GAME REVIEW: Unusual Suspects

Cool Mini or Not is just on fire right now.  Not just making large miniature games anymore, this latest one is a party game, the second one being released today, the other being Ta Da!  This one did get released at Essen last year, but got an American release at Gen Con and now it’s getting its official retail release.

There is some controversy surrounding the game about it being racist or encouraging racial profiling, which got me more curious.  I love edgy games, and was curious to see if this was a seriously offensive game or not.  Is it offensive?  Is it even good?  Let’s find out!

UNUSUAL SUSPECTS (2016; Official U.S. Release) Designed by Paolo Mori; Published by Cool Mini or Not – For 3-18 players and takes about 10-30 minutes to play. 

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Similar to Codenames, you place cards in a grid, with one player knowing the answer and the other players trying to figure out what the answer is.  The comparisons kind of stop there though.  This IS a different game.

There are two ways to play this one.  First I will explain the basic way, which will have all players working together.

One player will take on the role of the witness, while the other players will be the detectives.

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There will be a 3 by 4 grid of 12 suspect cards laid out.

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The witness will draw a guilty party card, which will tell them which of the suspects is guilty.

The detective players will then take turns drawing a question card from the deck and ask the witness that question.

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The witness must answer with either “yes” or “no”, by placing the question on the “yes” or “no” card.

The detectives will then discuss amongst each other.  The object is to flip over all the cards until ONLY the correct suspect remains.

So for example, if the question “Are they a good tipper?” is asked, and if the witness answers “no”, then the detectives will turn over suspects who they think ARE a good tipper.  They DON’T want to flip over the suspect.

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Detectives can flip over as many suspects as they want after a question is answered (they must at least flip over one).  But if they flip over the actual suspect, then everyone loses.

At any point, they may stop flipping suspects and ask another question.

If the players flip over all but the guilty suspect, they win.

That’s pretty much it for the basic game.

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Players may also keep score on a sheet that can keep track on how well they do per game.  But mainly, this basic game is more of an activity.

Now, there is a competitive variant, which is my preferred way to play the game.

There will be 2 teams.  Each team will have one witness, so they will BOTH know the answer.  One team will take a turn by asking their witness a question, and then they will flip over cards.  Once they stop flipping cards over, their turn is done.  Each card that they flipped will be a point.  Then the other team will get a turn, flipping cards over and scoring points.  If a team makes it to the end, flipping all but the guilty suspect, they will get an extra point by grabbing a card from the top of the deck. If a team flips over the guilty suspect, that team will lose all of their points they collected that round, plus the other team will get 3 points.

You can play up to either 10, 15 or 20 points.  I feel like 20 points is the way to go here.

Now, this game is getting flack for being racist and politically incorrect.  Well, I guess the game forces you to profile people by giving into racial and gender stereotypes.  You don’t HAVE to play that way…… but if you don’t, then you kind of break the game.

Personally, I don’t think this game is mean-spirited.  It’s supposed to be silly fun at a party.  It also can make for some good conversation pieces about stereotypes.  But mainly, this game is just plain fun!  I love it!  This could be my favorite party game right now.  I personally like it better than Codenames.

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The artwork on the cards are terrific.  It has this wacky cartoon-style that is definitely not meant to be taken seriously.  There are all types of goofy looking people, which can definitely cause players to make snap judgements.  That’s half the fun!  I feel like this game is meant to call us out on stereotyping, but having fun at the same time too.

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The thing that makes this game a blast are the questions asked.  There will be harmless questions like,  “Do they like spicy food?”, but then a question will come up like “Do they own the NBA League pass?”, or “Do they have a criminal record?”, and then before you know it, you’re judging a book by its cover.

To some sensitive folks, this could be offensive, but every group I have brought this out to, had a ball with it.  Lots of laughing.  Lots of people saying, “Woooowwwww!”, surprised at their friend for “going there”.  It’s a great social activity, that is actually a good game too.

For me, playing the competitive variant is the most fun, but if you only have a few minutes, it’s pretty easy to set up just the basic game.  It really only takes 5-10 minutes for that.  Most groups I have played with want to keep playing it over and over again.

You know you have a good game on your hands when after the first question, “Are they Racist?”, one of the players says, “Oh, this game is EEEEVil……. I love it!”.

If this gets enough exposure, I feel this game could be quite big.  This is my new go-to party game.  It has great social interaction, will bring up important conversations, and you can play with just about anybody.  My middle school group was hootin’ and hollerin’, but adults can have just as much fun, if not more so.

If you’re looking for that next great party game, I feel like this is it!  You can bring this to game night, or even break it out at a family Thanksgiving get-together.  Unusual Suspects is a winner.  Can’t wait for expansions!

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