When tabletop hobbyists hear the term “Deduction Game,” they tend to assume one of two major categories: A Social Deduction game or a Logic Deduction game. The most prominent examples of Social Deduction are games like The Resistance, Werewolves, or Blood on the Clocktower. These tend to feature secret roles, bluffing, misdirection, accusations, and elimination where the most socially crafty players have the best chance of winning. On the flip side, logic deduction games tend to emphasize information over conversation, reveals over reactions, and races to uncover the ultimate secret over hidden roles.
There are of course exceptions and hybrids where the line between social deduction and logic deduction blurs, but today I wanted to focus on my ten favorite games that feature logic deduction. The reason for the occasion is in celebration of our own upcoming deduction game. So buckle in an enjoy the ride of my Top 10 Logic Deduction Games, and be sure to stick around for the grand reveal of Bitewing Games’ next big project!
Here’s my list in no particular order…
Since its 2018 release, Cryptid has stood the test of time (yes, I consider 5 board game years a long time) as a solid option for pure logic deduction. It was even nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres last year after it finally released in Germany.
Here, players are racing to find the hidden cryptid on a hex-based map by deducing each other’s clues and weaving together this knowledge to pinpoint the cryptid’s space. You’ll take turns asking another player if the cryptid could be in a particular space (according to their clue) and they’ll either put out a yes disc or a no cube. The juicy twist here is that if you make somebody else put out a no cube, then you must also put out a no cube about your own clue. The challenge is to not reveal too much about your clue while racing to find the cryptid first. And the ending usually lands in a thrilling fashion when one player makes an official guess and, one by one, every other player is forced to place a yes disc on that space (assuming they correctly solved the puzzle).
MicroMacro: Crime City
For players who prefer things to be much less abstract than the hexes and triangles and cylinders of Cryptid, MicroMacro could be a great option. On top of that, this one is a killer cooperative or solo game.
In this Where’s Waldo detective challenge, players work through many cases that all start out the same: a crime has been committed and it’s up to you to solve the case. While the drawings across this massive, detailed map appear cute on the surface, the characters in this city are anything but. You’ll witness murder, kidnappings, thievery, corruption, and more as you piece together the evidence and uncover dark secrets.
The clever twist to this map is that it is not a snapshot of a single time period, rather it shows a map of both time and space where you can follow suspects across town or retrace their steps. Subtle clues are also planted into these settings and scenarios. The map is so well designed that it even gives you the opportunity to deduce information based on physical characteristics, facial expressions, background details, and more.
Treasure Island is one of the more unique deduction games on my list thanks to the refreshing use of dry erase markers on a shared board. Long John Silver’s crew have committed mutiny and locked him up on Treasure Island! Day after day, they question him as to the whereabouts of his buried treasure, hoping to be the first to find the booty. But by sowing in a bit of misdirection with his truths, Long John hopes to buy himself enough time to escape captivity and reach his treasure before it is uncovered.
The deduction challenge here can be both infuriatingly frustrating and delightfully thematic. Players can spend their turns searching areas hoping to stumble across the treasure first, or they can wring more information out of Long John to narrow down their search area. They can even cooperate and share information with each other to increase their chances of beating Long John at his own game, but it’s ever hard to trust a greedy pirate when only one person will walk away with the treasure.
Now before anyone gets too excited, let me start this one by clarifying that Outfoxed is 100% a children’s game. But the reason Outfoxed landed a spot on this list is because it’s probably one of the best children’s games out there (for 4-10 years old), and its core mechanism is deduction.
Unlike the most popular family-weight deduction game of all (Clue), Outfoxed is a cooperative game that allows parents to guide their kids through the puzzle by playing on the same team. It features a bit of Yahtzee-style dice rolling drama (where a failed roll will advance the fox toward your defeat), yet gives the players plenty of time to solve the case of which fox stole Mrs. Plumpert’s pie?
This one comes with a neat little plastic device where you’ll insert the thief card and test out clue tokens with a slider to determine whether the guilty fox was wearing things like a hat or necklace or glasses. It’s simple enough that my 4-year-old daughter caught on quickly, and she’s had a blast playing it multiple times a week with us since it arrived.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
For those who insist on maximum social interaction in their logic deduction game, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. The reason I’ve include this party-style game (while excluding other social deduction games) is because Deception keeps things more grounded with evidence cards and scene tiles.
There are indeed hidden roles here, most notably a murderer who secretly selects a key evidence card and a means of murder card in front of them which the other players must identify in order to win. The problem is that each player has roughly 8 cards sitting in front of them, and nobody knows who the murderer is or what specific evidence will convict them… except for the forensic scientist.
The forensic scientist acts as a game master who slowly rolls out more information as players accuse each other of murder. The catch is that each player only has 1 official accusation token they can spend during the game, and the murderer will win unless the others can pinpoint their exact two cards.
For those who don’t enjoy the baseless accusations of more loose social deduction games like Werewolves, Deception is a clear winner that provides players with a more solid deduction footing based on evidence and cards.
Codenames & Decrypto
Why did I group these two games together? Well… because it’s my list and I feel like it. But also because these games scratch a similar itch (yet both do it so well that I couldn’t choose one over the other). Like Deception, Codenames and Decrypto have a bit of a party-style vibe to them, but here you are dividing the group into two equal teams.
In both games, a player from each team gives a clue to their teammates who then try to utilize this new information (plus previous clues and opponent clues) to make some guesses. In Codenames you are trying to spot your agents in the field (correctly select your team’s word cards), while in Decrypto you are trying to decipher your team’s code and the opposing team’s code based on the word clues provided. Codenames is undoubtedly the more approachable title of the two, but Decrypto is probably the more rewarding challenge. I’ll happily play either!
