We’ve enjoyed playing Castle: The Detective Card Game, which has a unique game mechanism that moves quickly with plenty of luck (so it’s fun for a mixed group).
It works as follows. Each player (from two to six) takes one of the cast cards — Castle, Beckett, Ryan, Esposito, Lanie, or Captain Gates. Each has one special ability, from the chance to pick up the top discard to a chance to draw extra cards. (More on those later.)
To set up the game, you deal five suspects from a deck of 18. They are family members — such as the spiteful sister, the bullying brother, or the missing father — associates — the conniving business partner or the thieving accountant — or loved ones — including the manipulative best friend, the vindictive ex-lover, the mischievous other man, the vengeful spouse, and the faithful spouse. (If you’re trying to imagine a real case corresponding to the five suspects, getting two spouse cards lends a particular kind of imagination to the setup.)
Each suspect has three types of investigation that have to be done to confront them, from a set that includes, among others, undercover work, crime scene, interviewing the victim’s friends, searching the suspect’s home, autopsy, and a poker game consult (for that TV show flavor). Each of the investigation types is also a card. If you collect the right three cards, you can reveal that suspect’s token to see whether they’re innocent or guilty. Eventually, someone picks the right suspect, and they win. You can see some of the pieces and game play in the image on the right. (Click to enlarge.)
My favorite part of the game are the twelve poker chips, which serve as the tokens. They’re heavy in the hand and add a playful element. For an “episode” (game), you pick one guilty chip and four not guilty, then mix them up. (Variants include using more suspects or having two guilty people.)
The small amount of strategy comes in deciding when to use your special ability and the few action cards, which include Martha Rodgers (lets you steal a card from someone else), Alexis Castle (lets you find out whether one suspect is guilty or not), and “Killing by the Book” (you can choose your favorite of the next three cards to draw). If you’re lucky and happen to get the right set of three cards and pick the right suspect first off, the game ends very quickly. If that happens, just play more “cases” until someone wins a total of three or five. On the other hand, if someone keeps playing the “New Suspect” action (KC’s favorite), it can go for a while.