Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures from Space Cowboys unboxing and review

A while ago we took a wander through Victorian London in Watson & Holmes diaries of 221B Baker Street and got to attempt to solve crimes through visiting locations and trying to be the first to solve the crime against other players.  Now this game... Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detectve is a more solo or cooperative experience, and this version we are looking at today is a full Stand alone game that does not require the original version, or in fact any knowledge of it either.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures is a standalone expansion to Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective with updated graphics that features ten more cases to be solved in Sherlock Holmes' Victorian-era London, England. A "London Directory", map, and newspaper archives are included with the cases.

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
In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, you are presented with a mystery to solve, and it is then up to you to trace the threads of evidence through the byways and mansions of nineteenth century London. You will interview suspects, search the newspapers for clues, and put together the facts to reach a solution.
Why were two lions murdered in Hyde Park? Who is responsible for the missing paintings from the National Gallery? Who murdered Oswald Mason and why? These are just a few of the cases that will challenge your ingenuity and deductive abilities.
This is not a board game: No dice, no luck, but a challenge to your mental ability. The game has been thoroughly researched for Holmesian and Victorian accuracy so as to capture a feeling of that bygone era

so whats inside? and how does it play??

 The Contents of this rather nice slipcase box are very impressive in quality, and design.  You get period dated newspapers, which are nice quality, the map, and case books and rulebook.

 The map is double sided, with one side zoomed in more to deal with the more specific "Jack the Ripper" cases, so just flip the map to the side relevant to where you are playing.  Presentation wise, i love it, it looks like a period map, and is nice quality paper so will last nicely whilst playing, and you will be playing this for some time, so that is certainly an important aspect.
Each Case comes in a nicely presented dossier style booklet.  I cant talk too much about these as they will give away spoilers, but... they are stunning, and do include art and all the responses to where you may go on your case, so don't read these first!

So... how does the game actually work??? In Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, and this stand alone expansion, you are one of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of associates working with Scotland Yard to help solve crimes. You will be assisting Sherlock in one of ten cases provided in the game. Through narrative text, the case will be presented and clues revealed. Your goal is to solve the mystery as efficiently as possible, matching or surpassing the deductive abilities of Sherlock—a tall order, to be sure.  Trying to beat or even match his score, is tough... i haven't even come close so far, but then, its one of those games where the journey is more fun then the outcome!

First, the players decide if they will be playing as a team or individually. If playing as a team, clues will be revealed to everyone at the same time, allowing them to discuss theories and where to go next. If playing individually, players will keep clues to themselves and may opt to go to different locations than each other.  I have found the most fun option is as a team, all discussing the options, arguing the logic, seeing how peoples minds work.... Though you must be careful in this method to not let one player become "Alpha" and dominate the rest.

There are ten cases in the game, each in its own book. You can pick one or play them in order (each is clearly marked as “Case One”, Case Two”, etc. and has a date associated with it). One of the players is designated as the lead detective and reads the opening narrative aloud to provide the initial details for the case. The narrative is written much in the style you would read in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Here you will get names, locations, crime scenes, and possible motives—not enough to solve the case, but options for where to get started when you start investigating.

Once the opening narrative is read, players decide where to go next to gather more information. This is discussed among the group (unless playing individually) but the lead detective ultimately decides (again be careful not to fall foul of the Alpha trap and listen to your players)

Once the next lead is chosen, players flip to the corresponding section of the case book and the lead detective reads it aloud.

You do get some tools to help aid you....

• Map of London – This is divided into four city quadrants. These areas correspond to sections in the case book when visiting a particular location. The map also has a key that can be used to calculate how long it would take someone to travel between locations.
Knowing the location of a place and comparing it to that of another might help verify—or discredit—someone’s alibi. The map is double sided, with one side zoomed in more to deal with the more specific "Jack the Ripper" cases, so just flip the map to the side relevant to where you are playing.  Presentation wise, i love it, it looks like a period map, and is nice quality paper so will last nicely whilst playing, and you will be playing this for some time, so that is certainly an important aspect.

