CRIMESIGHT is an asymmetric social deduction game, and it’s fantastic. It might be my favorite giga-brain moment sort of game, and it makes you feel very smart, as long as you don’t scuff up wins that you have in the palm of your hand.
Which I’ve done a few times to be honest.
In order to talk about what I like about CRIMESIGHT, I’m gonna briefly cover how the game works. There are going to be several paragraphs going over the game’s mechanics. If you don’t want to read any more, here’s my summary of why I like the game: it’s full of incredibly clever mindgames and bluffing linked to an interesting balance of resources and information between the two competing sides.
A game of Crimesight is played over up to 10 rounds, on a single map consisting of multiple rooms and areas, and with 6 pawns. One pawn is the Killer, and one pawn is the Target.
First, a little bit more about pawns. Pawns start the game with nothing, regardless of their roll. Each pawn can carry up to two items, and has two health slots. They can also carry a single weapon. Weapons do not take up an item slot, and cannot be dropped once picked up. Every three rounds, the day ends, and pawns need to eat, or else they will become hungry. Hunger, like any other injury in the game, puts a token into one of the health slots. A pawn with one slot occupied can only move up to two spaces per round, and pawn with two slots occupied can only move 1 space per round, and is also blinded.
Each round, the players in the game may issue a number of commands to pawns, determined by the player’s allegiance, and the number of other players in the game. These commands consist of a movement command, and an action. First, movement. Each pawn can move up to three areas in one round. If they move more than two areas, though, they get fatigued, and will only be able to move twice in the next round. Then the pawn does an action. The action can be to search an area for food, to use an item on a location or another pawn, or to interact with an object. Pawns always move, and then take an action; they cannot do otherwise.
Let’s talk about the two allegiances, Moriarty or Sherlock, and the differences between the two.
The Moriarty player wins if they can have the killer pawn murder the target pawn. In order to do this, three conditions must be met. The killer must have a weapon, the killer must be in the same area as the target, and there can be no witnesses with line of sight. If the Moriarty player fails to pull this off in 10 rounds, the best they can hope for is a draw.
The Moriarty player also has several special advantages. They can see which nodes on the map contain food, weapons, or special items/objects. They start the game knowing the target and killer. In addition, if both Sherlock and Moriarty command the same pawn, Moriarty’s commands always win out, and will overwrite Sherlock’s. Moriarty can also always command pawns to move up to three spaces, even if the pawn is fatigued. Finally, they have access to a single special command, “assail,” which can only be used by the killer. When the assail command is executed, the killer will delay their action until the end of the round, and then move as close as they can to the target, and if their end location meets the criteria for committing murder, they will do so.
There are downsides to the assail command, however. Using it will reveal the killer and target, and if the killer does not reach the target that turn, there is a single final turn, after which if they cannot pull off the murder, Sherlock wins.
The Moriarty player also has one weakness: they cannot issue commands to the pawn designated as the target.
The Sherlock player has none of the advantages listed above. They start the game being able to see that 2-3 of the searchable areas have food in them. They don’t know anything about the rest of the nodes. They also start out not knowing who is the target, and who is the killer. There are only three advantages that the Sherlock player has over Moriarty.
The first is that the Sherlock players can issue more commands to pawns than Moriarty. The Sherlock player can also command any pawn, including the target. At the end of every day, they get additional information from “deductions,” where the game will tell Sherlock if the Killer is within 3 areas of the target, and based on that, narrow down potential killers and their victims.
The game has a really interesting balance of power and information going on. When the game starts, Moriarty knows everything, but has almost no “resources” (i.e., the killer doesn’t have a weapon, all of the pawns are fairly bunched together to prevent murder attempts, and they’re also all healthy making it easy to run the target away from the killer). On the flip side, the Sherlock player has the board state where they want it, (no wounded pawns, pawns all close to each other so Moriarty can’t move a single witness away from a murder attempt, no gas leaks, dogs, etc) but zero information about who they need to protect from whom.
As the game continues, the balance of power starts to shift. The balance of resources and board state shift into Moriarty’s favor as pawns split up to search the map for food, pick up weapons, or end up hungry if they fail to find any. However, Sherlock gets more and more information: each time the two clash by commanding a pawn, more info is revealed to Sherlock about can’t be the target. The end of day deductions also potentially cut out large swathes of possible murder/target combos.
I do want to talk about the game’s multiplayer modes a bit though. There can be multiple players on the Sherlock team, or multiple on both teams. So far I’ve played the 1v1, 2v2, and 3v1 modes, and I vastly prefer 1v1 and 3v1.
In the 1v1 modes, the game is fairly straightforward, since each player knows who the other player is. 1v3 is where things get interesting, because as a Sherlock player, you start the game not knowing which of the other 3 players is playing Moriarty. I find this neat because it lends an extra level of trying to read other player’s moves and actions, which isn’t present in the base game, and also lets you play more mind games as Moriarty.
This brings me to 2v2, and why I don’t enjoy it or the Irene roll very much. When playing the Irene roll, you effectively play a weaker version of Sherlock, but on the side of Moriarty. You can only command one pawn, you can’t see the location of items, you do know the victim and target, but you can’t use the assail command. It can be amusing, but it still feels like a fairly weak roll.
On the flip side, it’s not much fun to play against Irene either. Unlike Moriarty, if Irene issues a command to a Pawn at the same time as Sherlock, it’s a toss up on whose action goes through. And even if Irene wins out, it doesn’t give any information to the Sherlock player about who is/isn’t a target.
Outside of that one thing, I don’t really have any issues with the game. The game’s text display can be a bit frustrating, and there isn’t really a good option between “Tell me all the rules each time something happens” and “Tell me nothing,” but that’s pretty much it.
So that’s CRIMESIGHT in a nutshell, an asymmetric social deduction game for up to 4 players. I find it incredibly fun, and setting up either clever kills, or blocking them makes you feel smart. If all of this sounds like your cup of tea, you can buy CRIMESIGHT here on Steam. It’s $20, and it’s worth it.