Time: 60 to 120 Minutes
The day is July 4th, 2015 and six figures huddle around a map of London, ignoring the crackle of fireworks outside. There was a murderer on the loose and no time to waste. After all, what better way to celebrate Independence Day than to best England’s most famous detective at his own game.
Getting ready to play this game was insanely quick. I can’t remember the last time the introduction to a table-top game with 6 players took less than 5 minutes. I’d wager a guess that the reason for this is that the goal of the game is fantastically simple to explain: solve the mystery with as few clues as possible.
The game is also incredibly lean. There are only four items needed to play: The news of the day, a directory, a map of London, and the case book (not shown). You can go from clean coffee table to crime-scene in ten seconds flat. There are no dice, miniatures, or deck of cards to keep track of. All you really need is something to write with.
The game comes with ten different mysteries for you to solve. Clues are gathered by visiting locations on the map of London. Your group simply picks a place and then reads a passage from the case-book that describes who you meet there and what evidence you find.
When you’re sure you know who the culprit is, you can decide to end the game by answering a series of questions from the back of the case-book. Do you know who the murderer is? Why was the person killed? Things like that.
My friend Mark gave us a fantastic piece of advice that I’d pass along to any other first time players: “Just worry about solving the mystery,” he told us, “Ignore the score.”
I’m almost positive that if we had focused on our score and behaved like players in a game rather than detectives, we would have failed to answer the final questions correctly. Ultimately, solving the murder was incredibly satisfying, even if we didn’t beat Sherlock’s score. All we ended up caring about was the story we had created while solving the case.
In our game, there was a single clue that my friend Sean noticed and it cracked the case wide open. For a brief brilliant moment, he got to be Sherlock. In fact, we all had our own moments like that where we were able to share some clever flash of insight with the rest of the group. Afterwards, when the game was boxed up again, all we cared about were those great “Sherlock moments” and the hilarious hair-brained theories we had cycled through to actually solve the case. The score didn’t matter.
I can’t recommend this enough. The only real downside to the game is the replayability. Because of the inherit linear narrative nature of the game, once you solve the mystery, you can’t come back to solve it again. Each case only has a single possible ending.
It actually feels a lot like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met someone who doesn’t love Choose Your Own Adventure books.
Like really great puzzle games, it makes you very aware of your own limitations while also providing incredible “ah hah!” moments that make you feel like the smartest person in the room. Or, at the very least, 1/6th a Sherlock.