#938 – Hidden Games Crime Scene: The New Haven Case [Spoiler-Free]

Base price: $25.
1 – 6 players.
Play time: 90 – 180 minutes.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1

Full disclosure: A review copy of Hidden Games Crime Scene: The New Haven Case was provided by Hidden Games International.

It’s always exciting to try out mystery games! I only get one play of them, so I need to dive in, figure it out, and then report back to y’all without spoiling any parts of it. It’s an interesting writing challenge, and every mystery game does things a bit differently, from the logic puzzles of The Key series to the escape-room antics of the EXIT series to Postcurious‘s challenging and elegant games. Love the entire genre; can’t get enough of them. Though they make me want to do an actual escape room in the near future, so I’ll need to start looking into that at some point. Either way, the Hidden Games Crime Scene series is a new set of games, so let’s see what it’s got!

In The New Haven Case, players are hired to solve a suspicious death at the county fair. It’s thrown the whole town into a tizzy, but the police’s investigation has come up inconclusive. Now, things fall to you. The problem is, you have no idea who sent you all of this information. Who wants your help? How did Max Glover die? And, most important of all, who killed him? Only one way to find out!

Contents

Setup

Not a ton here! Just open the envelope, empty the contents, and you’re pretty much ready to go! There are a couple posters inside that may be helpful to display somewhere where everyone can view them.

Gameplay

Gameplay is also pretty straightforward! You’ll work with your friends (or enemies; I don’t know who you play games with) to solve a mystery in four parts:

  • How did Max Glover die?
  • Who sent you the envelope?
  • Who sent the torn letter?
  • Who committed the crime?

As you search for the answers to those questions, you’ll need to go through documents, construct timetables, check alibis, and make sure you understand everything that happened on (and before!) that fateful day.

Note that we live in the digital age, so you might need to check some things online; feel free to use your phone, search various apps and the internet if you need, and do what it takes to solve the mystery!

Player Count Differences

A lot of these escape room / mystery games say that they support 1 – 6 players, and not to harp on The New Haven Case in particular, but I’m always skeptical of that claim. I think that three, maybe four players is probably a functional peak, and I worry that beyond that it gets unwieldy, to some degree. Here, we found the game worked perfectly comfortably with two players, though given the sheer volume of information, having a third person to help organize it all might actually have been pretty helpful? We ended up filling up the entire dining room table with posters and theories and sticky notes, and that was pretty fun, but having an extra set of hands there might have been pretty helpful. I’m not convinced that four extra sets of hands would have been more than just additional noise in our gaming space, though. It’s rare for me to really say that I find six players to be the ideal player count for these kinds of games. Same with solo, but that’s because I don’t trust myself with these mysteries to not just careen down the path of an incorrect theory.

