Think you’re good at solving puzzles? Always figure out who the murderer is in the book you’re reading before the sleuth does? Then this game is for you.
In the board game Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, you and your fellow players are part of the Baker Street Irregulars. At the beginning of each case, Holmes briefs you about the situation: the crime, the location, any other information he might know. Then he goes off to solve the case and leaves you to try to do the same. The goal is to see if you can solve it as fast or even faster than Holmes does.
The game is cooperative, which means you’re working with your fellow players to figure out the culprit, their motive, and answers to other case-related questions (the murder weapon, say, or where the stolen object was stashed). The game comes with ten cases, a detailed map of Victorian London, a newspaper for the day the case occurs full of news stories, personal and social notices, and advertisements, and a directory, where you can look up pretty much any person, place, or service you might need to visit to solve the case.
As a group, you decide where to go first, based on the info Holmes has given you. You can look up addresses in the directory. Once you reach a place, you can find its entry in the gamebook to see what happens when you arrive. Often you’ll be confronted with a setting or a person of interest, and you’ll be given information that may or may not be of use–and you may or may not be able to figure out what’s useful at first.
You can also scour the newspaper to see if the events of the day have any bearing on your case. Many items will be unrelated or will provide false leads. But perhaps the mention of a particular event being held on the previous evening will undo someone’s alibi, or a mysterious personal ad will provide you with a new lead to investigate.
From there, it’s up to your group to examine the information you’ve gathered to see if you can put together the facts of the case and implicate the murderer. And this is Holmes’s world, so of course it takes a sharp eye to unlock the puzzle. The offhand mention of where someone spent time a decade ago or the sound of a person’s footstep may be the one clue you need to open up a whole new avenue of investigation.
This is a great game to get you thinking deductively and making reasoned leaps in logic. For my group, it was also a good exercise in recognizing red herrings (or rather, getting frantically convinced that EVERYTHING was a red herring…). Each case is good for an hour or two of puzzling, and if you work through them all, there is a sequel with new cases: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures.
The game is occasionally frustrating because you can’t further interrogate a suspect or examine a scene–the information presented to you in text form is the only information you get. And the cases are hard! We’ve played through two so far and have not managed to beat Holmes or even gather every scrap of evidence we should have. In the second case we implicated the wrong murderer entirely! But it’s a really fun afternoon spent walking along the foggy Holmesian cobblestones, meeting seedy people in rundown pubs, and working together to try to figure out the case.