Learn the Basics of How to Play the Board Game Clue

starting a game of Clue

The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

Are you up for a challenging game of Clue? If so, by discovering the answer to who killed a fictional character named Mr. Boddy, in what room in his mansion, and by using which weapon, you'll win the game. And simultaneously you'll strengthen your deductive reasoning and logistical thinking skills. Another similar game that doesn't require any equipment is Wink Murder.

Clue is a classic board game for players ages eight and up. The game takes about an hour to play and calls for three to six players to investigate a murder by gathering evidence. The winner is the player who, through the process of elimination, can figure out which three cards are hidden within the secret envelope that hold the answers to Mr. Boddy's murder.

Clue is often referred to as Cluedo in the UK, where it was invented during World War II. It was first called Murder until the publisher renamed it to Cluedo (which includes the Latin word "ludo," meaning "I play"). The game was licensed by Parker Brothers and renamed Clue.

Use the tips in this basic quick start guide to playing the game, which includes a few winning tricks to keep up your sleeve.

Setting Up

Here are all the components you'll need for the game:

  • Clue game board
  • 6 suspect tokens
  • 6 murder weapons
  • Dice
  • Detective notebook
  • Secrete envelope
  • Room cards
  • Weapon cards
  • Character cards
Materials needed for a game of clue
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Now that you have all your components, you can set up the game to begin playing. In a nutshell, each player has a turn to roll a die and move an assigned token along the squares and into rooms in the "mansion." Throughout the game, players participate in sleuthing activities along the way until someone thinks they know exactly which three cards are hidden in the secret envelope. To start:

  • Every player chooses a character piece.
  • One person sorts the cards by type and shuffles each pile face-down.
  • Without looking, the person shuffling takes one suspect card, one weapon card, and one room card, then slides the cards into the secret envelope.
  • Then, someone else shuffles and deals the remaining cards clockwise to the players until all cards are dealt.
  • Place one murder weapon in each room (some Clue games assign weapons to specific rooms).
  • Next, place character pieces on the assigned starting squares and you can start playing.
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Basics of Moving the Pieces

There are plenty of subtle ways to get the right information you need to win the game that goes beyond the basic rules. But to get started, here are several of Clue's rules to note when moving pieces around the board. Refer to this quick guide to keep the game moving smoothly:

Moving on the squares: The character Miss Scarlet always takes the first turn in Clue. After Miss Scarlet starts the game, go clockwise around the table for turns. A player rolls the die and moves the playing piece on the yellow or white squares (boards may have varying colored squares). The squares are like the "hallways" of the mansion. Players can move only horizontally or vertically, but never diagonally.

Moving into rooms: One of the goals of the game is to make your piece move into a room so you can make suspect suggestions to gather more clues. You can move into a room through a doorway as long as the die you roll has the number you need to reach the room. Multiple players can be in the same room. Players can also jump into a room through a secret passage instead of rolling the die.

Moving out of rooms: There are three ways a player can move out of a room. You can throw the die and exit through a doorway. You can exit through one of the room's secret passages. Or, if you're a suspect, your piece will be automatically transferred to another room where you're thought to have killed Mr. Boddy.

Miss Scarlett taking the first turn
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Basics of Suggesting a Suspect

Once you move your piece into a room, you can make a suggestion to help eliminate suspect possibilities by guessing the murderer, murder weapon, and murder location. For example, if you've just entered the lounge and you're ready to guess, you might say something like, "I suggest the crime was committed by Colonel Mustard, in the lounge, with a dagger." Then, the named suspect and murder weapon are both moved into the current room you're in that you've suggested is the location of the murder. 

This is when the detective work begins. Here are the basics on how you can handle a suspect suggestion:

  • If you've suggested a suspect, the player to your left must disprove your theory by producing a card from their hand that matches the murderer, weapon, or location that you suspect. If the player does have one or more of these cards to disprove your theory, the player can only show you and no other player this card. If the player has more than one of the cards named, they are allowed to only show you one.
  • If that player can't do so, the player to their left must then try disproving the suggestion by secretly showing a card from their hand that matches your theory.
  • This responsibility passes clockwise until a player can secretly show you a card to disprove your theory, or until all players have had a chance.
  • If a player does reveal a card, use your detective notebook to keep track of the possibilities. Your detective's notebook contains your personal top secret information, so players shouldn't see each other's notebooks.

A Basic Winning Strategy

It's a good idea to make a suspect suggestion every time you enter a room on your turn as a strategy for winning the game.

A suspect in the game of Clue
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Basics of Making an Accusation

You are ready to make a final accusation (which differs from a suspect suggestion) when you've eliminated all the false possibilities and haven't had your suggestions disproved. If you believe you've solved the case, end your turn by making an accusation. You can announce that you're making an accusation and state your final guess of the murderer, the murder weapon, and the murder location cards that are in the secret envelope.

Once this is done, you can discreetly look at the three cards in the secret envelope. If you're correct, you will lay the cards in the envelope face-up on the table, proving to all players that you've won the game.

However, if you're wrong, you lose the game and are eliminated from playing. You'll then secretly put back the three cards into the murder envelope without revealing them. If all the players except one make an incorrect accusation, the last player standing wins the game of Clue.

Winning a game of Clue
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