GDJ Detective – Lone wolf

It’s late night and I am sitting at my desk. The place is finally quiet. Everybody sleeps. I have a cup with my favorite tea, a few pencils, notepads and my lucky set of dice. I bought them back then when I was in high school. Good old times. I take a sip of tea. I know it’s time. I take two dice and I roll them…


From the very beginning, we knew we needed a solo variant for Detective. All classic crime stories are all about working solo. It’s Mrs. Marple. It’s Mr. Poirot. It’s always this one stubborn, brilliant detective who solves the mystery alone. Yes, there are exceptions, there is Sherlock and Watson, there is Mulder and Scully, there is Sonny and Rico. But in most cases, there is this one brilliant dude. It’s how the genre works.

So the play-testing began. And soon after it turned out, this might be a much more difficult task than we expected.


When you watch a murder mystery movie or when you read a murder mystery novel, the protagonist, investigator that is running the case is always freaking smart. He sees all those small details. He cross-references clues. He has this sixth sense.

He is so damn smart because the writer made him smart. And guess what. None of us, in real life, is that smart.

Play-testing solo variant very quickly showed that win-lose ratio was drastically lower compared to a multiplayer variant. A player left alone with all those clues, all those suspects, all the cards, files, the whole big case, was overwhelmed, was missing details, was falling into red herring traps.

We wrote a real crime story. A player was not a real cop.

Huh. Houston, we have a problem here.


Solo variants in board games – in general – simulate other players, either as opponents (you have some simple AI for attacks and interactions) or as co-op allies (you have additional action pawns or discount on the cost of some actions).

In Detective solo player didn’t need additional action pawn. He needed an additional brain. He needed somebody to talk to. Somebody to discuss with. Somebody to brainstorm with. To have a chance to read a card from a different perspective. To come up with an alternative theory about the crime.

Additional action pawn wouldn’t do it.

Huh. Houston, we have a problem here.


I’ll be honest. There was no brilliant breakthrough. There was no magical moment. There was no single solution that fixed the problem. A solo variant of Detective is much harder that multiplayer. That’s a fact. This game shines with a table full of players who debate, discuss, brainstorm. No single rule could change that.

What we managed to do, what we managed to offer a solo player was a sort of additional cardboard brain. When playing solo, you have much more Skill tokens and these you can spend to read additional material, to flip cards and learn hidden information. Learn and understand more.

A solo player doesn’t have 4 brains sitting at the table. He has though access to almost twice as much cards – he reads back of almost every card and gathers more clues.

A solo variant is the toughest variant.
A solo player is left alone with all these clues and leads.
But at least, a solo player knows more. He digs deeper. He has a broader picture. He has his chances.


It’s late. A small lamp on my desk. My favorite tea. I have time. I enjoy every minute of this. It’s quiet. I read the page and think about what I learned. I take a pencil and make a short note. I think I already read about this tiny detail somewhere. I browse through my notes. Yes, July ’58, Richmond.

Another sip of tea. Investigation slowly moves forward. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming. But I take my time. I read and I think. I enjoy every moment of this evening.

Originally posted on BTTS Blog on BGG Forum. Click here to read there!


We are bookworms. Movie maniacs. Story addicts. We grew up reading Tolkien, Howard, Herbert, Dick, Lem… We were watching Willow, Blade Runner, Never Ending Story, Robin Hood…

And yet, we don’t write books… we don’t make movies. We don’t make those things, because we make games. We make games that tell stories.