Dale Yu: Review of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures

 

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures

  • Designers: Suzanne Goldberg, Gary Grady, Jerome Ropert
  • Publisher: Space Cowboys / Asmodee
  • Players: 1-8
  • Time: 60-120 mins
  • Ages: 10+
  • Times played: 6 cases so far, with review copy provided by Asmodee

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was perhaps the first Spiel des Jahres winner that I owned – either that or Rummikub.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t know what the Spiel des Jahres was, and I’m certain that neither of my English language versions of those games made any mention of this German award. My original Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was a brown binder with pages and pages of text.  I remember playing through the cases on my own as a youngster.

Ye old school SHCD

The series has been redone by Ystari/Asterion/Space Cowboys in the past decade.  Many of the cases are taken from the original game and its expansions, but there have also been new cases developed for the updated releases.  

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures is a mix of both – it can actually be seen as two games in one.  The first 4 cases are a de novo series of cases about Jack the Ripper.  The final 6 cases are taken from the original West End expansion.

Included are six independent “West End Adventures” cases (redesigned and updated from the 1995 expansion), and a series of four new cases based on the Jack the Ripper murders.

Jack the Ripper Cases:

  • Mary Ann Nichols
  • Annie Chapman
  • Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes
  • Mary Jane Kelly

West End Adventures:

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Goldfire
  • The Murder of Sherlock Holmes
  • A Case of Identity
  • The Death of a Transylvanian Count
  • A Royal Huggermugger at the Savage Club
  • A Simple Case of Murder

A few years back, Chris Wray wrote a great re-review of the original game with a lot of interesting time spent on the backstory to the game itself.  You can read it here:

https://opinionatedgamers.com/2015/06/09/sdj-re-reviews-7-sherlock-holmes-criminal-cabinet-a-k-a-sherlock-holmes-consulting-detective/

If you don’t have time or desire to read that, I’ll at least paraphrase his recap of the general mechanics of the game…

The players become a team of investigators called the “Baker Street Irregulars.”  Each case has its own booklet with a case introduction, scripts for various locations around London, case questions (and corresponding answers), and Sherlock Holmes’  solution.  Additionally, there is a map of London, a directory, and several newspapers, all of which will be used in the cases (although newspapers with a date later than that of the case will not be used for that particular case).   The newspapers are actually in two sets as the Jack the Ripper newspapers will not be used in the West End cases and vice versa.

 

On the back of the rulebook is a list of addresses for the game’s “allies,” who are recurring characters with specific skills of interest in the investigations.  For example, the coroner is listed, as are the police, a lawyer, a journalist, etc.

 

The game begins by one of the players reading the introductory text for the chosen case.  The players are free to consult the map, directory, and newspapers for additional clues at any time. After these materials are reviewed, the players agree which lead to pursue by traveling to another location in London.  For example, they might travel to visit one of the allies, or a potential witness.  The script for the chosen location is read aloud from the case booklet and the players discuss.  They are then free to pursue another lead by traveling to another location.  Players are permitted — and indeed encouraged — to take notes.  Leads and the reference materials can be revisited as often as desired.

 

Once the players think they have solved the puzzle, they can stop following leads and then move on to the “Questions” section of the case.  Each case has two sets of questions: the one about the primary case (worth 100 points), and one about ancillary matters that the Baker Street Irregulars might have uncovered along the way (also worth 100 points).  Players need to strategically decide how many locations it is worth visiting before answering questions: they can visit as many locations as they want, but their score might suffer, as there is a penalty for visiting excessive locations.

 

Once the questions have been answered, the investigators can tally their score and see how they compared to Sherlock Holmes.  The questions are generally worth 5 to 20 points each.  However, players must also track the number of leads they followed, and in the end they deduct 5 points for each lead they followed in excess of how many Holmes followed.  Thus, a negative score is possible.

 

Holmes always gets 100 points.  His solution is presented after the questions.

