Stalking Sherlock : The Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective board game offers you the chance to match wits with the great fictional detective. – Imagine Games
Elementary, dear player: Roam the seedy streets of Victorian London with the great Sherlock Holmes as you try to beat him at his own game.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Publisher: Ystari Games
LET’S get one thing clear: if you come to Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (SHCD) expecting a mystery board game like Cluedo or Scotland Yard, you’re in for a bit of a shock. For while there certainly is a cracking good mystery almost worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the centre of each game, playing SHCD is more akin to reading those old Choose Your Own Adventure books – not only are you required to do a fair amount of reading, but each lead you follow or clue you sniff out will set you on a different path around Victorian London.
If, however, you like the idea of immersing yourself in Holmes’ world, and enjoy having a literary bent to your games, you may just find yourself thoroughly intrigued by SHCD.
The game puts its players in the shoes of the Baker Street Irregulars, the ragtag gang of street youths that, in Doyle’s novels, assist Holmes in solving his cases (no, you do not get to be the great detective himself!). In each round, the players are presented with a case file – with names Watson would be proud of, like The Mystified Murderess and The Cryptic Corpse – outlining a crime and the circumstances surrounding it.
From there, the players are free to decide which leads they’d like to follow in their quest to solve the mystery. To help you along with this, you are given several items: a map of 19th-century London, a directory of people and places in the city, and copies of The Times newspaper that correspond with the dates of the case files. The aim of the game? To unravel the mystery with the same number of leads (or fewer!) as Holmes does.
As you may have deduced, this isn’t a board game in the traditional sense, as there are no dice, cards or even a board. Instead, it is a game that relies on logical thinking, attention to detail, imagination and problem-solving abilities; or if all else fails, your ability to cook up outlandish, soap-operatic conspiracy theories in the wild hope that you may somehow hit upon the solution (our first attempt at the game resulted in a convoluted solution involving a tawdry affair, a murdering sociopath and a spy in disguise!).
A typical round may go something like this. One of the players reads out the case, and the next player decides which lead she’d like to follow based on the information at hand. This could mean looking up a particular address in the London directory, investigating a relevant piece from that day’s newspaper, interviewing a suspect, or visiting a specific location on the map. The lead you decide on will correspond to an entry within the case file, which you read out, and which will then give you more clues to follow. So now, it is the next player’s turn to decide on a lead.
The game is quite flexible in that players can either compete against each other or try to solve the mystery as a team. It is also entirely possible to play solo by simply pitting yourself against Holmes.
Each time we played the game, however, we ended up working as a team to solve the mystery, discussing which leads to follow next and working out the clues together. This may have something to do with the group dynamic, or it might simply be that the mystery at hand was too juicy not to discuss!
When enough leads have been followed for a player (or all the players) to take a stab at solving the mystery, they turn to the back of the case file where there are two sets of questions to answer: the first are directly related to the case, and the second are about peripheral events that occur around the same time.
Each correct answer gives you a certain number of points, but you also lose points for every lead that exceeds the total number taken by Holmes. The closer your points are to Holmes’, who always scores a perfect 100, the better. (If a player attempts to answer the questions and is wrong, though, he or she is out of the game.)