Designed by: Martino Chiacchiera & Pierluca Zizzi Artwork: Werther Dell'Edera
The 3 SECRETS box contains a very brief rules sheet and a deck of 50 cards and the back of the box actually tells you very little about the game; "The Clock is ticking, and the clues are scarce. You'll need an observant eye, lateral thinking, and deductive skills to unravel the three secrets of the characters in this game". There is a "Download the free app!" (App Store or Google Play) note, but it doesn't impress upon the person perusing the box in a games shop with a thought towards purchasing that you really need the App!. You can play it with a regular timer and a pen(cil) and paper but that means book-keeping which the app does for you. The app also keeps track of the cards you have previously used.
3 SECRETS is a most unusual game because there are 50 cards and that equates to 50 games; you literally use only one card for each game. Each card is almost all in Greyscale with the exception that there are three parts in colour (a bit like Frank Miller's comics and Sin City films). The colours on the cards determine the difficulty; Bright Green is the easiest, then escalating in difficulty: Yellow, Orange, Red, another Green (slightly duller than the easy green - why, with all the colours available use Green again ?), Blue and finally Purple is the most difficult.
Play is a team game for 2-8 players and as I said earlier you need to download the App, you really do.
If you are going to play more than one game the players may take turns in being the "undercover agent". This is the player who selects one of the cards from the deck, preferably one you haven't used before (the App will let you know which cards you have used previously), and reads the back of the card while holding the face of the card so all other players (the detectives) can see it and investigate all that is going on, not just the coloured sections. On the flip side of the card there is a paragraph representing the back story for the front of card picture. There are also three secrets/clues which themselves are the basis of the undercover agent's replies to the questions asked (in their detective style interrogations) by the other players. The undercover agent can answer "Yes" "No" "Not Exactly" or "Irrelevant", although when we play we jazz them up a bit without giving anything away just so it doesn't become boringly similar. Remember that ALL players are working together and this includes the undercover agent. Therefore the undercover agent player has to be careful not to give clues away that haven't been earned otherwise there is no game and no fun. Trying to guess what the designers had in their minds when they created these illustrations is frustrating but fun. Sometimes though the answers given in the clues do not really, even with lateral, orthogonal or diagonal thinking. In other words you sometimes really have to stretch your imagination and throw your deductive skills out of the window.
As there are only 50 cards if I were to explain more than one card that would really be spoiling the game for you. But if I don't fully explain one card I can't get my points over as clear as I would like to. So let's start from the beginning. Choose a player to be the undercover agent and then discuss what difficulty level you wish to play (as previously explained). The undercover agent selects a card with the chosen difficulty's colour and reads the back of it completely but says nothing. The other players study the front of the card, the illustration and may discuss amongst themselves what they believe they are looking at. Open the pre-installed app on your device (I used an android Hudl 2) and you are faced with a list of 50 names in alphabetical order. Select the name on the chosen card by tapping the name on your device to bring up the 5 minutes timer and as soon as the undercover agent has completed their reading of the card tap the arrow to start the timer.
Players now have 5 minutes to find their first clue by asking the undercover agent questions pertaining to what they can see or what they perceive they are seeing. Because everyone will view the illustration and its three secrets differently you do not have to find the clues in the order they are written on the back of the card.
For our first game we chose the card "Miller". This shows what appears to be two men in dark clothing, one wearing a woolen hat and the other a baseball cap. They are standing in what looks like a Docking Yard, assumed because you can see part of a crane in the background, a capstan, a buffer bag (for preventing small ships hitting the wall of the Dock), sea/water, and a wall of stacked large packing crates. The bright Green portions of this picture are the Water, which shows concentric lines the type made when something is thrown into a pool etc, a sports-holdall bag with some darker areas that we guessed are creases and shadows, and the thrid Green part is that themen appear to be holding hands as both their right hands are Green.
From this we deduced that this was a clandestine meeting at the Docks (which is true but not a clue/secret) and the men are both wearing dark clothes, probably jeans or trousers and dark jackets, one of which is a waist length zipper jacket. (part of a secret but you would never guess which part). Because the men appear to be holding hands our first thoughts were naturally that they were gay and as they had a bag with them and meeting covertly at the Docks they were running away together, the buffer bag hanging just above the waterline waiting for their escape boat. All of this was fun tocome up with but so very wrong. We then decided that this was a drugs deal and the drugs were in the bag and that because the water was rippling (the concentric circles) they had dropped something or someone in, and we were quite close to the total solution by then, but only by the undercover agent reading between the lines.
Despite our reservations and frustrations (see Spoiler Alert below) about the visible clues often being impossible to see - you find yourself guessing more than deducing - we still have a lot of fun playing 3 SECRETS, especially introducing it to friends and family.
DO NOT READ any further: SPOILER ALERT!
The story and clues/secrets are as follows: GGO views in parenthesis.
Story: "He looks like a quiet guy" (they are both dressed all in black, one has a featureless face)
Green Part of Picture: "He shakes hands with all his friends" (it looks more like hand holding than any form of hello/greeting)
Story: "Secretly he's a drug dealer. In order to expand his business, he drowned another dealer and stole his bag of drugs" (we guessed someone/something had been dropped in the water, and deduced therefore the bag contained drugs and was stolen) 1st & 2nd & 3rd CLUES correct.
Green Part of Picture: "The Dock is slippery. He drowned a person" (as we cannot see the ground of the dock how can we tell it is slippery. Also if the other dealer was killed and dropped in the water what has the dock being slippery got to do with anything?)
Green Part of Picture: "The bag and the suit have different brands, He stole the bag" (where to start? Neither man appears to be wearing a suit. No Brand logo can be seen on the bag or the clothes worn, not even a tick! and about the bag being stolen we guessed that but then thought if that is the case (or bag) and this dealer killed the other dealer to steal his drugs, why is the buyer still there having watched, presumably because the water is still rippling, a murder ?)