• Directory – The game comes with a directory of names and establishments, providing their locations, which can be used to find where the party is located on the map as well as where to flip to in the case book to read what happens when that location is visited.  Again its art and production is great, it feels like an old directory, where you check up on details and addresses.

• Newspaper – Each case comes with a newspaper that matches the date for that case. Players can read through the newspaper to find clues. An event or obituary, or other similar news item, might contain a recognizable name or location that points you in the direction of a new clue. The paper is front and back, bi-fold, so there is a lot of information to look through.  These are also cumulative, so the later on you are in date terms with a mission, ther older papaers are still availbla,e and may hold some clues as well!

So, as a completely made up example of a case may look like this......

You’ve just been told that Mrs. Anderson’s home safe has been cracked and from it, her heirloom diamond ring has been stolen. She mentions that her sister, recently married to a cigar shop owner, has always envied her for having it, and on several occasions has asked where it is located. Also, earlier in the week, out of the blue, Mrs. Anderson heard from her deceased husband’s nephew, who was asking for a small loan to pay off a debt. She told him she was unable to help, as her financed were tight, to which he politely responded that he understood, not to be heard from again.

Now, using this example, let’s say you want to question the sister. You would look her name up in the directory, find her location on the map (which may or may not be helpful), then look that location up in the case book. From there, you would read the narrative text, describing what happens when you speak to the sister. From there, you may go to the cigar shop to question the sister’s new husband, or go to the nephew, or the scene of the crime itself (Mrs. Anderson’s house).

You also have assistants that will be available in each case. These include a criminologist, Scotland Yard, and even Sherlock himself (to give you a nudge in the right direction), among others. These operate the same as other leads, with a section in the case book to be read should you want to talk to them. You will make a note of each lead you follow, as this will impact your final score.
After questioning the lead and some discussion, the next player becomes lead detective and ultimately decides where the group will go next.

Once you think you have solved the mystery, you will flip to the end of the case book, which will ask you a series of questions. For example, who stole the ring? Why did they steal it? What was the significance of the residue found on the safe? Etc. In a team game, you answer these together. In an individual game, you do this on your own by writing your answers down and keeping them to yourself. If you attempt to solve the case before other players are done with their leads, you will wait on everyone to be finished before moving forward.

After the group or all individual players have finished answering the questions, you flip the page one last time and open up a little envelope to read Sherlock’s conclusion (i.e. the right answers to the questions). You will get points for each answer you got right. Also included on the final page is how many leads it took Sherlock to solve the mystery, which acts as a par for the number of leads. You will compare your number to his and deduct five points for every lead in excess of his, and gain five points for every fewer lead than his.

In a team game, you win if your final score is 100 or higher. Otherwise, you don’t quite measure up to the famed super sleuth. In an individual game, the player with the highest score wins.

Its a strange kind of "Board Game" as there are no dice to roll, cards to play, its just down to you own power of logic and deduction and following points in the case books almost like the old Create your adventure Fighting Fantasy style books i loved when i was young.  The play experience is great though, you really need to wrack your brain, and you will rarely (in my own experience) come close to Holmes score.  With 10 cases you ill get plenty of entertainment from the box, the only issue is the replay value.... unless you mess up awfully on a case, and even then (as you find out the answers at the end) its hard to get good replay value out of it.  Unless you wait a long time until you forget, or you almost GM it to other new players, reading the results of their investigation (doing that was a surprising amount of fun).  Still though, for the amount of time, fun, and pleasure you will have its good value, and then sharing it with new people afterwards can be very rewarding, watching how they make their decisions, and if they varied from yours and so on.  I also wanted to wear a smoking jacket, and sit in front of the fire in a big red leather armchair with my brandy and cigars or pipe to get in the theme.  Its nice and portable too, so take it to play at a nice old pub in front of an open fire with your friends, and you will have a great night, as you do not need to worry about losing components as there are no little tokens etc.

With an RRP of £41.99 for this game you will find lovely production values, and plenty of content to debate, and think your way through!  so head on over to your local game store and grab one.
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