Clue, the classic detective game (as it is called in North America) and known as Cluedo in Britain (where it originated from), is still to this day the most famous murder mystery game with an extensive history behind it.
Anthony E. Pratt came up with the idea of a mystery board game. His wife Elva assisted him in designing the characters, weapons, and the layout of the board game, which they named ‘Murder,’ later changing the name to Cluedo (as it is still known in Britain). It was designed between 1943 and 1945.
1. Clue: The Board Game That Was Born Out Of Boredom
In the early 1940s, Anthony Pratt worked in a factory. He was also a musician who played piano at Hotels and European Country Mansions in his spare time. While he was playing the piano, most of the people around him would re-enact murder mystery scenes at these popular events.
At these hotel events and house parties, one elegant guest would skulk, shriek and fall to the floor, pretending to die, and the party guests would have to guess who the murderer was and how the victim was killed. This re-enactment was one of the most popular ways to amuse one another.
2. The First Clue Patent, Called “Murder”
Anthony Pratt and his wife Elva started working on the design of the board game originally called ‘Murder.’ This was mainly out of boredom from being holed up in their home in Birmingham, England, due to the air raids during World War 2.
The board game that they originally designed and patented in 1944 had ten characters, allowing for eight people to play with nine suspects in total because one of the characters was the victim who was randomly chosen before the start of the game.
3. Another Patent, And “Cluedo” Is Born
Shortly after they received the patent, they presented the game to the executive of Waddingtons. This executive, Norman Watson, immediately purchased the patent and trademarked the name of the board game, which he changed to Cluedo. Apparently, this was a play on two words, clue, and Ludo, a popular game in England with a name that means “I play.”
4. Cluedo Is Finally Released
Although Norman Watson put the patent in for Cluedo in 1945, the patent was finally granted two years later in 1947. The release date of Cluedo was delayed due to post-war shortages, and it was finally released in 1949.
5. Clue: From England To The United States
The board game was also licensed in the same year by Parker Brothers in the United States, where they renamed the game to Clue. When Parker Brothers launched Clue, the board game was marketed as “The Great New Detective Game.”
The first edition of Clue that was released in the United States only had the name of Waddingtons on it, along with “Leeds, England,” and “Made in the USA.”
6. Cluedo In Germany
There was also a German edition which was released as “Wer is Meisterdetektive.” They changed the box design with this release, adding a detective with a gun and a german shepherd to the cover art.
7. Clue: The Great New Detective Game
In the 1950s and 60s, the board game was advertised to players in North America as if you were to play as Sherlock Holmes, following the path of the criminal. This was just a marketing ploy since there was nothing Sherlock Holmes-related in the game or on the box to suggest it in any other way.
During this time, the board game was marketed in the U.S. as “The Great New Detective Game” and sometimes known as “Parker Brothers Detective Game.”
In the mid-1950s, Cluedo was marketed as “The Great Detective Game” in the U.K., which would remain Cluedo’s slogan until 2000. Waddingtons also adopted the idea of a character like Sherlock Holmes in the mid-50s, with Cluedo boxes depicting a detective with a bloodhound looking for clues.
In the U.K., they never actually advertised it as a Sherlock Holmes game, unlike the suggestions made by the marketing department of Parker Brothers in the United States. Parker Brothers probably used Sherlock Holmes as a marketing ploy on the Clue board game due to their rights to the Sherlock Holmes card game named “The Game of Sherlock Holmes.”
8. Releases Of Cluedo In Europe
A few other countries in Europe also released editions of Cluedo during the 60s:
- Miro Company released a French Cluedo. The edition was released under the Cluedo name.
- There was a Dutch version that was named “Cluedo, Het Spannende Detective Spel,” which was published by N.V. Smeets & Schippers.
- In 1969 there was a release of Cluedo in Italy published by Giochiclub, which they named “Inchiesta Aperta” (meaning “Open Enquiry”).
9. 1970: The First “New” Edition Of Cluedo
Waddingtons released a new edition of Cluedo in 1970, which was called the International Edition of Cluedo. The game remained essentially the same, but it aimed to standardize the different language versions and combined artwork from all the variations of the game that had been released at that time.
