Deadline Review

Deadline board game review - cover

Year: 2017 | Players: 2-4 | Minutes: 60 | Ages: 14+

This Deadline review was made after playing through six of the 12 cases.

What is Deadline?

Deadline is a cooperative detective game with heavy doses of hand management and set collection. You play as detectives in 1930’s New York who are trying to work together to solve some cases.

Deadline was designed by Dan Schnake and Adam West and it is published by WizKids.

Deadline Gameplay

Deadline review - clue found

After choosing one of the 12 Deadline cases to play, you’ll grab that case’s clue deck and read the case file in the Case Book. The case file will give you some starting clues and you’ll find the corresponding clue cards in the deck. After that all you have to do is pick your detectives and choose the first clue you want to look into.

The clue cards are usually people or places that could provide valuable information. You want to see as many clues as you possibly can, but it’s important that you look over the available clues and choose the one that you think can help the most since you won’t always have the chance to see all of them.

What you’re trying to do each round is use the cards in your hands to match the symbols on the clue cards. The twist is that you have to lay the cards on top of each other so at least one of the symbols on the card being played matches one or more symbols on the card(s) it’s being played on. You can’t talk about the exact cards in your hand, but you can say where you want to play your next card or if you have a lot of one type of symbol.

You take exactly one action on your turn out of these three options:

  • Play a Lead Card – This is the action you’ll take on most turns. You simply choose a card to play and either start a new chain (if you’re playing the first card) or lay it on top of cards that are currently in the chain.
  • Use Detective Ability – Each detective has one powerful ability that can be used once per game.
  • Use Hot Tips – There are four Hot Tip tokens that can be flipped during the game by playing Lead cards with the matching images on them. You can use sets of flipped Hot Tips to draw cards and to remove Plot Twists.

When you can’t or don’t want to perform an action on your turn, you’ll drop out. At this point you have to play a Plot Twist card if you have one and discard the rest of your cards. Plot Twists can slow you down in multiple ways, such as making you play additional clue symbols each round.

If you match all of the symbols on the clue card, the current lead detective flips the card over and reads the clue. If everyone drops out, your group loses a bullet (you start with three). If everyone drops out and you’re out of bullets, you lose a clue card for the rest of the game, potentially losing valuable information. Regardless of the outcome, you’ll start a new round and each player will draw up to their hand limit before you pick a new clue card.

When there are no clue cards remaining, the investigation ends and you’ll answer the questions in the Case Questions book. You’ll then check to see how well you did in the Solution Book.

Deadline review - case book, case questions, and case solutions

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  • Some people avoid or just don’t enjoy detective games because they have a tough time solving the crimes and feel a bit left out, but that shouldn’t be a major problem when playing Deadline. Each player does feel like a vital part of the team because they’re still getting to play the card game and they get a chance to read the clue cards when they’re the lead detectives.
  • Choosing which clue to go after each round is one of the best parts of this game. You not only have to think about which clue will help the most in solving the case, you also have to figure out if your group has the cards it will take to match the symbols on the clue card. Do you take a chance and go after that clue now to get the info you need, or do you wait until the group has better cards?
  • One of the huge advantages that Deadline has over other detective games is that it only takes about an hour to finish a case. That wouldn’t matter if they didn’t feel like full cases, but they definitely do.
  • I really like the Plot Twists because they add to the theme and make the game more challenging. For example, you might end up getting some bad press, making it a little bit harder for you to get a clue you need.
  • Deadline feels like two games in one, and they both work! You have the murder mystery game with a bunch of interesting cases. And then you have the symbol-matching hand management game, which also works.
  • I’m a big fan of the images and artwork on the cards. They help you get into the 1930’s New York setting and the cards look nice on the table.
  • It’s pretty great that there are 12 cases in the box. That’s about double the amount found in most other crime-solving games.


  • I like that there isn’t too much text to read, but I think they could have added a bit more info on some of the clue cards. I know a lot of people had a problem with Case #2 because they felt it was too open for interpretation. Those types of issues could be fixed by adding in just a few more details on the clue cards.
  • As with the majority of these types of games, once you’ve completed all of the cases, you’re pretty much done with the game.

Final Thoughts

Yeah, I don’t have too much to complain about with Deadline. It’s a smooth-playing deduction board game with interesting cases and some fun team set collection mixed in. I’ve only had a chance to play half the cases, but I know for sure I’ll be playing the rest of them.

Not one person I’ve played Deadline with has disliked it. In fact, a couple of them like it more than higher-rated detective games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. I’d say those two games have better writing, but most of Deadline’s cases are just as interesting and they’re much quicker to get through.

If one of your main problems with other detective games is that you spend way too much time reading, you should definitely check out Deadline. The designers found a way to put full cases into small decks of cards with very small blocks of text on each card.

It is a bummer that no Deadline expansions have been made yet. I really like this system and hope more content is created for it.

Deadline Links

BGG | Amazon | Miniature Market


Thanks for taking the time to read our Deadline board game review!

Be sure to also take a look at our Best Cooperative Board Games list and other rankings.

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