At an outdoor antique show this past weekend, I found a vintage board game that has long been on my wish list: Mr. Ree! The Fireside Detective Game, made by Selchow & Righter in 1957. There are earlier versions dating to the 1930s, but any edition of the game is fairly hard to find, so I was delighted with this one.
Mr. Ree is very similar to Clue, the classic, and better-known, detective game. In fact, I would be surprised if there weren't lawsuits between the two companies somewhere in its past. The game board, a diagrammed house, is virtually identical, and the contents include a cast of characters, cards, and miniature metal weapons.
The actual gameplay is strikingly different from Clue's, though, and rather complicated. I got a headache just reading the instructions. The plot, however, is wonderful, the stuff of many a 1930s high society murder mystery film, and worth quoting in full from the directions:
"The Plot Thus Far" (READ ALOUD) In a red brick dwelling lives AUNT CORA, a wealthy spinster and her orphaned NIECE RHODA who is her heir. Aunt Cora is anxious that Rhoda marry a man of means but Rhoda is madly in love with GEORGE, a struggling young artist. A house party is in progress. Contrary to Aunt Cora's warnings, George has accepted Rhoda's invitation to the house party for he returns her love.
Also visiting at the house is the handsome but unscrupulous MR. PERRIN who aspires to marry Rhoda for her money, despite the fact that he is engaged to MISS LEE. Miss Lee noting that Perrin has gained favor with Aunt Cora becomes intensely jealous of his attentions to Rhoda.
To make matters worse, the household is attended by BUTLER HIGGINS, an ex-convict and MAID BEATRICE, a faithful servant, though slightly unbalanced.
The local police force, having received information of the Butler's past, decides to keep a watchful eye on Aunt Cora's household and has sent MR. REE, a famous detective, to patrol the property. From this point on, the plot develops,leading up to the "MURDER" which is eventually committed."
Mr. Ree's most endearing features, making up a major part of its appeal, are its unique 3 dimensional characters. Represented in Clue by simple wooden or plastic colored pawns, Mr. Ree's participants are fully realized individuals, standing on bases that actually open to hold tiny weapons, including an itty bitty bottle of poison. The game's resolution involves Mr. Ree, the detective, discovering which characters are hiding the weapons, and whom they have killed with which implement.