10. Other Clue Editions Released In The USA
Throughout the 70s, Parker Brothers would use television commercials for advertising Clue, often using depictions of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. A new edition of Clue was launched in the United States in 1972, advertised with a television commercial featuring Watson and Sherlock Holmes engaging in a competitive game of Clue.
Throughout the history of Cluedo and Clue, Waddingtons and Parker Brothers both published unique editions of the game.
11. 1985 Clue Movie
A popular Clue movie starring Tim Curry and Christopher Lloyd was released in 1985. Three writers are credited for their work on the film, namely John Landis, Jonathan Lynn, and none other than Anthony E. Pratt himself, who is credited for developing the board game Cluedo.
The movie is about six guests that are mysteriously and anonymously invited to a strange mansion for dinner. Their host is killed, and they must cooperate with the butler (Tim Curry) to identify the murderer while the bodies keep piling up.
12. 1988 – Clue: Master Detective
This was an expanded version of Clue, containing 12 rooms, ten characters, and eight weapons. The number of players was also increased to be able to utilize the more extensive game set better.
13. 1991 – Hasbro Purchases Cluedo
Hasbro purchased both Waddingtons and Parker Brothers in the early 1990s. Hasbro has continued to publish new editions of Clue ever since, but the branding has remained similar in most countries since.
14. 1998: Clue Video Game
In 1998, Hasbro released a video game version of Clue, based on the original board game. It was called “Clue: Murder At Boddy Mansion” in the United States and “Cluedo: Murder At Blackwell Grange” in the U.K. The games weren’t generally well-received, eventually making their way into cereal boxes.
15. 1999: Cluedo 50th Anniversary Edition
This edition was also released as Clue in the United States. Drew Struzan did the artwork for the 50th Anniversary release. This edition also added an extra new weapon, which was a bottle of poison.
16. 2003 – 2007: Clue Nostalgia Edition
The Nostalgia edition was released by Hasbro in 2003 and then again in 2007. This edition was essentially a re-issue of the 1963 design of Clue, which was the original version of the board game contained in a wooden box.
17. 2005 – 2009: Clue Vintage Edition
The Clue Vintage Edition is a remake of the 1949 edition that the Parker Brothers first published. This edition offers a sophisticated bookshelf storage design that’s more of a collector’s item, even though it is complete and fully playable.
18. 2008’s “Clue: Discover The Secrets”
Hasbro released a new edition of Clue in 2008, which they called Clue: Discover The Secrets. In this new release of Clue, they went all out with new character names. There were also changes to the weapons, and the room names were changed to more modern rooms. This edition was not as popular as the previous versions.
19. 2016’s Modern Clue Remake
Hasbro released another new edition of Clue in 2016, making even more changes to the game.
They replaced Mrs. White with Dr. Orchid, who is represented by a pink piece. Mrs. Peacock’s starting point is one step closer to the Billiard Room. It is now harder for Mr. Green to go into the Conservatory since there is now a blocked door. The distance between the Conservatory and the Ballroom also changed.
Neither of Clue’s “modernized” editions were as popular as the game’s original 1940s style. It seems a large part of Clue’s appeal lies in the classic look and feel, and those editions are still the best sellers.
20. Franchised Clue Editions
Over the course of the first two decades of the 21st century, many “franchised” Clue versions started to arise, with niches in certain cultures or fandoms. For example, “Clue For Kids” was basically the same as normal Clue, but instead of a murder, the party guests had to find out who stole the cake.
There were also other editions like Clue: The Big Bang Theory, Harry Potter Edition, Sherlock Edition (finally a Clue version that was officially linked to the Sherlock Holmes name, specifically the BBC series), Star Wars Edition, and the Game Of Thrones Edition. These were all popular with their respective fandoms.
Who knows what mysteries will still be told in the continuing history of Clue? What clues are there still to be found? What editions will you be able to collect and add to the collections that you already have? Only time will tell.