Pocket Detective Review

15 January 2023
Trousers not Included

Jessica Fletcher had her typewriter. Starsky had his Hutch. Colombo had his wife – or did he?! – and in Pocket Detective, amateur sleuths have their… pocket.

Technically, multiple pockets are needed, as there are three mysteries to solve in this one-player/co-op title: Murder at the University, Dangerous Liaisons and Time is Running Out. Within the roomy box there are three decks of cards, nothing more, nothing less. There isn’t even an instruction booklet. However, one deck of cards – the third case – is open, with details of how to play. This immediacy is great for getting straight down to deduction.

Each case has a connection to ChemFact, a chemical plant which, like the deadly county of Midsomer, appears to be a magnet for nasty types and dodgy goings on. Play begins with whoever most recently read a detective novel – rather than who most recently committed a crime… Everyone takes it in turns to flip a card, or follow leads. Interestingly, each case positions its players in different roles: in one, you’ll be the police, in another you’ll be a roving reporter trying to win the front page with breaking news and in another either a civilian, police officer or journalist, depending on if you’ve played before. This twist impacts on how the games are scored, and the risks faced when investigating the crimes. Journalists, for example, can find themselves jailed if their nose-poking peeves the local sheriff.   

It doesn’t take Miss Marple to figure out the overall aim is to solve the crime. Yet the trick is to do so in a timely fashion. Leads will often come with clock symbols (or ‘tension’ angry face emojis, depending on the game being played), each worth a different amount that affects final scoring. In a pleasing twist, some of the more useful leads can only be followed after accumulating a certain number of clocks, so you will have to take the points hit to get ahead. This ‘ticking clock’ device adds a realistic pressure and antagonism.

It’s difficult to talk in any level of detail about the cases themselves without giving clues away so please excuse the impeding vagueness. Two of the cases, however, are quite obvious, with red herrings pungent from a mile off. One case does a better job of keeping amateur sleuths guessing until close to the end though. It certainly isn’t revealing too much to say the crimes and motives are probably not as riveting as one would hope them to be. And the perpetrators themselves are hardly masterminds who have plotted near-perfect crimes. Think more Diagnosis Murder rather than Sherlock Holmes.

Aesthetically, the cover art is pretty stylish. Sadly, it isn’t followed through on the back of the cards which are a little samey. One player found the font too small to read. The silver lining could be using a comedy-sized magnifying glass, à la Inspector Gadget… Otherwise, the look and feel here is reminiscent of an escape room game without any of the rippy-up bits. This offers replayability – handy if you can’t crack any of the cases first time round. You’ll be passing it onto a friend/the local charity shop pretty quickly otherwise.

What Pocket Detective does excel at is logical gameplay for both lone rangers and groups. The solo option certainly doesn’t feel tagged on as it often can in modern games. Overall, this is a tidy, well thought-through play without any gaping plot holes. The sub-header is Season One, so there’s chance for some of the snagging to be ironed out and improved on ahead of the next series.

Jenny Cox


Budding Poirots should enjoy Pocket Detective, although they might find some of the cases a little on the simple side at times. For everyone else, the game could make a fun point of difference at the next group night, or as a test of the old grey cells when working alone.

Buy a copy here

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game...

Read the full review here

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Buy a copy here

Both have inter-connected crimes with modern-day settings, and require a team of super-sleuths to work together for justice to be served. Detective is more sophisticated, however, so bare this in mind to avoid disappointment.

Designer: Yury Yamshchikov

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Time: 60 minutes

Players: 1-5

Ages: 14+

Price: £29

What’s in the box?

  • 231 cards

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