The Game’s A-foot!

Puzzles, Books and Other P.I. Games

Oh, the games people play now, every night and everyday, now…


Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so here’s a short list of puzzling diversions for those of you who like to play.

  • Lawrence Treat’s Detectograms
    Mystery author Lawrence Treat did a number of  you-solve-it crime puzzles in the late thirties, complete with crime scene maps and all sorts of other “clues,” which were published in such pulps as Double Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly and Ace-High Detective. Thanks to Pierre Poirier for bringing this info to my attention, and for the nifty scan.
  • Vega$ Jigsaw Puzzle
    (1978, HG)
    Inspired by the then-current ABC TV show Vega$, starring Robert Urich as “hip” private eye Dan Tanna, he of the classic 1957 T-Bird ragtop and the rockin’ sports coat and jeans look, HG released a couple of different 150-piece jigsaw puzzles, including the pictured design, a collage of all that made Tanna so dang cool.
  • Gumshoe: The Hardboiled Detective in the Thirties | Buy the game
    (1986, Sleuth Publications)
    The blurb states it’s “not a role-playing game, not a board game, but a game for the solitary shamus or several operatives working (together) to solve a large number of cases.” Maybe not, but it certainly seems a lot like both.
    And there’s no doubt that it’s very collectible now. It came with 1930’s-era San Francisco maps, telephone directory (white and yellow pages), maps, fingerprint files, mug shots, newspaper clippings, a casebook with hundreds of cases from the Continental Detective Agency, etc.
    According to Adam Bormann, a friend of this site, “It’s an okay game, but with very limited replayability (only 9 cases available). But what interests me most is that they completely ripped off Hammett, but never give him a mention or credit. You work as an op for the Continental, you get your assignments from the Old Man. In the phone book, you can look up (and find) Sam Spade, Mickey L, and other classic Hammett characters from San Francisco. I appreciate that someone did the game, and they obviously were lovers of Hammett, but they should have at least given him a mention.”
  • Hard-Boiled | Buy the game
    (1985, by Robert DiChiara)
    One of those “solve-it-yourself” gamebooks , featuring “three tough cases for the private eye with smarts.” Perfect for finding out if you’re “one tough egg” or merely a “softboiled shamus.” To keep it going, the author pumps up the jargon. Definitely tongue-in-cheek.
  • The Perry Mason Game | Buy the game
    (1987, Paisano Productions)
    Ages 10 and up.
    In this role-playing detective game, you compete with up to five other players as Perry Mason, TV’s greatest criminal lawyer, calling witnesses to the stand, whipping out a tricky cross-examination or objecting to your opponents’ questions. Flirting with Della is not obligatory, although it might be fun.
  • Murder Most Puzzling: Twenty Mysterious Cases to Solve | Buy the game | Buy it on Kindle!
    (2020; written and illustrated by by Stephanie
    A clever and handsomely illustrated collection of puzzles in book form–a variation of sorts on those five-minute mystery books many of us had as kids, this one is definitely for adults. The premise is that you’ve applied for a job as the assistant to Medea Thorne, an eccentric and absent-minded private eye, and the book itself is a chronicle of twenty of your first cases that you solved together. Except she forgot to include the solutions, and it’s once again up to you to do the leg work, using logic, math and all your deductive skills to solve the puzzles, analyze the evidence and crack the case. Ideal for couples.


Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Further suggestion welcome. Thanks to Adam Bormann and Pierre Poirier for their help with this page.

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