Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Thames Murders Review
In and effort to expand our readership and serve our current readers better, we have begun moving into the realm of Board Game Reviews. As board games become more popular, many from the video game community are splitting their time between virtual experiences and tabletop experiences. In this latest review, we are taking a look at Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, designed by Raymond Edwards and published by Asmodee.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Thames Murders and Other Cases was originally published in 1981, and has received numerous accolades over the years, including being a nominee and winner of the 1982 Charles S. Robert Best Fantasy Board Game award. A republication of this game in 2012 – the version we are playing today – was also honoured, winning the As d’Or – Jeu de l’Annee Prix du Jury award. This is one of two Sherlock Holmes games designed by Raymond Edwards. A full review of the other experience which is slightly different, will be reviewed at a later date.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Thames Murders and Other Cases – here on referred to as Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – gives a group of players the chance to cooperatively work together to solve cases that once were cases of the great Sherlock Holmes. Using the resources provided in the box – a directory of people and businesses, a map of London, and newspapers – players will try to deduce the information they find, and nab the person responsible for the crimes. The game ultimately has two winning scenarios, one much grander than the other.
Ultimately, solving the cases wins you the game, and I’ll be the first to note that doing so is no easy task. After you’ve finished your investigation and think you know who the perp is, you’ll flip to the back of the case book, open the answer envelope, and begin to answer a set of questions based on your investigation. Each question is worth a certain amount of points, and your goal is to get as many points as possible. Why you might ask? Because the ‘grander’ win is figuring out a case more efficiently and better than Sherlock Holmes himself.
Sherlock will always have a score of 100 points. Answering the questions in the back of the book after the case is complete can net you as many as 140 points (in the case we played for review). However, players must subtract 5 points for every lead they follow MORE than Sherlock followed. What does it mean to follow a lead? Let’s dive in to How It’s Played!
How It’s Played – Semi Spoilers for Case#1 in our Images!
After selecting which case you hope to play, players lay out the case book, the directory, the map of London, and all newspapers from the date of the crime, and older. For case 1 – our review case – we only used the newspaper from March 12, 1988, the date of our investigation. However, case #2 is from the next week, and therefore, we would use both the March 12 and subsequent weeks papers in that investigation.
One person is designated the Lead Investigator – either for the whole game or just for that turn, your choice! – and this individual has the power to decide what the team does if there is no agreement on what lead to follow. How do you follow leads? Let’s take a look!
The Lead Investigator will read allowed the introduction to the case, which is often a story told by a third party to Sherlock Holmes and you as the players. This story will be rife with information and clues, so having a pen and paper handy will be important. Upon completion of the story, your detective work begins. Choosing something you learned from the introduction – perhaps the name of someone of importance, or perhaps you want to visit the scene of the murder – you will consult the London Directory to find the location you want to visit. This will be identified by a number and a coordinate (for example, 46 South West, or simply 46 SW). Once you’ve agreed this will be your destination, the Lead Investigator opens the case book to 46 SW and your journey continues.
Some locations will give you plenty of information from which you can decide on your next lead, while others are simply a dead end. Remember, as you go you may want to be aware of the information you are gathering, so make sure to write things down as it will help you answer the end game questions and score more points.
At this point in the game, your logic takes over. What leads do you want to follow? Do you investigate something specific, or be open ended? In our group of 4, we had plenty to discuss after each lead was followed, and we thoroughly had a great time!
How Well Does It Play?
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is extremely difficult. We spent nearly 2 hours working through Case #1, and not only did we come to the wrong conclusion on who had committed the murder, but we had used 25 leads to come to this conclusion. That was 21 more than the 4 leads it took Sherlock Holmes to figure out the case. We failed, epically.
That being said, we had fun failing. Working through the case together was incredibly fun, and even after we realized we had missed the mark by a country kilometer, we had even more fun deducing the decisions we made, and becoming aware of where we made wrong decisions. Even in a lost, there was something we could take out of that first case: ways to look at things differently when we tackled Case #2.
What’s great about Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is that you aren’t forced into playing each case with the same group of people. Unlike games like Pandemic Legacy – where you need the same people to play a minimum of 12 games – this Sherlock Holmes experience is a collection of individual cases. The only relation from one case to the next is that you might remember something from a previous newspaper (from a previous case), or you might have a better understanding of some of the key individuals in the game. That being said, I could gather up a few new friends who never played Case #1, and have an equally good time. While playing through the cases 1-10 makes most sense chronologically, there is nothing stopping you from opening case #10 and getting to work.
We don’t advise it, but it can be done.
We will have much more on Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective in the near future, including ways to play the game competitively! We also have a few hacks for those really invested in playing all 10 cases with the same group of friends. We will show you those soon!
In terms of this experience, it’s not one for people who don’t like thinking, and thinking hard. It’s not a perfect experience, and attempting to beat Sherlock Holmes seems almost impossible (based on chatter we’ve seen around the internet). The only negative from our experience was selecting which lead to follow first. While there do seem to be obvious places to start – the scene of the murder for example – you can easily waste your precious leads (if trying to beat Sherlock Holmes himself) just getting a good hold on the case. A great way to get you started would have been a hint from Sherlock Holmes himself. That would alleviate the pressure of attempting to make a good first pick.
If you love deduction games, this is something you won’t want to pass up on. My group of friends cannot wait to dive back into another case with Sherlock Holmes!