Learn How to Play the Board Game Clue in a Few Steps so You Can Win

how to play clue or cluedo

Illustration: Alison Czinkota. © The Spruce, 2018

Clue is a board game where three to six players try to figure out three main facts of a murder: the murderer, the location of the murder, and the murder weapon. They do this by having their characters run around a mansion and gather evidence.

Clue is often referred to as "Cluedo" in the UK, where it was invented. In fact, most people around the world know the game as "Cluedo" and North Americans understand it as "Clue". The game was first designed during World War 2 by Anthony E. Pratt, with the original version being called "Murder!" The publisher, Waddingtons, then renamed the game to "Cluedo" after the English word "clue" and the Latin word "ludo" which translates to "I play." Once it was licensed again to another publication, Parker Brothers, the game was simplified to the name "Clue."

Setup the Game Board

Players want to make sure they have all of the contents needed for the game:

  • The Clue game board
  • One die
  • A pad of detective notebook sheets
  • A secret envelope
  • Six suspect tokens
  • Six murder weapons
  • 21 cards

Every player will choose one character piece. If, for example, there are only three players in a game, then only three characters will be played. One person will sort the cards by type and shuffle each pile face-down. Without looking, they'll take one suspect card, one weapon card, and one room card, and slide them into the secret envelope.

Then, someone will shuffle the rest of the cards together, and deal them clockwise to the players until all cards are dealt. It's important to place the murder weapons in random rooms and put no more than one weapon in each. However, some modern versions of Clue assign the weapons to specific rooms.

Next, a player will place the suspect tokens on the assigned starting squares. Each player takes the closest suspect token that has not already been chosen by another player, and the game begins.

Playing the Game

The character Miss Scarlett takes the first turn. Turns continue clockwise around the table. On a player's turn, they will roll the die and move their playing piece however many spaces it says on the yellow squares. Players can move into a room as long as the number they roll reaches the number needed to go into the room. There are several additional rules to note:

  • Players can move only horizontally or vertically, never diagonally.
  • Players can't enter a space or doorway they have already entered on the same turn.
  • Players can move through a doorway to enter a room, but this ends their movement.
  • Players can't move through a yellow space occupied by another player, but multiple players can be in the same room.
  • Players who start their turn in a room with a secret passage can use the secret passage instead of rolling the die. This will put their character in another room across the board, ending their movement.

Suggesting a Suspect

Players who end their movement in a room can make a suggestion to help eliminate suspect possibilities by guessing the murderer, murder weapon, and murder location. For example, if a player just entered the lounge and they're ready to guess, they 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. 

The player to the guesser's left must disprove the suggestion by showing them one card from their hand that matches it. If that player can't do so, the player to their left must also disprove the suggestion by showing one card from their hand. This responsibility passes clockwise until someone shows the guesser a card, or until all players have passed.

When someone reveals a card, the player who sees it should cross it off on their detective notebook as a possibility. Any cards the player holds should also be crossed off as possibilities. This is top secret information, so players shouldn't see each other's notebooks. It's a good idea for players to make a suggestion every time they enter a room on their turn as a strategy for winning the game.

Special Rule

A piece might be moved into a room on another player's turn when a character is suggested as a suspect. Instead of rolling the die or taking the secret passage on the next turn, players can simply make a suggestion in their current room.

In all other cases, players must start their turn by rolling a die or taking a secret passage. Players cannot stay in the same room to make suggestions.

Accusing and Winning

Players are ready to make an accusation when they have eliminated all the false possibilities and have not had their suggestion disproved. When a player believes they have solved the case, they can end their turn by making an accusation. Players can do so by announcing that they are making an accusation and stating their final guess of the murderer, the murder weapon, and the murder location.

Once this is done, the player making an accusation secretly looks at the three cards in the murder envelope. If they are correct, they lay the cards face-up on the table, proving to all players that they have won the game.

However, if the accuser is wrong, they lose the game. The accuser will then secretly replace the three cards back in the murder envelope without revealing them. Once a player has lost, their turn is over and they are eliminated from the game. Losers no longer take any turns but must stay at the table to disprove the suggestions of others. If their piece is blocking a doorway, it is moved into the room.

If all players except one make an incorrect accusation, the last player standing wins.