Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (2024)

Quick Links

  • A Brief Overview of Unsolved Case Files

  • What's in the Box: Photos, Crime Scene Map, Documents, and So Much More

  • Gameplay: Great if You Like Reading

  • Verdict: A Fun Idea For Solo Play, Couples, or Large Groups

Key Takeaways

Harmony Ashcroft’s cold case takes only a few hours to solve, and it’s a lot of fun—if you’re willing to pore over tons of documents. You can solve the case’s three mysteries by yourself or with a group, and check your answers via the Unsolved Case Files website.

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (1)

If you're obsessed with true crime and crime drama TV shows like me, Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft is right up your alley. With this game, you become an investigator tasked with solving a 1998 murder that originally put the wrong suspect in jail.

Harmony Ashcroft's case was "solved" when the murder originally took place, but it was solved incorrectly. The prime suspect at the time went to jail for over two decades after being wrongly convicted. Now that you're on the case and reexamining evidence, it's up to you to find evidence that frees the man framed for murder, Bones McBride, and put the real killer behind bars.

To do this, there are a ton of documents and photos to look through, and three separate objectives to complete to fully solve the case. I sure thought I was up to the task with my countless hours of binging NCIS, Bailey Sarian's Murder, Mystery, & Makeup channel, Covert Affairs, Nikita, and so on. But solving Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft surprisingly wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be.

A Brief Overview of Unsolved Case Files

Unsolved Case Files was created by high school friends John Carroll and Lou Wilson. The pair started a business in 2016 where they invented new products to sell on Amazon. All of the products failed, except for Unsolved Case Files!

Carroll and Wilson recognized the public's interest in true crime and cold cases, and started to create a product about serial killers. But along the way, they realized they didn't want to glorify serial killers, but rather the investigators who catch them instead. The idea to make replicas of real cold cases was thrown around, but ultimately, the pair decided to create their own cold cases from scratch.

This meant writing the cold case story, creating authentic-looking police documents, snapping staged crime scene photos, and taking photos of witnesses and suspects. With realistic evidence, players would work their way through a three-step process to solving the case. Carroll and Wilson also designed an online answer key people could use if they got stuck, and you'll only get hints---no spoilers!

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Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

There were supposed to be 15 initial prototypes of the Harmony Ashcroft Case---the one I'm reviewing---sent to Amazon for sale. Only 14 made it because Carroll accidentally sliced his finger while cutting crime scene photos and there was too much blood on one prototype. Within a week, the first batch of cases sold out!

They started making larger batches of case files to send out, and eventually started creating new case files for people to investigate. Pretty soon, the demand for Unsolved Case Files led to Carroll and Wilson renting a much larger office space and hiring dedicated team members, including a lead writer, graphic designer, production manager, and customer service manager. The team continues to grow, and the company now has nine Unsolved Case Files to choose from, with a tenth option on the way.

What's in the Box: Photos, Crime Scene Map, Documents, and So Much More

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (3)

Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Unsolved Case Files isn't like a traditional board game. Inside the box, you'll find a lot of paper to sort through, including documents on printer-size paper, thin newspaper articles, and photos printed on thicker paper. There's no clear setup or order you're supposed to study the documents in, but there is an inventory list you can follow in order if you need help figuring out where to start.

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (4)

Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

There are over 50 evidence photos and documents within the Harmony Ashcroft Case, many of which are found in the five suspect packets. Each suspect packet includes a photo of the suspect, a person of interest sheet, a recorded interrogation, witness statements, and occasionally another document or two, depending on the suspect.

Related: The 10 Best Mystery-Themed Board Games

In addition to the suspect packets, there's a photo of the victim, Harmony Ashcroft, along with a copy of her wedding invitation, and three crime scene photos from the night of the murder. You'll also receive two newspaper article cutouts, a fingerprint card for the falsely accused murderer, a coroner's report, an evidence log, a map of the area the murder took place, and photos for each of the witnesses.

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (5)

Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

Inside the packet of photos, you'll also find a cute little magnifying card to help you look closer at the crime scene photos. It's the size of a credit card to help save on space, but it works just like an actual magnifying glass.

Then, there are three bonus envelopes to open as you progress through the case. After you complete the first objective found on the inside of the evidence folder, you open Bonus Envelope A. After the second objective, you open Bonus Envelope B. Once you solve the case by completing objective three, you open Bonus Envelope C to see the real killer's confession.