 

My thoughts on the game

To start with – everything is new (kind of!) while remaining the same.  It’s a stand alone expansion, so everything that you need for these ten cases is found in the box.  You will not need or even be able to use any of the materials from the first game. The Jack the Ripper cases do offer a slight change in format as these four cases are linked together.  Previous to this, all the SHCD cases were fully and exclusively standalone.   As I am familiar with the series, I just went right to the first case and played the Jack the Ripper series.

In retrospect, I wish that the publisher had changed the order of the two blocks of cases.  If you’ve never played SHCD before, it would be much better to do the “regular” cases first before getting into the Jack the Ripper series.    They are in the book in this order to keep them in chronological order – but just be aware that newbies would likely benefit from starting at #5 and then going back to the start later…

I have taken a different approach to this edition than the original.  The rules are set up where you pit your wits up against Holmes.  However, I’ve chosen to pretty much ignore Holmes.  It’s essentially impossible to get a great score without either being a complete savant or just guessing locations well.  There is simply no way to make the mental leaps that Holmes does in his solutions.  So, instead of seeing this as a game, I find it much better to see this as a great pastime.  Whether playing it solo or in a group, I like taking the time to try to figure out who to talk to next, or what the motives might be for the things that I see and hear.

The cases are really put together well, and there is a plethora of information available – both essential to the case as well as red herrings.  I find that I really enjoy exploring the whole case.  So, if we get to the end of the case and I find that I can’t answer all the questions, I’ll go back later and keep exploring.  I also don’t get caught up in what my score is for any particular case because that is just an exercise in frustration for me.

My family has really enjoyed just sitting down, taking turns reading the parts of the case and then discussing what we think is going on.  Then, taking turns to decide where to go next in our investigations.  We take plenty of time to look over the newspaper(s) – by the time you get to the end of a string of cases, there are a LOT of newspaper articles to look thru!  We also argue amongst ourselves which of the helpers would be best for us to consult for a given case.

We have done a number of cases together thus far, and it has given us plenty of interactive entertainment.  With our current method of “playing”, there really aren’t winners or losers in the sense of the game, but we are definitely enjoying the time spent together trying to investigate the crimes.  Rather than viewing this as a race against time, we have found it much more enjoyable to view this as an interactive story where we get to decide how the story is told.  Sure, this approach isn’t going to work for everyone, but we definitely think it works for us.

Each case has taken us about 60-90 minutes to complete, so we’re looking at about 15 hours of entertainment here.  Like the original cases, there is not a lot of replayability to the cases because once you know the outcome of the case, you’re probably not going to forget it!

The components have been once again produced in a nice high-quality fashion.  The map and directory are beautifully done, and unlike the 2012 SHCD box, the font that has been chosen is quite legible!  The slipcover case is reminiscent of the 3M bookshelf line, and the game does look good standing up on the bookshelf as if it were a book.

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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3 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures

  1. Paul Grogan says:

    Wow. 60-90 mins. Each one took us about 2-3 hours. And then I had to go back and check all the other clue points as I was the editor of this edition :)

    • Dale Yu says:

      Paul, I certainly think that there is a difference in time when I play by myself as opposed to playing with the wife and children. When I started to write the review, I had just been doing the cases on my own. I certainly have been known to talk to myself, and playing SHCD is no exception – but there is definitely a lot less arguing when I tackle the case solo as opposed to playing with other people.

      Also, as I mentioned in my review, I had taken a slightly different approach to these cases. I was not necessarily trying to get to the solutions in the minimum number of clues – but rather, I approached them as interactive fiction. I looked at leads with much less deliberation as I did not strive to be optimal in my choice.

      Further, I wasn’t trying to proofread anything. Just enjoying the stories!

      Thanks for all your hard work on the game.
      I know that development can be a slog sometimes, and you had plenty to look after with these cases!

      Dale

      • Paul Grogan says:

        We do the same. I dont know anyone who plays to actually get a good score :) We normally go to about 15-20 locations in each case. We prefer to work it out and score low that try to guess too early and get it completely wrong. If we haven’t worked it out by 20 locations, we probably wont :)
        Am glad to know there is “less” arguing when you are playing solo :)

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