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What Do You Know about Clue, the Game?

An early version of the board game.

By Liz Armstrong

Before it was a movie or a play, Clue was, of course, a wildly popular board game which has been played around the world. So, before you see the play this summer at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, let’s see what you know about this game of murder and intrigue.

1—The board game, invented by Anthony Pratt and his wife Elva (who designed the original artwork for the board), was originally named “Murder.” Later it was changed to “Cluedo,” and is most popularly known in North America as just “Clue.”  

2—“Cluedo” is a combination of the words “clue” and “ludo.” “Ludo” is Latin for the word “play.” 

3—The Clue we know and love today contains six characters, six weapons, and nine rooms. But the original was much more complicated than this, boasting ten characters, nine weapons, and eleven rooms. Yeah, we’re glad it was simplified too. 

4—The weapons used in the game we play today (and in the play) are the candlestick, dagger, revolver, lead pipe, wrench, and the rope. Pratt’s original weapons, however contained an axe, bomb, syringe, poison, and others. 

5—The characters weren’t always the same either. The ten characters in the original patent application were Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, the Reverend Mister Green, Miss Grey, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Nurse White, Mrs. Silver, and Colonel Yellow. 

6—The idea for the game may possibly be attributed to the wildly popular Agatha Christie novels, which sparked the mystery parties Pratt often attended during his career of playing piano for hotels and cruise ships. 

7—Pratt and his wife developed the board game during World War II. While waiting out the air raids their home in Birmingham, England, they played Clue. They were granted a patent in 1947, which they sold to United Kingdom games manufacturer Waddington’s. 

8— Pratt didn’t profit much from the game. In the 1960s, his patent on the game lapsed and he stopped receiving royalty payments. He received no royalties on U.S. or international versions of the game, choosing instead to sign over those rights in 1953 for 5000 pounds (then about $14,000).

9—The standard Clue has 324 possible outcomes, which may contribute to its ongoing popularity. With so many different end results, how could you ever get bored?

10—The board game has been adapted into plays, films, musicals, game shows, competitions, video games, books, and more. Check out the article “The Evolution of Clue: From Board Game to Play” for more information. 

The 2022 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 20 to October 8 and includes All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, The Sound of Music, Trouble in Mind, Clue, The Tempest, and Thurgood, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and Repertory Magic. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or going online to bard.org/plays.

© Utah Shakespeare Festival 2023 www.bard.org