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The Surprising Origin and History of the ‘Clue’ Board Game

4 Minute Read
Jul 19 2023

The Clue board game is one of the most popular board games ever and has a surprising history deeply rooted in World War II.

Clue, or Cluedo (we’ll get to that later) is one of those games everyone has played at some point. Even though many years ago, I did try to make some improvements to Clue, it’s a fine enough game with more versions and editions than any game second to only Monopoly. [Source: I made it up]

I accuse Link of killing Ganondorf with the Master Sword in Hyrule Castle.

For a game that’s been around so long, you probably never stopped to consider from whence it came. Well, turns out the story of the Clue board game is deeper than you might think.

The Second Time Everyone Got Real Mad

In 1939, some people got mad and started a scuffle called The Big Fight Between Lots Of People 2: The Re-Baddening. During this kerfuffle, lots of people got stuck inside their houses while some carpets were dropped off outside. One such individual was a man named Anthony E. Pratt. Pratt was primarily a pianist, having played on cruise ships and hotels, even composing a few pieces himself. Even playing alongside Kirsten Flagstad, which was a really big deal at the time.

During the Great Quarrel II, Pratt worked in a factory in Birmingham (Not the one in Alabama), and he worked at a drilling machine, manufacturing parts for military tanks. During the monotony of his work, he found time to think about Murder!

But Why Cluedo?

Murder! was Pratt’s first choice of name for his murder mystery board game, for which he applied for a patent in 1944. The game was presented to Waddington’s in the UK, who had released Buccaneer only a few years prior. The game was immediately bought up, but the name changed from Murder! (Murder generally has pretty bad PR), and changed to Cluedo, which our European friends will know as the name it is today. But I’m American. Sorry, it’s not my fault.

The name Cluedo is a portmanteau, of Clue and Ludo. Ludo, which is Latin for “I Play”, is a game that is very similar to Parcheesi, and inspired some of the Clue board game’s design. But, no one in America plays Ludo. So over here, the Lu was dropped. And that’s where the name comes from!

The Clue Board Game Begins Production… Eventually

Even though the patent was issued in 1947, 2 years after everyone chilled out big time, there was still a shortage of a lot of materials. So, the publication of the game couldn’t begin until 1949, when it was also later released by Parker Brothers in the United States.

The game hasn’t changed much since its initial release. However, the game did originally come with 10 characters, 9 weapons, and 9 rooms. This made the game take a while. So a few characters kicked the bucket permanently, like Doctor Black, Mr. Gold, and Miss Grey.

As did the hypodermic needle, fire poker, shillelagh, and a BOMB?!

In 1953, the game wasn’t selling very well across the pond, so Waddington convinced Pratt to sell them overseas rights. They offered him a heavy sum of £5,000 (£115,000 in today’s money). Not bad, considering. However, in retrospect, a bad move considering how well the game has sold since. Pratt admitted regretting it somewhat in later years.


Still, in 2013 he was granted a plaque outside his home in honor of his cultural achievements.

Thus ends the tale of Cluedo and Anthony Ernest Pratt- a pianist, machinist, and lover of Murder!

Author: Matt Sall
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