Strategy

  • You’re going to have to figure out who everyone is. I assume, within the game’s narrative, you don’t actually have all of the information about everyone in town (though these are police files you’ve received, which begs some questions). First thing to do is to match everyone’s picture to their names. That will start helping you determine relationships and who is talking about whom. That clears up a lot.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, try looking at the four questions you need to answer. Those should be your grounding points. If you’re not making progress on one, try shifting to another! They don’t necessarily need to be solved in any particular order, though knowing the answers to one or two of them may make some of the other questions a bit easier to solve or tease out.
  • Use your phone to corroborate evidence! There are a lot of things that may be worth looking up online. If they’re referencing something, it might be worth looking up! Plus, there are some sites that you’ll need to access on your phone (or laptop) to solve the mystery. To that end, maybe don’t play this one in a spot where you’ve got no internet.
  • If you’re not sure, figure out who has a solid alibi! They can’t have done something bad if they weren’t able to do so. That’s usually a good way to figure out who committed a crime. If you can eliminate everyone who didn’t, you’ll likely be able to considerably narrow your pool of suspects. But figuring out how to do that is part of the mystery, I suppose.
  • A unifying theory of what happened may be enough to help move you forward, as you can find evidence that supports or contradicts it. I find this is helpful in a lot of mystery games. Go as far as you can with a hypothesis until you find information that either locks it in or makes it unviable. If your hypothesis is disproven, figure out why, create a new one, and repeat. It’s functional, and it can usually help you a good bit. Just watch out for confirmation bias! You’re likely to psychologically pay more attention to things that support your existing hypothesis. This is why I usually play with multiple people, to try and deemphasize that bias a bit.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I like that this is pretty easily replayable! From a zero-waste perspective, I like that I can pretty easily repack this and let a friend try it out, if they like it. That said, the game is intended to be written on, so unless you’re using sticky notes like we did and playing fairly meticulously, you may only get one game out of it. I do like that it’s not too hard to modify our playstyle so that it accommodates not messing it up, though.
  • It’s also a very easy game to transport. It comes in a fairly small and compact envelope, which I appreciate.
  • I like how the game presents a lot of ways for players to organize and present information to figure out their mysteries. They’ve really got an entire murderboard and a calendar in there for you to set up and diagram out. You can hang the posters on the walls, write on them, use sticky notes (I’d recommend the sticky notes); they really want you to be methodical in order to solve this one.
  • There’s a lot of stuff inside the envelope, too! They really got the 1.5 – 2.5 hour timeframe down pretty perfectly. I never felt like I was rushed or bored. Occasionally a bit taken with just all of what’s in the envelope, but there’s a lot to do and a lot of interesting mysteries to solve. About as much intrigue as you’d expect from a small town, I suppose.
  • I like that there’s things to do online, as well. It makes the game feel more grounded in reality. I really like the trend of places that make their own extra websites and such for their mystery games. I played one a while ago that even had its own playlist! Loved that. It just makes the games feel more immersive, too, and I like that. It’s one of my favorite things about escape rooms: proper atmosphere, and games that commit to their bit embody close to the same ideals.
  • I really like that there are transcripts on the site for some of the audio clues. Inclusive and accessible! You love to see it. Sometimes I don’t want to listen to audio clues again and I wish I could just read them. This really speeds that up.

Mehs

  • There are details that can be easy to miss; make sure you’ve got someone designated to keep track of what information you have and what information you suspect. There’s a lot of information hidden in the margins of what you’ve been given. You shouldn’t have to read between the lines, at all, but you definitely need to do a good job keeping track of the information you’ve been given. Thankfully, as mentioned, the game gives you structures to make that a lot easier, which I appreciate.
  • I did find it a little silly that the police murderboard doesn’t have everyone’s name on it. I mean, it’s a small town; do the police really not know everyone’s name? Just struck me as a little silly. Not bad, though.

Cons

  • I would have appreciated a bit more gated scaffolding; the game’s a lot to take on at once. Some other escape room / mystery games might have gated the content behind the four questions, only unlocking more content once you had made it through the previous question gate. I think I tend to prefer that kind of organization, just because otherwise, you end up with a lot to read and focus through. It can be challenging to get through it all, and I lose a bit of focus if I feel overwhelmed by content. A bit more structure than “answer these four questions” might have been helpful, I think.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

Overall, I thought Hidden Games Crime Scene: The New Haven Case was fun! I think that this game sits more in the zone of the Hunt a Killer-style games where they present you with a mystery and a lot of information, and being able to deduce your way through the information pile will lead you to the correct outcome. It relies more on deduction and organization than puzzles, which isn’t bad, though I definitely prefer the escape room style of puzzle games more. It’s just more my speed. This, however, does exactly what it says on the box: it makes you feel like an actual detective. You’ve got clues, you’ve got evidence, you’ve even got voicemails to dig through to try and figure out what happened. And you have a board and a calendar provided to help you sift through and organize everything. It’s fun, and there’s an entertaining puzzle in there, as well. I’d love to see more puzzles in future iterations, though I was perfectly satisfied with this from a mystery standpoint. I think for players who want to have a detective-style experience, The New Haven Case will be right up their alley. If that’s you, you might want to check this one out! I had fun with it.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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