games. In other words, forget Clue. Whether you’re a new or casual gamer who wants to capture the feel of your favorite spy novel or you’re part of a dedicated playgroup that wants to solve an immersive mystery, these games provide a little trip into the genre of your choice, all in the safety of your home.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game (1-5 players)

For: Police procedural junkies, would-be members of the 87th Precinct

Detective is an immersive, cooperative board game that asks players to solve a series of cases with some good, old-fashioned—and modern—police work. Each player is an investigator, and the group works together to solve a mystery. Doing so may send players to the courthouse, over to the crime lab, or out into the field to gather clues or conduct surveillance. A deck of cards guides players through the case, doles out leads, and moves the plot forward, while an interactive website lets you review case files, look up evidence (including fingerprints and DNA!), and submit your final report (don’t worry, it’s not too much paperwork), which determines whether you successfully solved the case.

The game comes with five cases that, when completed in order, tell a larger story. Be warned: this is an intense game—it can take up to four hours to solve a case. Make sure you and your friends are ready to put in some overtime; solo play option is available if you’re a loner who doesn’t play by the rules.

Watson & Holmes (2-7 players)

For: Classic mystery lovers and Holmes aficionados

Are your powers of deduction strong enough to match the mind of the world’s greatest detective? Watson & Holmes sends its players to 221B Baker Street, where each works alongside Sherlock Holmes to solve a heretofore-unpublished case selected from Watson’s diaries. There are 13 cases of varying difficulties to choose from, but in this game, players compete against one another to collect clues and be the first to solve the mystery. Players must make their way across Victorian-era London to gather information, but the game’s rules dictate only one player can be in a location at a time, so competition may grow fierce and exceedingly impolite. When a player thinks they’ve solved the case, they must return to Baker Street and check their solution—but if they’re wrong, they lose the game.

Secrets (4-8 players)

For: Espionage junkies, people who miss watching The Americans

Secrets is a fast and fun trip back into the Cold War. Players are randomly assigned a faction—either the KGB, the CIA, or the anti-war Hippies—and must play and trade cards until their team accumulates enough points to win. But things in the field are never what they seem, and various cards can force players to swap sides, expose secret information, or even inadvertently become double-agents. Secrets plays best with a big group, so it’s perfect for breaking out at parties. Disguise kits and wigs aren’t required but may help you get into the spirit of the game.

Nyctophobia (3-5 players)

For: Fans of serial killer stories, people who think they’d survive a Friday the 13th-type scenario

Nyctophobia is the fear of darkness. It’s also the state players of Nyctophobia will find themselves in during a session of this board game, which made its debut earlier this year. In the game, one player acts as the “Hunter,” an ax-wielding maniac who stalks the rest of the players through a pitch-black forest. The other players wear blackout glasses and must navigate their way across the maze-like game board by touch alone. And though the Hunter can see all, his or her actions are dictated by a special deck of cards. The tension builds as the players try to avoid the Hunter, navigate the labyrinth of woods, and escape. Typical playing time is under an hour—perfect for a double-feature of murderous mayhem.


  1. Doreen Sheridan

    I love this list! Have you ever played Orient Express? I forced my younger siblings to play that with me when we were kids — not only did they not share my love of mysteries, but they also hated that I almost always solved the case first. As an adult who still loves board games despite my siblings’ best efforts, this list is a great starting point for me to get back into mystery games (especially with the solo player option!)

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