Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday 23 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Paranormal Detectives

Game: Paranormal Detectives

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer:  Szymon Maliński, Adrian Orzechowski, Marcin Łączyński

Year: 2019

Paranormal Detectives casts one player as a ghost, who has recently been victim to a murder. The ghost appears in front of you, bearing wounds (if they have any) and a few visible features. As detectives, you'll want to piece together the mystery of what has befallen the ghost - Who killed them? Why? Where? And what with?

If this sounds a little bit like Cluedo, or the more modern game, Mysterium, then you wouldn't be far wrong. Here you can compete or cooperate, but each of the detective characters has certain tricks and tips for communicating with the dead. The result is a cacophony of varied clues all leading to a graphic story of the ghost's tragic tale.


At the start of the game one player is elected to be killed and become the ghost. This player will receive a story card which will tell them in detail the story of how they died. Along with the story is a brief description of what they look like, which they can read out to all the detective players, and a list of acceptable answers for the 5 categories. Sometimes there will be some visible wounds for you to point out at the crime scene. The rest of the players are given a player board, dry-erase pen and a hand of cards which they can use during the game to ask the ghost for clues. Players will then take turns asking a question along with a card which determines how the ghost can reply. After receiving their 'answer' a player may make a guess, but they only get two chances over the course of the game.

If a player guesses correctly then both they, and the ghost, win the game. But if no-one can guess correctly then the ghost loses and the player who got the most right answers wins. In total you are trying to guess 5 subjects: Who? Why? Where? How and the Weapon? But there are no cards or game components to represent these things. The stories are free-form and so they could be anything. It's up to the ghost to tell the players. Of course options for communication are limited. While players can request the way they get information it's never easy. From mouthing a word or pointing an an object to drawing on a players back or playing 3 tarot cards, Paranormal Detectives is designed to get the ghost moving about doing silly things if they want to get their answers across.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

So you're Dead: Now what? Your murderer is getting away and you're so upset that you keep scaring away anyone who tries to talk to you. But these five seem different, perhaps it is still possible to rest your weary soul?

Paranormal Detectives is an excellent way to bring a Cluedo-like experience into a modern party game. Like any good party game it gets people talking, and laughing as soon as the game begins. It can be a little daunting to look at initially, which might make it a harder sell to non-gamer friends, but once you get into the nitty-gritty, the gameplay is 'ask a question and play a card'. How hard can that be? My favourite thing is how open ended the stories can be. Because they aren't restricted by components they can be anything. They can also make sense, and at the end of the game after a correct (or lack of correct) guess the ghost gets to read out the story and you get to see how close your theories were. It's a great climax to a deduction game.

Who needs shields with fantastic character art when your handwriting is this poor?
The ghost is the person who will have to take on the largest burden in this game. The clue cards come in all different forms - some will require you to be touching the other players' hands or getting up and doing a quick charades. While others are about placing cards or putting tokens on a board. There's a great mix of things to do which keeps the game fresh and fun, but since every character has a unique mix of these actions you can ensure no-one is doing things they are uncomfortable with.

To make it clear how great Paranormal Detectives is: Mysterium used to be a stable of my top 10 lists. Now we are selling it. Paranormal Detectives provides the same theme, while bringing simpler gameplay which is far more targeted at the kind of people I'd usually play murder-mystery games is. It's a fantastic game which you should go out of your way to play now! Right Now! Well, OK maybe read Fi's thoughts first, but after that!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Paranormal Detectives is a really well-thought out party game. It's a real test of how you can communicate with your friends in a whole manner of ways? Can't draw? - Then hopefully your friends won't use that card. Bad at anagrams? - Then you probably should probably not ask the ghost to use the talking board. Watching your friend try and make an object out of wired string can always cause a laugh and a three second pantomime is short enough to not be TOO embarrassing, even for the most introverted. Some of the clue types feel easier to communicate accurate information with than others, but even after a strong start, each scenario seems to come with one element that's really tricky to pin down. The game has been won with a 5/5 score every time so far, but it's also lasted a reasonable 30 minutes or so, that a party game should.

Can you guess the word I'm trying to communicate?
All the clues are common knowledge, except drawing on someone's back which is inherently not a shared piece of information. I'm not sure if perhaps that's a missed opportunity in the competitive game. Instead, with everything being shared, it is up to the players how quickly they might be able to put together the pieces. The player who guesses first is really exposing themselves, but if it's close to the end of the game, they may have the best shot at being first to get the most correct parts of the puzzle and therefore still win. In cooperative mode, the discussion around the table is more open and I think it feels more natural to play this way.

Paranormal Detectives can easily be compared to Mysterium and, when played cooperatively, or at two-player, Paranormal Detectives is a stronger game. Whilst Mysterium is cooperative, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to share and talk about, whilst in paranormal detectives you're really bouncing theories off each other. Not only that, but you're working towards a cohesive story, rather than three discrete clues which don't have a narrative connection.

You Might Like...
  • Paranormal Detectives is a highly interactive party game.
  • The game genuinely works as competitive or cooperative and even as a 2-player game.
  • There's a big stack of scenarios in the game, but when you're done you can download the app, which has more scenarios to keep your game fresh.
You Might Not Like...
  • Some of the types of clues, like performing a pantomime, require a more outgoing group to really shine.
  • In competitive mode, the first person to guess might give away a lot to the rest of the group.
  • It can feel like the ghost player has more to do that other players.

The Verdict
8/10 Paranormal Detectives has replaced Mysterium on our shelves. It gives you the same feel, especially in cooperative mode, but it has a huge amount more player interaction, including for the ghost player. The different ways of giving clues are really innovative, fun and also work well for the way different players think, which makes the game really shine. Every story is detailed and a real treat to unfold.

Paranormal Detectives was a review copy kindly provided to us by Lucky Duck Games.

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