Awkward Guests is one of my favorite games discovered in 2021. It is a brilliant deduction game that really gives you that feeling of being a detective that solves crime cases. Although I can not say I’ve always been a fan of deduction games, playing Chronicles of Crime: 1900 changed my mind, and Awkward Guests is an even better game in this category. I am very happy that I got the chance to play it.
As a detective, you are called to solve the mysterious murder of Mr. Walton, the rich man who threw a party at his grand mansion that did not end well. You have to interrogate the guests, the staff members and talk to the police about the case in order to get enough clues to find the criminal. But how did they kill him? And more importantly, why did they do it?
Being a detective in Awkward Guests
The whole gameplay revolves around the Brilliant Deck system. The game contains 243 clue cards out of which you will use only 70 to set up one of the cases described in the rulebook. These cases are classified in 7 levels of difficulty, ranging from Beginner to Perfect Crime. For each case, players have to find which one of the guests is the criminal. They also need to discover the reason why they killed Mr. Walton and the murder weapon. Starting with the 4th level of difficulty, in some cases there may be an accomplice helping the murderer. To solve these cases, the players need to find the accomplice too along with the murderer.
After separating the 70 specified cards to build the game deck, each player will get 6 clue cards that will give them some information about the case. Players will then take turns asking for clues from the others about 2 different references, be them guests or rooms in the mansion. The others can then decide whether to give him cards containing information about what he asked or not. The active player can trade with any of the players that offered him information by giving cards of the same value in return.
Whenever a player receives new cards either from other players or from the game deck, they should write down the information received on their player sheet. Information can include testimonies from the guests, the staff, or help from the police. After all players took their turn, the round ends and each player can decide to try and solve the case or not. If no one solved the case, players discard down to 3 cards and fill their hands back to 6 cards by taking cards from the game deck.
Awkward Guests, a deduction masterpiece
The mechanics of Awkward Guests are easy to understand, so teaching it is fast and easy. The only challenge that you’ll face is learning how to take notes on your investigation sheet so that you won’t mess up the information. This may take you some time to get used to, but it will get better as you get going. Sometimes you may get frustrated that you are not getting the information that you are looking for and you’ll feel like you’re running around in circles, but sooner or later a clue will come that will guide you on the right path.
Setting up the case to play can be pretty laborious if you do it alone. Although the 243 cards are separated into 5 decks, picking the 70 cards that you need from these decks will take you quite some time. It’s also very easy to accidentally include a card that shouldn’t be part of the case, and this can really mess up the game. I did this once unknowingly and it ended up pretty bad.
One of the players thought he had solved the case 20 minutes into the game and he was very upset to find out that he actually got the wrong weapon. Turns out, he was lucky enough to find the suspect and the motive early in the game, as he got multiple cards that ruled out different motive categories. The card that shouldn’t have been included also ended up in his hand and it made him cross all weapons he had left except for one, so it looked like he solved the case, but the weapon turned out to be the wrong one. Pay attention when building your deck and count the cards once more when you finish!
Thematically, writing notes down on your investigation sheet really makes you feel like a detective. This makes the experience different from Chronicles of Crime, where you use an app to play and place down cards on the table whenever you discover clues. I also enjoy that Awkward Guests is not a co-op game and that players compete to solve the case and be the best detective. This reminded one of my friends of Cluedo, and he said that “Awkward Guests is Cluedo on steroids, it is what Cluedo failed to be for me”, and I totally agree with him.
I’ve played Awkward Guests at 1-5 players. While being very fun and challenging at all players counts, I especially enjoy it at 2 players. There are some rule changes to play this way, but the core of the game stays the same. At this player count, it feels even more like a race to find the suspect before your opponent. Unlike at higher player counts where you can keep on exchanging the same cards with the players to avoid giving them new information, at 2 players all exchanged cards are discarded, so you can never give back the same cards that you received and both players know almost the same things. This makes it very important to discard high-value cards at the end of a round so that your opponent won’t have access to that information.
Awkward Guests is exactly what I hoped it would be when my friend told me about it. I was looking for a game where you really feel like a detective when solving crimes and this one didn’t fail to provide that feeling. It is a great step up from Cluedo and Chronicles of Crime, requiring great deduction skills and a great deal of strategy to get the best out of your cards. Are you a fan of deduction games? Then Awkward Guests is right down your alley.
Megacorpin Games also just finished a Kickstarter campaign for their latest game called ScandalOh! that uses the same Brilliant Deck system as Awkward Guests. By the looks of it, the game seems just as fun as this one. I will make sure to follow it closely and keep you updated about it!
Designers: Ron Gonzalo Garcia
Publisher: Megacorpin Games
Time: 60 min
Times played: 14
Full disclosure: A copy of Awkward Guests was provided by the game publisher.
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