Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a curious game unlike any other I’ve played. It’s closest relatives are in the world of solo roleplaying books, you know, the one with numbered chapters you look up. “To go west, see chapter 123; to go east, see chapter 342”.
However, Sherlock Holmes offers more. This Spiel des Jahres winner from 1985 is a strong-themed time leap to Holmes’ era. The box contains a map of London, a newspaper and a directory of people in London. There are ten cases, with lots of back story.
Hunting for clues
Investigation is simple. You choose what you want to do — perhaps question a key witness, or visit a location. To locate a witness, check the people directory for their number. For a location, you’ll find the number on the map. Armed with the number, you can then check the clue book to read what you find out.
If you run out of ideas (a common occurence for those of us with less wit than Mr. Holmes), browsing the newspaper might give you a lead, or then you can visit one of the standard sources (Scotland Yard, coroner and so on).
To measure success, you count the steps you’ve taken (reading a clue is one step) and compare to Holmes’ score (typically ridiculously low). Well, it’s a fun process, no matter how long you take with it.
The game is probably best played solo, but it can also be played in a group, either co-operating or competing. I’m not sure how good the game is as a competition, and I’d rather enjoy the process of investigation all alone, so it’s a pure one-player game for me.
The final verdict depends a lot on two things: how much you enjoy the theme and can you feel the theme oozing of the text. If you can’t see yourself getting a kick from reading all the game material, this game is not for you. Those who love the Holmes stories will love this game.
Whether you like it or not, there’s a big replayability issue. The ten cases are pointless once you’ve solved them (well, at least until you’ve forgotten them, so if your memory is really leaky, then it’s less of a problem). There are expansions with new cases, but those cost extra. Still, if you think this game is for you, don’t let this issue stop you. The game is worth getting. It’s out of print, but copies are available on eBay and elsewhere.