The year is 1983. Big hair, neon lights, and synth music. Michael Wagner is passed out on the couch, bottle of whiskey in hand, a television blaring an ad for bubble gum. Kiss a little longer, longer with Big Red. Shannon Blake pulls a cigarette from her olive-green jumpsuit and lights it up. You shouldn’t smoke inside, remarks Katherine, the Wagners’ maid. She has a broom in hand, sweeping the floor — but is noticeably avoiding the broken glass denoted by the placard, 13. Suspicion Suspicion
Tonight, there was a murder. Michael’s wife, Alex, was found dead at the Wagner residence. But what item killed her, where did she die, and by whose hand remains a mystery. Lucky for us, we’re all suspects, and the game of Suspicion is just getting started.
Suspicion is the second immersive game by The Reality X, brainchild of creator Cameron Cooper. Playing as convicts from the present day, you and fourteen other guests are sent back to 1983 to solve the logistics of a murder. If you’re the first to do so, you escape with your freedom — but if you are second or incorrect, you’ll be left to serve out your term behind bars. Interact with the family and guests, explore every drawer and closet, and solve puzzles to unravel the truth of the evening.
The Rules of the Game
Suspicion plays out as a real-life version of the classic board game Clue with some clever Black Mirror nods built in. Each guest is assigned an identity when entering and is left to mingle among participants to discover their relationships to the deceased Alex. Not long after, guests are given access to their briefcases — which reveal the following: a sheet of crime cards, suspects, and locations to be filled out as you play, two weapons that were not used to kill Alex, and of course, if you’re a suspect in the murder or not (yes, one of you is the murderer!). Guests then have free reign to explore almost everywhere inside and outside of the Wagner home to locate clues and deduce the winning combination.
Once a guest has a suspicion of how the murder took place, they can submit their entry via their cellphone. This allows guests to accuse in secret at any time. Participants are given three chances throughout the night to submit their accusations, but will not be made aware of their accuracy until the timer runs out — and the first person to have the correct answer is awarded the win.
Stratagem & Tricks
Much like The Reality X’s previous game, Welcome Home, Suspicion offers plenty of opportunities for guests to use stratagem, lies, and tricks to their advantage. When making accusations, guests are asked to place a set of handcuffs on the player they have accused — providing an interesting dynamic. Clever players may use their accusation early to handcuff a player that is making significant progress, but that might solidify a rivalry for the rest of the experience. It’s up to each individual how they want to play. Second, with the bulky briefcases, numerous players leave them behind to make themselves lighter on their feet. However, this yields the perfect opportunity for convicts to take a sneak peek inside for more information. In my game, the best players took the information from inside with them, leaving the briefcase behind. Finally, guests are encouraged to lie to each other, only trading information with those they trust — but, unless the card is revealed, any information players are peddling could be tainted.
While this game is marketed as immersive, it is a game — and having that expectation is vital to having a great time. This game is not designed with the intention to collect every item, solve every puzzle, or interact with every character. The solution will present itself logically if you are paying attention to the clues around you. Devious players will attempt to throw you off (and can even ruin your game if you cross off the murder weapon due to an early-game lie), so the key is to focus on the clues hidden throughout the house and what the characters tell you. Once you have made all three accusations, then enjoy yourself, explore the lore, and interact with the characters to your heart’s content.
Three’s a Crowd
It’s the actors that help make the experience memorable and evocative. Ian Heath (Welcome Home) returns as Michael Wagner, whose staggering demeanor and drunken antics elicit laughs and pity throughout the evening. Jenna Miles plays Shannon Blake, Alex’s sister — and commands every room she’s in; her bravado can be frightening, especially if you tell her secrets that she doesn’t know already. Finally, Amanda Sadia as Katherine the maid has a timid, yet helpful nature that starkly contrasts the other two, but also masks her secrets well. Each character plays their part perfectly and the interactions between them are highlights of the night.
Don’t Trust Anybody
While more devious players may benefit from evil tactics, these mechanics can be a negative to some players — especially newcomers. The game pushes players to trade cards, share secrets, and work together to solve the mystery. However, simple lies, misinformation, and deceit can ruin the chances for more trusting players. For those of you reading this, I recommend asking players to see their Suspect Card or Weapon Cards, and to be mindful when eliminating options based on secondhand knowledge. Further, as puzzles are solved, safes are unlocked, and characters reveal secrets, players can simply eavesdrop on the answers or open said box directly after. This allows cunning players to gain valuable information without putting in the work themselves. Finally, the information given by various clues can be uneven; it is frustrating to spend a significant amount of time organizing seemingly important information only for the answer to be completely unrelated to the task at hand. While it’s important to note that the above notes elicit a more exciting and competitive game, we want to ensure that players of all experience levels enter with the right expectations and understanding of the rules. These may be altered or fine-tuned in future iterations of the game; the version I attended was an early dress rehearsal.
Suspicion is a clever, immersive, and innovative take on the classic murder-mystery evening. It takes the best parts of Clue and places them in a real-life game that you and your friends can play together. Further, it rewards those who are willing to play a little dirty by deceiving those around you. While it may be hard for the trustworthy and honest to win, it’s still a powerful immersive experience with a fun mystery to uncover. So put on your best ‘80s neon, piano tie, and Ray Bans, and prepare to be suspicious of everyone around you.
Special thanks to Jeremy Connors for all photography.