The History Of The Game Of Clue And Why We Still Play It Today

The game Clue, or Cluedo as it was originally called, has been around since 1949 and still remains popular even today.

By Ryan Clancey | Published

Clue, the board game, is still a popular family favorite today as when it was released in 1949. It is now a multi-million dollar business and has been instated into the hall of fame for toys. Its murder mystery theme is still a beloved part of the family’s time together.

The main objective of the board game is to work out who the murderer is within a group of six people. Each player is assigned one of six characters and endeavors to figure out who the murderer is while moving around a game board and collecting clues. Not only do you have to find out who did it, but you also have to find out where the crime took place and what weapon was used to strike the fatal blow.

The game, Clue, originally titled Cluedo, was created by British musician Anthony Pratt in the United Kingdom in 1944. The game’s premise was a replica of the murder mystery game called “Murder” Pratt enjoyed watching while he played the piano in various European country houses.

He created the game to pass the time while the World War II airstrikes took place in Birmingham, UK. Its release was delayed due to a ration of materials during the war but was subsequently released in 1949.

Pratt almost immediately sold the game to the Parker Brothers in 1949. They rebranded the game under the name Clue. Due to the early sale of “Murder,” Pratt received hardly any financial gain except for a one-off payment of 5,000 British pound Sterling when he sold the rights.

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It has been said that its popularity advanced further due to it being released at the same time as the wildly popular Agatha Christie novels. In the following 40 years, while the games’ idea has remained primarily unchanged, the board game has gone under a countless improvements.

One of the many things that were updated was the weapons within the game; the rope and the leap piper have been updated with more robust and less poisonous materials, and the baseball bat and gun with a silencer are new additions.

The aesthetics of the characters have changed through the years to keep up with fashion and keep the board game modern to connect with the next generation.

The most significant change to the board game is, of course, the characters. In 2008, numerous characters were updated for more contemporary identities, like Colonel Mustard, the military man, became Jack mustard, the football player. Not forgetting the controversial killing off of Mrs. White, to its super fans’ horror. She was replaced with the mysterious Dr. Orchid, the adopted daughter of the mansion’s owner. The mansion also was refurbished to include a spa and home theatre.

Due to the success of the board game, movie in its name was released in 1985. It features actors such as featuring Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn. While it was not a huge success, it did become a cult classic with the alternative film audience.

Clue changed owners once again from 1991 until 1994. Hasbro bought Clue from the Parker Brothers, both in the UK and US. From then, its brand grew dramatically.

They released a range of limited edition games with nods to popular television shows, including Game of Thrones, The Simpsons which featured a poisonous donut, and Golden Girls where the suspect did not die but ate the last piece of cheesecake. How dare they! Also, various adaptions such as Clue Junior Clue for a younger audience, and three-dimensional Clue took to the shelves.

Since the late nineties, the Clue brand has gone from strength to strength. In 1997, “Clue the Musical” and “The Mystery Café” was launched, both of which ran for years. In 2013, “Clue the Musical” was reimagined by Shannon Lane DuPont and has been very popular since its release. Breaking box office records, the new show “Murder at the Mansion” sold out all their shows in under twenty-four hours. Clue, the original whodunit, still captivates audiences over 70 years after its first release.

To top off, Clue the film and the musical, there is also a Clue world champion. In 1993, a Clue world tournament occurred in Manhattan, New York. The winner was Joseph Kollar, dressed as Colonel Mustard. He won a holiday to Hollywood.

Clue or Cluedo is sold in over 70 countries, including the US, UK, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, New Zealand, and Abu Dhabi. It is the fourth highest-selling board game of all time after Scrabble, Checkers, Chess, and Monopoly. The creator, Pratt, died in 1994, not before leaving an eternal gift to the world, a gift made in the midst of rubble and ruin.

With numerous murder mystery films, Netflix series, and books available for all ages, it is not surprising that Clue has retained in popularity after so long. It is lovely to see that even in the age of the internet and gaming, a traditional board game has not lost its value in bringing families together, even if it is over a murder or the last piece of cheesecake.