Many, many people love detective stories. They read them or watch television series or films about the famous men and women who practice this profession. Probably the most famous of them all is Sherlock Holmes. In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective you can test your skills as a detective. You must solve difficult murder cases, all by yourself or with the help of your friends. Do you have it in you to match the skills of, maybe, the best detective of all time?
What do you get for your money?
10 Case booklets, 10 newspapers, a Map of London, a London directory and the rules.
How do you play the game?
Sherlock Holmes: master detective, violinist, all around wise guy, and probably known to everyone.
In this game, you’re one of the Baker Street Irregulars and you try to solve ten mysterious murder cases. Armed with newspapers, a map of London and the London Directory, you will travel trough London and follow serious leads, hunches and completely random guesses for as long as you need to find the answer to important questions, like who did it and why did he do it?
Every case has its own booklet. You start the case by reading the introduction. This text gives you some details about the case. Then it’s up to you. You read the newspaper of the day, or earlier, and search for some clues. You probably want to visit the crime scene? You look up the address of the victim in the directory and then you must find that location, indicated by a number and direction (e.a. 4 SW), in the case book. Every location has its own chapter in the book, so while you are travelling through the city of London, every time you visit a location, you have to read a small piece of text. You might find new clues there, it might confirm your earlier ideas or you find out that your are on the wrong track.
At one point, when you think you’ve solved the case, you go to the back of the case booklet. There you’ll find a set of questions. Answer them correctly and you get some points. After that you must read the solution. Now, Sherlock is going to tell you exactly how things happened and how many leads he had to follow to get to this result. You then subtract five points per lead you had to follow from the points you’ve got from answering the questions correctly, or add five points per lead if you followed less leads than Holmes himself. This is your score.
You can play this game solo or with a group. When you play it with more players, you can decide to try to solve the case as a group, with one solution, or you can decide to try to solve the case individually. However, in both cases, every turn there’s a new lead investigator. You, as a group, can discuss where to go, but eventually the lead investigator decides where to go. In the latter case, where you decide to solve the murder individually, every player can decide to stop and answer the questions. When every player has done that, you can check the solution together and score points individually .
Sherlock Holmes always scores one hundred points. Are you a better detective?
Sherlock Holmes consulting detective is all about the story. No cube pushing, no rolling dice for damage. It’s you alone or you and your mates, staring from the map of London to today’s newspaper. Hands in your hair, massaging your temples. ‘A dead end. What did we miss?’
This is a very challenging game; some cases more than others, but Sherlock is not beaten easily. In my case never beaten at all. I’m already very happy if I come close to one hundred points.
There are always a couple of questions that directly concern the case. You answer them correctly and you’ll get one hundred points. And then there are a few extra questions that concern things that are not necessarily related to the case. Mostly these last questions can only be answered when you’ve wandered of the path that Sherlock Holmes followed, so although you can earn more than a hundred points from these questions, it probably means that you’ve used more leads than Holmes and therefore lose points in this way.
I like it if games are difficult, but in this game the clues sometimes have to be found in the newspapers of previous cases. The idea of using old newspapers is good one. All the cases are part of the Sherlock Holmes universe. What happened months ago can have an impact on the actions of people today. However it doesn’t work for me. I play this game once a month and probably even less, so I don’t remember all the tiny details of the previous cases. For me one case book and one newspaper is enough. I don’t want to read the old newspapers all over again to see if there might be something useful in it.
The most important thing you’ll have to know about this game is that it’s a storytelling game, or more specific, a ‘whodunit’ storytelling game. If you don’t like the idea of playing detective and reading a bit, don’t even bother trying this game.
You do feel like a detective in Victorian England, with your map, your notebook and your old newspapers. The story is well written and this makes it much easier to dive into the world of Sherlock Holmes. The fact that this game had a lot of reprints speaks for itself, because a storytelling game without a great theme won’t draw a lot of people to it. Storytelling is about creating worlds and this one does it right.
This is not what I call a beautiful game. It’s a game with mostly letters. They are fine letters, but they are not show stoppers. It’s not a bad-looking game, don’t get me wrong. The map looks good and the few illustrations in the books are nice and add flavour to the game.
Quality of the components:
The components are good. Although, you won’t use them very much, do you? It’s not that you’re going to try to solve the same case week after week.
Imagine yourself, with or without your friends, sitting at a table; candles lit, a Christmas tree in the background, with a glass of whisky, reading a great story: a murder mystery. Sounds fun, right?
Solving a murder case was never so involved, you have to do all the work yourself, there’s no guy with a moustache doing all the thinking for you. In addition you can immerse yourself in this brilliant world that is Victorian England. You talk to all these colourful characters and at the end you’ll probably find that you were completely wrong about them, Charles the gardener was not the killer, Frederick Goosebum, the well-known boxer, was. You rub the back of your head and think: ‘Who in Santa’s name is Frederick Goosebum…???’
I think Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a great solo experience and I think it is most fun with fewer players. With fewer players you still have the feeling that you have an impact on the path that is being taken. You try and try to be the best detective you can be, but you never come close to the genius that is Sherlock Holmes.
I like the world, I like the story and I think solving a murder mystery is really fun. However, there is a chance that you think you know it all, you then go to the questions at the back of the book and there you find six questions, five of them are questions of which you have no idea what they are all about. You can’t go back, that feels like cheating.
What I’m trying to say is that you don’t really know when you are ready for the great revelation. So, when you find out that you were not ready at all, it’s very anticlimactic.
One thing that has to be noted, but is quite obvious, is that this game has a replay value of near zero. You will remember a lot, not all pieces of information, but the grand picture will stick with you. A while ago I bought an app. This app has the same idea as this game, but it has moving images. One of the cases from this game is also dealt with in that app. I thought, it’s been a while, I can’t really remember who was the murderer, lets give it a try. However, during the game, I was starting to make all kind of assumptions, subconsciously and consciously, on pieces of information I did not have yet and that ruins the experience.
On the other hand, is it a necessity to play these cases over and over? I mean, six hundred minutes of fun detective work sounds like my money’s well worth.