If you want that Codenames or Decrypto style of clue giving and team-discussing deduction, but in a less wordy and more visual format, then Mysterium is the way to go. In this cooperative game, one player doles out illustrations called “vision cards” to try to help each player select the correct suspect then location then murder weapon. The game then ends in a thrilling vote based on one final combination of clues.
Players are involved throughout by helping each other decipher their visions and by placing bets — clairvoyancy tokens — on each other’s guesses (where correct bets will help the team’s chance of success in the final vote). It takes a bit to set up, so this one is best set up before the group arrives, but Mysterium has always been a hit with our gaming groups.
The Search for Planet X
We’ve strayed into murder mysteries, treasure hunts, and social parties, but for those who wish to get back to the quiet, competitive brain burning of pure logic deduction, The Search for Planet X is your jam. Where some logic deduction games are so dry or abstract that they stray away from gaming and into homework territory, Planet X manages to keep things smooth and interesting with its astronomy theme and slick app.
Players are deducing what exactly lies in each sector of the solar system as they race to find Planet X. But this design has a few strengths over its competitors:
- The deduction is non-fragile, meaning a player cannot accidentally give out false information and ruin the game for everyone, because all of the information comes from the app
- Players are not simply competing to find a single entity first, although that does grant a nice point bonus. You can actually still win the game by making other great deductions throughout the session. So turn order or a single slip-up won’t necessarily ruin your shot at winning.
- There’s a nice bit of competitive pressure to push-your-luck by publishing theories, even if you’re not entirely sure about those theories
These are some of the main reasons why The Search For Planet X is one of the highest ranked logic deductions games on Board Game Geek and a winner at my table.
These last two titles are great options for those who want a shot of deduction within a filler-length game. Durian is all about avoiding and deflecting the wrath of your imposing gorilla boss. Players take turns accepting orders in this busy fruit shop until one player believes that their collective orders have exceeded their collective inventory. The problem is that you don’t know the exact fruit inventory in your shop because you cannot see your own inventory card (but you can see everyone else’s cards).
This wrinkle allows for players to bluff, scheme, or push their luck by accepting big or small orders for fruit and hoping that when somebody rings the tattletale bell, anybody but them gets in trouble. It’s a hilarious romp that comes in a beautifully small box.
Love Letter is a classic filler game of holding one card in your hand and hoping you survive the gauntlet of each round. On your turn, you’ll draw a second card into your hand and choose one of them to play. The objective is to be the last person standing or to have the highest card when the round ends, as that person will get to deliver their love letter to the princess.
Love Letter works so well because there are a mere 16 cards in the entire deck, and only half that many card types. Newcomers quickly learn what their opponents may be holding in their hand, and the game of cat and mouse ensues. As more cards are played and revealed, the options narrow and the round reaches a crescendo. By deducing what card may be in your surviving opponents’ hands, you’ll take calculated risks to come out on top.
Introducing a new deduction game from Bitewing Games
If you’ve made it this far, then you are obviously a fellow fan of deduction games and you hopefully agree with some of my favorite picks. While it’s certainly easier for me to simply play and enjoy the great titans of this genre, I felt compelled to make a contribution of my own when I came across Ryan Courtney’s promising design. So please allow me the honor of introducing to you our next publication, Spectral…
Legend tells of the abandoned Spectral Manor coming to life at the stroke of midnight on a Crimson Moon — an event that rarely takes place more than once per century. On that night and that night alone, vast treasures appear in certain rooms granting unspeakable wealth to those brave enough to find and claim them. But those who enter this mansion do so at their peril, as some rooms awaken ghosts and curses which claim any who are foolish enough to enter. Rumors speak of glyphs and sigils found within the manor only on Crimson Moon night; these markings offer hints and clues — indicating both where treasures can be found and where paranormal traps lie in wait.
In Spectral, players control competing bands of treasure hunters. These bands enter the Spectral Manor on the night of the Crimson Moon and race to uncover and stake out the locations of the treasures before midnight. As they discover and decipher the glyphs, they’ll carefully avoid rooms where demons secretly slumber and selfishly keep such information from their rivals. Meanwhile, locations of the manor that promise to conjure the most treasure will see multiple clans clashing over the territory. Through deduction, bidding, betting, and bluffing, players will uncover and harness the secrets within. The game ends after any player has placed out all of their treasure hunters or if all players consecutively pass. The band who claims the most treasure while avoiding cursed rooms will come away victorious.
- Strong player interaction on a shared board with push-your-luck risk taking in this haunted manor treasure hunt
- A refreshing combination of mechanisms including inter-card worker placement, auction-style betting, and clever deduction
- Non-fragile logic deduction (nobody can accidentally give out bad info and break the game)
- A satisfyingly tailored experience with multiple challenge levels (beginner mode, standard mode, and advanced modules)
- Immersive artwork and graphics by Kwanchai Moriya and Brigette Indelicato (the art team behind Zoo Vadis)
I’m excited to share more about Spectral, including a full publisher diary, leading up to its Summer 2023 Kickstarter launch. So be sure to follow along by subscribing to the Bitewing Games newsletter!
Thanks for your support, and happy deducing!
Article written by Nick Murray. Outside of practicing dentistry part-time, Nick has devoted his remaining work-time to collaborating with the world’s best designers, illustrators, and creators in producing classy board games that bite, including the upcoming Zoo Vadis by Reiner Knizia. He hopes you’ll join Bitewing Games in their quest to create and share classy board games with a bite.