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Colonel Mustard, in the Kitchen, with the Poison Gas

Over the holiday weekend we had a family dilemma. Everyone wanted to play Clue, but no one wanted to go out in the holiday traffic to purchase the game. Fortunately, we found two people willing to walk to a nearby store, but of course, that store did not have the game. They did, however, have enough of an office supply and toy selection to make it possible to create a homemade version of Clue. Our home version is easily as enjoyable as the store bought one and it allows for customization, as you will see.

professor plum
Professor Plum: Has his lifelong obsession with solving magnetically confined fusion finally pushed him over the edge and made him a murderer?

For those who may not know, Clue is a “crime fiction board game” with a lengthy history. It inspired at least one funny movie and possibly a few other enjoyable ones. The official rules can be found online (PDF). I had never played it prior to this weekend, but it is easy to learn (even though other people will be sure to take advantage of the least experienced player).

Sure, we could have just played cards, or someone could have volunteered to go find the game, but that would not have been as enjoyable as creating a homemade version. The game was put together from the following items.

  • Large poster board: As large as you are willing to draw on.
  • Package of Index Cards: Draw the playing cards on one-half of one side, fold, and tape to prevent other players from being able to see through the cards.
  • Dice: Only need a die, but it is useful to have two dice for a faster game.
  • General Paper: Any basic paper can be used to make items representing the players.
  • Action Figure with Weapons: This is key, the toy weapons of the action figure serve as the icons for the game weapons. This is why Colonel Mustard used poison gas instead of a candlestick.
homemade clue board
The map is drawn on a large piece of poster board.

This can actually cost less than the official game. It depends on how expensive the action figure is, though there is usually a very cheap (i.e., generic) one available. The toughest part of putting this together is probably going to be drawing the map on the poster board. As seen in the image to the left, the routes can get skewed. A ruler and patience will make this better, but as long as there is some semblance of a clear path it should be possible to follow it. Beware of ill-defined squares because they encourage creative counting on the part of players seeking to reach a room quickly.

A benefit of taking the time to create your own game is that it motivates the addition of new items. While we started with the simple task of changing the weapons based on what was available, this quickly morphed into the addition of an entire new class of item: the motive.

The motive is the fourth aspect of the murder that must be correctly determined to win the game. The standard aspects are murderer, weapon, and location. As someone not particularly familiar with the game prior to this weekend, I do not understand how the location can still be a matter of debate. Regardless, requiring players to figure out the motive increases the difficulty of the game while also making it all the less likely that someone will get lucky early on.

alligator weapon
Alligator: A failed motive card becomes a dangerous new weapon.

Representing the motives by graphics on their cards took longer than drawing the full map. The motives are: greed, insanity, jealousy, revenge, self-defense, and accident. An alligator served as the representation of accident, but it just did not look correct. In the end, we added alligator as a weapon and used the red cross for the accident card. Now imagine winning the game by determining that Mrs. Peacock committed the murder in the library using an alligator in self-defense.

I definitely recommend this as a family activity. Most homes probably have enough material to create the game set without buying anything new. It's even easier if you have any remnants from an older version of the game. Why buy replacement parts when you can make them?

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clue solution
The solution, without motive, is clear.
Initial Posting: Thursday, 06 March 2008
Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May 2011