January 11, 2016 by brennon
It’s time for a different kind of review because in this one I can’t really tell you much without spoiling the game if you want to go and try it! The game in question is Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective by Raymond Edwards, Suzanne Goldberg and Gary Grady and currently published by Asmodee.
Take a seat in Holme’s study at 221B Baker Street and let me tell you why this game should be in your library.
What Is Consulting Detective?
I suppose you could sum up Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (I’ll use Consulting Detective from now on for the sake of time!) as an old fashioned choose your own adventure story twined with a parlour game. Please, don’t turn off right now – honestly you’re going to be missing out if you don’t stick with me.
In this game you will be given a case by Sherlock Holmes and Watson and then it’s up to you to go out and solve it as part of the Baker Street Irregulars. With a witty quip at the beginning of each case book Holmes will give you the key details (or not in some cases!) and you have to go and solve murders, thefts, missing persons cases and more.
Unlike a typical narrative which forces you to pick one of two choices once you get started at the end of each paragraph Consulting Detective does things a bit different. YOU as the player(s) choose who you speak to, where you go, and then once you’re happy that you have all the necessary evidence you can choose to return to Holmes and state your case.
Sounds daunting doesn’t it? Well, it will feel like that at first but you will probably find this to be one of the most rewarding games you’ve played in a long time.
Where’s The Game Here?
A good question my esteemed college sitting at the keyboard there. In Consulting Detective you will visit locations around a large map of London, look up names in Directories and peruse the local paper for clues depending on the case that you’ve taken up.
During the first case, the Munitions Magnate, you only have to pay attention to a single paper but as the cases continue you will be encouraged to look back through old editions of the paper for clues. The same could be said for leads you follow as you’ll soon find places that are reliable sources of information and also who and where to avoid. It’s almost like you learn to be a better detective!
Each place or person you visit will give you information which you will have to jot down in a note book, each of which will be numbered. Each player gets the chance to be a Lead Investigator and choose where you go, while someone else writes meaning that even if there is an Alpha Gamer in the group YOU get to make a decision.
As mentioned above; once you think you have the right evidence to present to Holmes you return to him and answer on average eight to ten questions related to the case.
Half of these questions will be based on the main case and the other half will be usually red herrings that will earn you extra points since they usually involve another murder or theft for example. Then, it’s ready for the sitting room summary Poirot style.
At that point Holmes will take you through the case and give you the right answers. After that you will then score points based on your evidence. Sherlock always scores 100 points and the leads he followed are ‘free’ to the players. However, every other lead you followed other than Holmes takes points away from your score.
It’s not unusual to end up with a negative score but my group have managed to get some very good scores in the four cases we’ve solved so far. You then write down your score and continue with the story taking on the next case! Games will last on average around three hours if you really get into it.
What’s In The Box?
Inside Consulting Detective you will get the rules manual which explains the rules I went through above. You will also get a Directory (a list of all the places you can visit), a map of London, ten cases to solve and ten newspapers for the different cases (all previous ones can be referenced in later cases as noted above).
The game itself has had some translation issues in the past but most of the time the writing is top notch throughout. The cases are well lain out and you just have to make sure that you DO NOT look at other entries as you read through the book. Don’t be tempted as you’ll probably end up ruining the story for yourself.
I should note that at this point the third case, The Mystified Murderess, has some major problems in the translation which lead to it being unsolvable. You can download the relevant errata for this case HERE and I strongly suggest you do so.
It might not sound like you get much in the box but considering that each case is around three to four hours long and you have ten to solve (with expansions on the way) that’s a lot of time you can spend invested in this game.
So What’s The Conclusion?
While not a typical board game Consulting Detective is possibly one of the best games I’ve ever played. Not only does it scratch that itch for a mystery (I do love a bit of mystery drama!) but it’s also incredibly engaging, has a whole group talking and interacting, and genuinely gets you thinking and taxing that grey matter.
I have had so much fun going through the different cases with my friends and if you want to check out some gameplay we have recorded each of our sessions for a friends Youtube Channel (beware, spoilers!). Consulting Detective optimises what’s good about board games more importantly – spending time with friends and enjoying yourself, shutting out the world for a while and getting totally absorbed in a story.
There’s nothing more rewarding than scanning back through old papers when you’ve met a dead end in the case and then exclaiming, making everyone jump, that you’ve found a new lead! It’s also hilarious when you get stuck on a line of questioning and end up going round every pawn shop in London (we actually did that…).
While the daunting task of deciding where to go next is one that puts many people off the lack of hand holding by Consulting Detective is actually what makes it better for me. I genuinely love having to come up with my own way to solve the case even if it does lead me on false paths of reasoning. I was genuinely kicking myself after the last case we played where I missed one vital clue!
The game scales well too. We normally play in a group of four or five but we’ve seen groups of six playing this and even couples. It works really well for partners actually! Because it’s very rules light and has no typical game mechanics it is a great way to get those non-gamers in your life playing too.
You will most likely never beat Holmes when playing this game but that isn’t really the point. Holmes will always be smarter but your experience solving the case and then learning the truth (or having your thoughts confirmed) is brilliant.
Ten cases will be over quickly once you get into this game and get a few sessions in. You might feel sad by the end knowing you’re done. Expansions are on the way however and so are some fan made cases. What you can do (and I do recommend this) is give the game to your friend groups, tell them your scores, smile, and then asl if they can beat your score.
Honestly – if you like sleuthing, puzzles, and true co-operative games then this could be the best thing you pick up for the tabletop.
Have you given Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective a go?
"YOU as the player(s) choose who you speak to, where you go, and then once you're happy that you have all the necessary evidence you can choose to return to Holmes and state your case..."
"Because it's very rules light and has no typical game mechanics it is a great way to get those non-gamers in your life playing too..."