A Brief History of Murder, Suspicion, and the Board Game Clue

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Ah. All this time, I assumed Cluedo was simply what the British called clues. You know, kind of like how they refer to lieutenants as “left-tenants” even though there isn’t a single bloody “f” in any spelling of the word? Little did I know but, all along, the name’s been a staggeringly esoteric portmanteau. You see, Parcheesi is known as Ludo in the UK, which is the Latin word for “play,” so Cluedo is a pun only Brits would grasp at first glance.

If that factoid about one of board gaming’s most venerable titles just blew your mind, then brace yourself for a solid twelve minutes of fascinating trivia–courtesy of the clue masters at Polygon.

As these guys mention, Clue‘s been back in the discussion lately due to that new character, Dr. Orchid, replacing Mrs. White in its gallery of eternally-suspicious rogues. However, as they also mention, the game’s roster has already gone through plenty of changes throughout its seven-decade-long existence. Early suspects like Mr. Gold and Miss Grey are long since retired, while Colonel Yellow and Reverend Green have respectively changed names and occupations over the years.

One amusing takeaway here is that Clue‘s makers have tried to conflate it with far-afield genre franchises since the very first dice roll. Think Game of Thrones Clue is a product of 2010s brand synergy? Bah. The earliest boxes of Clue were branded as “Sherlock Holmes games,” even though nothing in them had any direct connections to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth.

Also, the portion about how the Clue movie eventually became a cult classic is a striking reminder of how movies can find new lives on home video. The flick didn’t do well in theaters, and if it came out today, in the impatient age of Rotten Tomatoes, it’d probably be certified rotten. However, by offering VHS copies at a discount, the studio was able to exploit the early rental market, making Clue a fixture at almost every tape store. Which, come to think of it, was something I wondered about as much as I puzzled over what the heck “Cluedo” meant. This video’s taught me a lot.

Did these guys miss any crucial Clue factoids? Drop ’em in the comments. We’re all nothing if not sponges for information here.

Featured Image Credit: Hasbro/Parker Brothers

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