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Underwood Cellars

Twenty years ago, a winemaker went missing. His body has just turned up and it’s your team’s job to revisit this cold case. Can you find justice two decades later?

Published by University Games, Murder Mystery Party Case Files: Underwood Cellars is a cooperative murder mystery party game of sifting through the evidence to find the solution.

Gameplay

The game comes with two files, each filled with various pieces of evidence such as suspect statements and newspaper clippings. Players read through all the information in the first file, which relates to the original missing person case, before moving on to the second, which covers the murder investigation. They must then deduce the guilty party based on the information in those files.

There is a suspect evaluation form, on which players are supposed to write each suspect and fill out information for each one on motive, means, and opportunity. Whoever has all three is the killer.

Players may go to a website to find hints, and once they believe they know the guilty party they will also go online to check the solution.

Underwood Cellars Components

Review

Murder Mystery Party Case Files: Underwood Cellars follows a format that’s been growing more popular lately: a murder mystery told through various police files, newspaper clippings, and various other pieces of evidence that players read through together. While Underwood Cellars doesn’t bring a lot new to the genre, it is an enjoyable entry.

While difficulty will vary from group to group, we found Underwood Cellars to hit the right balance for us. We did use a couple of hints, but we never felt frustrated and found the deductions the game expected us to make to be logical and fair.

All of the components are pretty standard, and we quite liked the inclusion of a suspect photo for each important figure in the case. The suspect evaluation form was a particularly nice touch, however, as it really helps players to focus on the key points of the case and slowly whittle down the suspects in a way that felt quite logical. It is also quite easy to make a copy of this form so that you can pass the game on to a friend.

The hint system is well done. You can look up a particular aspect or suspect in the case, which helps to ensure you get a hint about something that’s actually stumping you rather than a random hint that covers ground you’ve already deduced. The hints are also designed to point you in the right direction rather than just give you answers. This makes using them more satisfying, as you can still feel like you did some deduction. There are even three final, major hints if you need them on the solution page.

While the solution is presented in a very satisfying way, going through each suspect and explaining why or why not they are the guilty party, it did feel like this information could have been presented within the game itself rather than requiring you to go to the website.

If you enjoy this style of murder mystery game, and are looking for one with a nice difficulty balance, Underwood Cellars is a fun one that will likely take about an hour or less to play.

Pros: Well-designed hints, nice difficulty level, suspect evaluation form is helpful and also satisfying to fill out

Cons: Solution is online rather than in the game itself

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.