Great Mechanics – Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

So this year we have had a frenzy of excitement around a board game translation of the Dark Souls video game series, this isn’t that noteworthy as franchises and board games have got on hand in hand since someone first made an Egyptian chess set. It’s so pervasive I’m surprised we don’t yet have Game of Thrones monopoly (Oh wait). I can remember getting a copy of the Lost board game when that was at its peak of popularity and expecting the special rules for John Locke to read “you win”.


The thing that worried me about this franchise is that the Dark Souls video game is known for its hardness and that doesn’t really translate well into a board game for 2 or more players. If you get beaten down by a player over the course of 2 hours you are unlikely to ever want to play it again, many games have mechanics to stop players from taking too much of a lead, the thief or robber in Catan for example or the in-character alliances in Diplomacy. They also tend to shy away from player elimination unless the game is so quick it’s not much of a problem having players repeatedly “die”. The developers have promised that the hardness will make its way into the games design so it remains to be seen exactly how they will balance this out while keeping it fun for all players.


The awkward part about this is that some people are drawn to hard challenges, the game has been widely successful because like many retro games it punishes people relentlessly, there are many reports online about people taking hours to clear the first level and getting hooked on trying to get further and further into the game. Is there any way of taking that kind of difficulty and porting it into a board game? Maybe instead of causing death, you could be investigating it.


Yes, I know a transition from Dark Souls hack and slash fighting into Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective seems like a tenuous one but SHCD has also got a fearsome rep for difficulty, the difference is only that in Consulting Detective you are working cooperatively to solve a crime (the rulebook has a mode for working in individual groups but that would require working in silence for 3-4 hours at the time while players across from you silently read a book).


After you start your investigation and decide on where to visit on the giant map of London provided you are free to travel anywhere, just take the number of the house and the compass direction and search though the mission book to read out what you find. If you need to find a different person then try the games huge directory of everyone living in London, get their address and visit their house. Still stuck? Why not go through the days newspaper for clues, a double sided broadsheet sized page of news done in an appropriate 1888 style is included for ever case. There are even areas of interest like Scotland Yard and characters like Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes himself ready to lend a hand.


After you think you have got everything you need skip to the back and read out the conclusion to the case where Holmes himself tells you how he solved it in typical Holmesian style. The trouble is that murder investigations are really hard work, and the investigations are so well written to give you red herrings, uncooperative witnesses and even people who out slam the door in your face to avoid being questioned, thus ending certain lines of enquiry unless you take another path of course Sherlock has no problem and will happily point out how logical his solution was leaving you feeling so small if you got it wrong.


I have completed all 10 missions in the game, my success rate is around 60% but despite this I will be going back in once the original French expansions are translated to English. I hope they come with a pipe and deer stalker.

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