Everything you look at and read through in Unsolved Case Files is fictional, but it feels like the real thing. There are a few pieces of evidence that feel a bit fake, like the witness photos, but for the most part, the story is well-written and the evidence is captivating.

Gameplay: Great if You Like Reading

To find the solution to all three objectives, there's a lot of reading. If you hate reading, or you want solving a case to be more hands-on with puzzles and actual investigative work, you might be better off with a Hunt A Killer board game or a mystery video game. But if you think reading through well-written case documents would be interesting, there's a lot to love about Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft.

When you open the brown evidence folder, you'll see the first objective printed on the inside cover: Prove why the convicted man must be innocent. When you go to the companion website to solve the first objective, it asks for two documents that prove Bones McBride did not kill Harmony Ashcroft.

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Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

It was actually difficult for me to find the two necessary documents to solve the first objective. When you go to the website and guess incorrectly, you can get up to three hints to help you. I loved that none of the hints tell you the answer completely, and you still have to ultimately find the solution on your own. The first hint tells you one of the documents is a key piece of evidence, and then you have to find the other one by yourself.

While I was poring over the documents to solve the first objective, I stumbled across the answer to the next objective. So while proving Bones was innocent took me a few hours, solving the mystery of whose alibi had holes in it took me less than five minutes. I already knew whose alibi was weak, so I just had to go find the documents again, head to the website, and confirm my answer.

The third mystery question to answer was which suspect has hidden a key piece of evidence implicating him in the murder of Harmony Ashcroft? This objective was slightly more difficult to complete, but the envelope containing the objective also included new evidence that seemed too important to ignore. It was kind of obvious that it was placed there for a reason, and sure enough, it ended up being relevant to solving the objective.

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (7)

Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

After you solve the third mystery and reveal Harmony's real killer, there's a neat YouTube video within the companion website. Once you correctly guess the two necessary documents that prove who the killer is, you'll see some text, a mugshot of the killer, and a fake news video that outlines the details of the case. I thought this was a nice touch that pulled everything together.

Related: Hunt A Killer's 'Curtain Call' Box Set Review: An Exciting Mystery

The second and third objectives were much simpler to solve for me. To be fair, however, I fell into the trap of not reading absolutely everything, which is why the first objective was so difficult to meet. I gave my husband six random documents to read through, two of which were the documents needed to prove Bones' innocence, and it took him about 15 to 30 minutes to read through everything and find the correct documents.

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Sarah Chaney / Review Geek

As with many murder mystery cases, there was a little satisfaction in finally freeing Bones because I did solve the mystery. But at the same time, it's hard to believe that the police would've missed this key piece of evidence before falsely convicting a man and sending him to prison for 20 years.

That said, I don't know how you could present an unsolved case that was more difficult to solve and more like a true cold case without it being too difficult to be enjoyable. The Harmony Ashcroft Case was also the first game from Unsolved Case Files, so it's entirely plausible that there's a wider range of cases now that vary in difficulty.

For me, completing Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft took about three hours. The company estimates that most teams of two or more players take between two to six hours to complete a case. This largely depends on the deductive abilities and ages of everyone involved. While the game is written for adults, it's appropriate for mature teens and contains mostly "PG-13" language and content.

Verdict: A Fun Idea For Solo Play, Couples, or Large Groups

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft is a perfect choice for game night, whether you're playing solo or with a group or a significant other. There aren't any puzzles or codes to decipher, but there are plenty of documents to disperse among multiple people or just tackle all by yourself. The documents are well-written and the story is intriguing enough to keep you interested throughout the entire case.

Plus, if you're not entirely sold on the Harmony Ashcroft Case or you've already played it, there's a case suggestion tool you can use on the Unsolved Case Files website. It'll take you through a couple of questions, like whether you've played before, how many players you'll have, what type of experience you're looking for (light & fun or dark & scary), and how old the youngest player is. Then, you'll see a list of curated cases to choose from based on your answers.

Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (9)
Unsolved Case Files: Harmony Ashcroft Case

8/ 10

$27 $30 Save $3

Pros

  • Mixture of photos and documents is excellent
  • Good writing and storytelling
  • Hints through the website aren?t too obvious

Cons

  • Objectives two and three were a bit too easy to solve (especially compared to the first)
  • One-time playthrough
Unsolved Case Files - Harmony Ashcroft Review: An Investigative Game (2024)

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