Cluedo Patent

The following describes some fascinating facts revealed by the original patent for Cluedo. The full patent may be found here; and an article relating to it here. [HUGE thanks to Jon Cam for discovering it!]

  • The "E" in Anthony E. Pratt's (Cluedo's inventor) name is revealed to be Ernest.
  • There were to be 10 characters: Doctor Black, Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, The Rev. Mr. Green, Miss Grey, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, Nurse White, Mrs. Silver and Colonel Yellow.
  • The victim changes every time you play! The top person card is revealed at the start of the game to show the victim.
  • Despite there being 10 person cards - there are only 8 starting spaces and there is reference to it being a game for 2 - 8 players. Line 62 of the provisional specification refers to 10 pieces but line 92 refers to 8 pieces put on starting spaces. Line 56 of the Complete Specification says that the victim's piece is removed from play. Line 71 (CS) says players could choose out of the remaining 9 playing pieces - thus there will always be at least 1 piece not played.
  • There were two different shaped playing pieces - the taller was to be for male characters and shorter for female!
  • There were to be 9 weapons. There's one peculiar drawing (Fig. 24 / 33). Assuming that the weapons are: Axe, Shillelagh?(1) , Bomb, Rope, Dagger, Pistol, Hypodermic Syringe, Poison and Poker (respectively) that leaves Candlestick and Lead Piping unaccounted for. I guess it could be lead piping - but actually, the more I look at it - I think it might be a club. It could be a walking stick or possibly even a wooden leg!
  • Each room was to be coloured - similar to some of the US editions I guess.
  • Intriguingly, the map shows a gun room and a cellar - but there are no cards for them. Perhaps he'd already decided on the removal of the gun room and making the cellar non-accessible and unsuspected, while making the patent (the Complete Specification refers to nine rooms and the total number of remaining cards ties with this).
  • The kitchen has a second door! The absence of which, players have been frustrated about for years!
  • There is no reference to secret passages in any of the documents - presumably a later addition to make the game quicker.
  • The remaining 24 cards (after the removal of victim, murderer, murder weapon and murder room) were shuffled and distributed into the rooms. Players started the game by going into the rooms to pick up a card - very similar to advanced editions like Super Cluedo Challenge and Super Sleuth.
  • To make a suggestion, you had to land on the person suspected and then move them and the weapon into the room you want to suggest.
  • Players were limited to the number of suggestions they can make in a game. At the start of the game, each player was given a number of counters - which they then spent when making a suggestion. When you ran out of counters, you could no longer suggest.
  • Some interesting dates:
    • Provisional Specification Date: 28th November 1944
    • Application Date: 1st December 1944
    • Complete Specification Date: 21st November 1945
    • Complete Specification Left: 23rd November 1945
    • Complete Specification Accepted: 1st April 1947
    • [Note: Waddingtons decided to manufacture the game in November 1949]

(1) The identity of the weapon in Fig. 33 cannot be determined for definitate, however Danny Boy Carter's desciption of a Shillelagh (below) bids a strong case that it might be a Shillelagh:

A Shillelagh (pronounced "shil-LAY-lee") is a traditional wooden Irish weapon/walking stick. It's typically made from a stout knotty stick with a large knob on the end, that is associated with Ireland in folklore. They are traditionally made from blackthorn wood or oak wood. It was named after the Shillelagh forest in County Wicklow, a forest of oak which produced some fine examples. The wood would be smeared with butter and placed up a chimney to cure, giving the Shillelagh its typical black shiny appearance. Shillelaghs may be hollowed at the heavy "hitting" end/knob end and filled with molten lead to increase the weight; this sort of Shillelagh is known as a "loaded stick". They vary in length, but are characterised by a knobbly ball at one end, designed to fit comfortably in the hand when used as a walking stick. The knob end can obviously be used for striking as well as parrying and disarming an opponent.

For many young Irishmen, the shillelagh was considered a badge of honour. Fathers taught their sons techniques, and many practiced avidly in sparring matches at fairs and other gatherings.

When fighting with a shillelagh, the stick is held about a third of the way up from the bottom, and snapped out with the wrist, unlike other cudgels, which are swung. Though you could just go ahead swing it if you'd like.

I could be wrong but I feel 99% sure that Fig. 33 in that patent picture of the original 9 weapons is a shillelagh.

I wonder if Anthony E. Pratt had any Irish connections...?

© Paul Howls 2005-2006

IMPORTANT NOTE: Cluedo and Clue are registered trademarks of Hasbro Ltd. (formerly trademarks of Parker Bros. Ltd. and Waddingtons Games Ltd.)