Design by Ludovic Gaillard
Published by Hurrican
3 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Sherlock Holmes, the famous London detective, remains a popular figure both literature and cinema. Countless books, movies and television series have centered on the super sleuth’s investigations and adventures. It is not surprising that dozens of boardgames have also focused on the dean of detectives, including the award-winning Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. One of the latest in this line is Lady Alice by designer Ludovic Gaillard.
The famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley has been kidnapped. As with most deduction style games, it is your job to discover the details: the culprit, the place and time of the kidnapping, and the object that was stolen from Stanley’s collection of artifacts discovered during his African expedition that located the missing David Livingstone. Of course, the brilliant Sherlock Holmes quickly solved the case, but is using it as a teaching tool for young detectives. Players represent these youthful sleuths and must assemble the clues and uncover the details.
The game has some similarities to the classic Parker Brothers boardgame Clue. There are four separate decks, each containing one aspect of the mystery: culprit, location, time and missing object. One card from each deck is mixed together and one dealt to each player. Thus, each player knows one piece of the puzzle and must discover the other three.
The large board graphically depicts the eight possibilities for each of the four aspects of the crime. It also provides space upon which players will place their “Deduction” counters, which is a sort of betting aspect wherein players are hoping to score points for correctly deducing the various aspects of the crime. Players each receive a set of nine deduction counters (three each of values 0, 1 and 2) and a verdict folder and card.
The game begins with one player taking the nifty spiral notebook, which serves as a miniature flip chart containing all possibilities divided into the four aforementioned categories. The notebook allows the player to flip through the cards in each category and display four separate cards, one in each category. The player does this by arranging the cards in the notebook so that the four card showing are in line with his stated suspicion. For example, Lenny may state his suspicion as “I suspect the crime was perpetrated by Mary Kingsley at the Tower of London at 7:00M. The object she stole from Stanley’s collection was his pith helmet.” Lenny should arrange the notebook to display these four cards.
Each player—including the active player—then places his verdict card into his folder. He places the card on the green check-mark side if the object he possesses (the card he was dealt at the beginning of the game) was correctly guessed / deduced by the active player as displayed on the notebook. If the card was not part of the active player’s suspicion, he places his verdict card into the folder with the red “X” side displayed. All folders are collected and mixed so that no one can identify which folder was submitted by which player. They are then revealed so that all players can see how many—if any—objects were correctly deduced by the active player. So, players will know the number of correct guesses, but not necessarily the exact identity of these objects. Continuing the previous example, if there are two affirmative cards showing, players will know that two of the four aspects Lenny displayed are correct. However, they won’t know the exact identity of those two aspects. Only further turns will allow players to narrow the possibilities and correctly identify those aspects.
It is possible that the active player will have correctly deduced (or guessed if it is early in the game) all four aspects of the crime. If so, the active player looks at the cards originally dealt to the players to make sure he is correct and a mistake was not made. If correct, the cards are revealed and the game ends, with final points being tallied. More on this in a bit.
If all four aspects of the crime were not correctly identified, in turn order players may place deduction counters onto the board. Deduction counters are placed face-down next to one of the crime aspects. The idea here is to place high-valued tokens next to the aspects that you feel are part of the crime. The zero tokens are bluffs, possibly enticing opponents to place their tokens there. All tokens are placed face-down, but when a token is placed, it reveals the previously placed token, thus possibly giving players some insight into their opponents’ knowledge. Each space can only hold four tokens. The placement of tokens phase is over once all players pass.
Instead of placing a deduction token, a confident player can instead opt to make an accusation, attempting to identify all aspects of the crime. The procedure is as described above. If correct, the game ends and final points are tallied. Failure eliminates that player from the game, although he still participates by using his verdict card and folder when others express their suspicions. Thus, while a chance can be taken when making an accusation, the consequences of failure are terminal.
Play continues in this fashion, with players alternating expressing their suspicions using the notebook and placing deduction tokens, until a successful accusation is made. This can occur quickly, usually when a player simply gets lucky in the suspicion phase, correctly identifying multiple clues. Once this is done, tokens on the board are revealed, and players score points equal to the value of their tokens placed on correct aspects of the crime. If a player had a token (not a zero) on each aspect of the crime, he earns two bonus points. A correct accusation (made during the deduction token placement phase) earns the player 3 points, while correctly identifying all aspects of the crime during the suspicion phase earns the player 1 point. The player with the most overall points wins the game and becomes one of Sherlock Holmes’ top assistants.
Lady Alice certainly falls on the lighter side of the deduction game scale, with the same type of thinking involved in Clue being required to succeed. Early during the game, one is simply guessing at the identity of correct clues. As rounds progress, however, certain possibilities can be eliminated, and others will be definitively identified. Being just a smidgen quicker than your opponents can bring you to a correct accusation one step ahead of them.
This is a problem with may deduction games: some players are simply better at the type of thinking required than others. That appears to be a reason for the betting aspect of the game, as it gives all players a chance to compete even though they may not be as adept at deduction as one or more of their opponents. Up to 11 points can be earned by placing tokens on the correct aspects of the crime, while only a maximum of three is earned by the player making a successful accusation.
On the surface it would appear to be wise to delay placing deduction tokens until one is certain of a particular aspect of the crime. However, since each location can only hold four tokens, delaying too long could make space at a particular clue unavailable. Players will usually take a chance by placing tokens at locations they suspect might be involved, hoping to have guessed correctly.
One of the problems I personally have with deduction games is the notes and record-keeping that is usually required to indicate or eliminate possible clues. I am simply not very adept at this, which is why I tend to perform poorly in games such as Sleuth and Plunder. Fortunately, such record keeping is not needed here. Whenever a clue cannot possibly be part of the solution, that space on the board is covered. That certainly helps matters.
Lady Alice usually plays to completion in 30 – 45 minutes, and sometimes even quicker if someone gets lucky when making a suspicion. The time frame is about right, as the proceedings do not become tedious and repetitive. Fans of lighter deduction games such as Clue or perhaps even Scotland Yard will likely enjoy Lady Alice, although the chance of getting lucky with a guess (which is certainly present in Clue) can drastically shorten a game. Those who prefer deeper thinking, logic and deduction will likely find Lady Alice to be too light for their tastes. I find the game to be a fine fit when playing with amateur sleuths in a family gaming environment, but gamers are left finding the case to be too, well, elementary.
NOTE: Where does the name “Lady Alice” come from? It was the boat used by Stanley during his explorations. It actually has no role whatsoever in the game.
Special thanks to Henk Rolleman for use of his excellent photos.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it):
2 (Neutral): Greg J. Schloesser
1 (Not for me):