In the test for Redcliff Bay Mysteries we went to old England. Riddle games - apparently the market no longer works without them. In every game year new board or card games appear in which you have to act as some kind of investigator. Sometimes publishers go sequel, sometimes they recycle—and sometimes they come up with something that's conceptually similar to the competition, but still surprising. Just like the board game Redcliff Bay Mysteries by Kosmos.
The basic idea of Redcliff Bay Mysteries is initially classic: small town, there is a slight creep in the air. After a call for help, the players rush over to find out what happened in the coastal town. There is no more information for now - Kosmos uses the well-known escape puzzle concept to let players explore the adventure step by step. That alone is motivating, because you know neither the story nor the tasks and thus the challenges that come your way. Up to five players can work cooperatively – you can also play alone if you prefer, but you shouldn’t do that. Why? Because board games of this kind offer entertaining solo puzzles, but the common puzzle is the heart of the game idea.
Four cases are three and a tutorial
The four included cases have to be fulfilled in their specified order. They build on each other, the first case acts as a tutorial. The first surprise is the material: atmospheric describes it aptly. This makes it easy for players to immerse themselves in the story. The second surprise: there is actually a real story and not just mechanical puzzles as an incentive to start and persevere. The group plowed through Redcliff Bay “by the hour”.
Cards tell the story bit by bit. And with new events, new places or people come into play, which form the basis for solving the puzzle. Similar basic concepts are known from detective games, but in Redcliff Bay Mysteries the scenes always take place in a smaller environment, so that you should look all the more intensively for clues. Ultimately, the group decides which of these are expedient - the musings as a group act make up a large part of the appeal of this cosmos board game. Here and there, tokens make everyday investigative work easier in some cases because the local limitations are softened.
The typical "Cluedo" conclusion is always at the end of the detective work: Who is the culprit? What happened? Players only know if they got it right - or maybe even completely wrong - when the case introduction card solves it.
Redcliff Bay Mysteries: Story as a Star
One of Redcliff Bay Mysteries' great strengths is already story-wise, because the four cases build on each other, use similar concepts, but still play differently enough to be perceived as such. The start of the theft of a painting is shallow, but no less exciting, after all, the introduction provides the mystery touch in the straightforward investigation game. Compared to other detective board games, Redcliff Bay Mysteries shines with some interesting twists and surprises in the stories, even if you can at least guess at some of them based on the course of the story. In terms of play, the second half of the overall content in particular stands out, because here the makers also play with mechanisms otherwise known from escape titles for code decryption. And the grand finale? That should initially make you shake your head, but then create a grandiose aha effect.
With Redcliff Bay Mysteries, Kosmos gives the now dusty detective game genre new freshness: The focus is clearly on the story, but you have to make some concessions, at least in the difficulty of the puzzles. The focus seems to be on relaxed and fluid progress, and with it the chance to experience the good story in its entirety. In any case, the compromise has been successful, because against the background of otherwise rather boringly told and at most puzzle-technically or mechanically outstanding investigation games, Redcliff Bay Mysteries seems like an innovative trick.
Detective game all-rounder: Good everywhere, nothing outstanding
You need a maximum of one hour per case, so the total playing time is correspondingly short. That doesn't detract from the fun, you just have to be prepared for the fact that Redcliff Bay Mysteries is a kind of "play it and forget it" experience, albeit with a small cliffhanger that should probably give the creators the opportunity to get out of the singles -board games series with follow-on content - considering the quality of the puzzle game, it would be a shame if Kosmos didn't jump at the chance. Mainly because Redcliff Bay Mysteries could theoretically be played several times, since the material is not destroyed. So transfer desired.
There are board games in which individual games take significantly longer than the entire gaming experience of Redcliff Bay Mysteries - fans of the genre will be only too happy to put up with the flaw, however, because the entertainment value of this detective game is high. The level is about that of games like Detective: First Cases – Kosmos is also aimed at beginners, families or mixed groups of players. Redcliff Bay Mysteries has a moderate level of difficulty, but the investigative game is not free of challenges: Cases three and four in particular contain some real brain teasers and tasks that actually require deduction and a feel for the essential details.
Redcliff Bay Mysteries is sort of an all-rounder: it offers good puzzles, good connections between cases, and a good story. The board game is not outstanding in any of the areas, but the overall result is so coherent that this Kosmos title can be counted among the best in the genre at the moment.
The setting alone is impressive: Mysteries in the county of Summerset in south-west England? In the Victorian era? seaside town? Given the conditions, one cannot help but think of Sherlock Holmes and the special charm of the era. Redcliff Bay Mysteries uses exactly that and weaves a very exciting story around it. The material is always appropriately illustrated – the optics support the atmosphere.
There is no wild guessing in the board game, which raises the level of difficulty to a comfortable level: the cooperative investigator group can only visit one of the locations laid out per game round. This limitation becomes an obstacle, especially later in the game, which the action tokens can hardly absorb. The alternative: simply make an extra effort when solving the deductive logic problems.
Number of players: 1 to 5
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: about 40 to 60 minutes (per case)
Difficulty: easy to medium
Long-term motivation: low
Category: family game
Sub Category: Puzzle Game
Core Mechanisms: Deduction, Cooperation, Puzzle, Combination
Authors: Matthias Prinz, Martin Kallenborn
Illustrations: Martin Hoffmann, Claus Stephan
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2021
Cost: 35 euros
A game box with four smaller game boxes - even this trick is strikingly ingenious. The boxes contain different mini puzzle games, each with a maximum playing time of one hour. The highlight: the cases are connected and ultimately head for a grand finale. In any case, the two authors Matthias Prinz and Martin Kallenborn are doing a lot right with Redcliff Bay Mysteries: you can get started within a very short time, the brief instructions alone are an indication of this. Otherwise, the principle of the game is familiar: read out cards to get an impression of the respective game scenes, then it's time for puzzles. Leaving aside the first case - the tutorial - players will certainly be presented with one or two challenges - those who are experienced in the genre will still have no problem unveiling the mysteries surrounding the coastal town of Redcliff Bay.
The biggest motivator is - and this is rare in the otherwise mechanical puzzle genre - the story: it's exciting and keeps detectives in line - but you shouldn't expect a profound King mystery thriller with a socially critical message.
Round-by-round decisions await the players, because the limitation means you can't go to all the places randomly. So you decide the next step together within the group - a big advantage of the board game - or you rely on the action tokens as a "lifeline". Clue cards then act as a net and double bottom, which can be used if the investigators don't know what to do.
Redcliff Bay Mysteries offers a coherent gaming experience that even makes you want more cases with its cliffhanger. Expectations should not be set too high, however, the target group is relatively clearly defined: family players, genre beginners or those who think outside the box will be enthusiastic about the mystery adventure in the south-west of England and will be able to motivate them - puzzle pros will be able to look at the lean ones three cases without a tutorial at most find fulfillment in terms of the story. A great gimmick that other puzzle games can learn from is solving the case: Whether you're right or not, you can find out via the "colorful thread".
The fact that with Redcliff Bay Mysteries Kosmos hasn't just released a chunk of mechanical puzzles, but rather a shallow puzzle game with a mystery story, certainly commands respect in view of the genre that is still booming - after all, die-hard gamers would have been annoyed with much harder logic challenges and thus gotten into the conversation with the frequent players can bring. Redcliff Bay Mysteries is a charming mass-market product, but by no means bad. On the contrary: detective board games have rarely been so fair and entertaining at the same time.
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Last updated on 26.01.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API