Thank you for coming. You may be wondering why you have all been called here, to the drawing room. I am afraid there has been a terrible murder. Colonel Mustard is dead.
Yes, madam, you may well gasp. The Colonel has received his last orders. And he is far from the sole victim, I am afraid. Mrs Peacock struts no more. Miss Scarlett's blood soaks the Persian carpet. Professor Plum is beyond reinvention. The Rev Green hasn't a prayer. And Mrs White, doyenne of the kitchen? Her goose is cooked.
For nearly 60 years, these characters have roamed the Hampshire mansion of one Dr Black, puzzling over who made toast of their host. They were all, frankly, suspect. Players of the board game Cluedo were given reason to believe it was one of the guests who had done for the doctor, with a revolver, a rope, a length of lead piping or a candlestick (by roasting his toes?).
Cluedo became a worldwide phenomenon, but the six suspects never changed. Until now. The game has been relaunched. Bang! The Colonel is out of action, replaced by a football pundit called Jack Mustard. Aaagh! The Professor has mutated into a "self-made video game designer billionaire" called Victor Plum. Oof! The vicar is now an unsaintly fixer and wide boy called Jacob Green. All the suspects have lost their titles and been given first names as well as new, funky occupations. Diane White is a former child star; Eleanor Peacock a vain social entrepreneur; Kasandra Scarlet (dropping a "t") a Hollywood leading lady.
Poor old Dr Black, meanwhile, remains slumped on the floor. And alongside him is the corpse of old England. Cluedo was originally created in the depths of war, in 1943, by a solicitor's clerk from Birmingham called Anthony Pratt. With his wife and parlour-gaming friends, Mr Pratt devised a setting and a list of characters that seemed quintessentially English: the clergyman, the retired officer, the inventor, the rosy-cheeked cook, the respectable wife and the slightly racy single gal.
It was nostalgic even then, an evocation of a genteel pre-war England in which people knew their place and all a policeman had to do was lay his hand on the murderer's shoulder. Hasbro says Cluedo has been remade to be "more in tune with modern society". So what do the changes tell us about the way we are? That footballers are more respected than war heroes. That video games are cooler than science. That age and experience count for little. Youth, beauty and money are what matter now.
And that we're all still as gullible as ever. Remember New Coke? Coca-Cola messed with a winning formula in 1985 and launched a sweeter taste to try to match the sales of rival Pepsi. There was outrage across America – so much so that only 77 days later the company reintroduced the original, rebranding it as Classic. Everyone was reminded how much they loved the original, which now felt special instead of tired, and soon it was outselling Pepsi. Which may have been the plan all along.
Hasbro says it has stopped sending out the old Cluedo. Asked if it will be relaunched, a spokesman laughs and says, "I don't know about that." But as we all know, in murder mysteries people often say the opposite of what they mean. Inspector, there is your answer: Col Mustard was killed by the money people, in the marketing department, with a plan. My advice? Don't wait for Cluedo Classic to come out in a year or so. Borrow granny's. Far better to die in England than Blingland.