Stats at a glance
Ages: 13 +
Publisher: Space Cowboys
We’ve all watched a Sherlock Holmes show or film and thought we knew whodunnit right from the start. It should have been obvious to him really, especially as they were doing the evil voice.
Well now’s your chance to put those crime-solving skills to the test and show Sherlock who’s boss.
Read the full Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective board game review below.
Brief Overview of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a co-operative crime-solving and deduction game for one-to-eight players. With ten cases to crack, you team up to explore clues, interview witnesses, scan the local press, and follow-up leads to get to the bottom of them.
Your goal is to present a theory that is as close to what really happened, and aim to do so using the fewest number of clues possible. You also get a special round of applause if you manage to do so faster than Holmes himself.
It can only very loosely be described as a board game, as the bulk of the experience is identifying clues, unearthing information, and theorizing among your fellow detectives.
With a map to track key character whereabouts, press cuttings to review, and a long address book of people to interview, there’s plenty to get your teeth stuck in to.
Versions & Expansions
In this review, we are looking at the original edition – first released in 1982 – titled Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases. However, there are loads of expansions that all bring a variety of new mysteries to solve.
The Thames Murders & Other Cases
Baker Street Irregulars
2020 saw the release of the Baker Street Irregulars expansion, in which you take on the roles of Sherlock’s gang of street kids to solve mysteries.
Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures
Alternatively, you could try your hand at finally revealing the identity of the infamous Jack the Ripper in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures. As someone that lives just down the road from his Whitechapel stomping ground, I’d greatly appreciate you putting that one to bed.
Carlton House & Queen’s Park
Or, if you’d like to explore some of London’s more leafy crime scenes, then you could also give the Carlton House & Queen’s Park expansion a go.
Unboxing Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, you’ll get:
- A map of London
- Ten case files
- One directory
- Ten newspapers
- A rulebook
This game is beautifully produced to fit the theme. Even the box itself is in on the act, sliding out from the side like a case file rather than opening the usual way. All the booklets and documents are made to look the part. The rulebook itself is designed to appear like a detective’s notebook-style rulebook, with discolored pages and photos/notes are strewn across it. I was half-expecting to see a tea-ring on one of the pages.
There’s a fantastic map of Victorian London’s higgledy-piggledy streets, too, dissected by the River Thames. Once it’s laid out in front of you with all the various addresses you can visit – from Hyde Park in the west to Tower Bridge in the east – it suddenly dawns on you just how tough this game might be.
I especially liked the newspapers, which again look incredibly realistic. As you sift through the old crusty paper, you really do feel like a detective scouring the local press for potentially linked events.
You’ll also find the individual case files for each of the ten cases you have to crack. These are actually quite compact considering the amount of information there is to cover, however you will have to make sure you don’t accidentally read bits of information you shouldn’t as you scan through it.
How to Play Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
In Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, your goal is to solve a crime as accurately as you can and as quickly as you can. There are ten in the box, which are ordered by date. So, you’re recommended to start at the beginning or risk exposing information you otherwise shouldn’t have known (unless you fancied being a time-traveling detective).
Players will explore the different leads in the case book, interview witnesses, and review the local press to source information. Then, when you think you’ve got a solution to the crime, you’ll go to Sherlock Holmes to present your findings.
Your success is measured by how close you are to the actual solution to the crime, and how quickly you managed to solve it compared to Sherlock himself (measured by many leads you visited).
What’s At Your Disposal
The Case Book
Along with an introduction to the case, this book contains a list of all the leads you can follow to uncover more information. They’re ordered by location (split into the five districts) and, when you choose to follow one, contains a paragraph of information about what you learn from it.
This is an address book of everyone in London that could be connected to the case. It advises you on which lead to follow in the case book to find this person.
You’ll have access to local newspapers, too, to try and help you piece things together.
The game board is a map of London split into five areas. You can use it to mock up where different suspects were compared to the scene of the crime, and where leads are located.
Turns are very simple. The first player – known as the lead investigator – takes the case book and chooses a lead from it (say, the ‘scene of the crime’). They then turn to that page in the case book and read aloud the relevant paragraph.
It then becomes the next player’s turn, who similarly chooses a lead, reads it aloud, and so on.
During this time, players can freely delve into the character directory to find potential suspects/witnesses, review the map, or read the newspapers. You can also go back and read the old leads.
Players are encouraged to openly discuss their thoughts on the clues they uncover and theories about the case. Once the team thinks they might have cracked it, they then stop following leads and move onto the reveal and scoring part of the game.
During this section, your team answers two sets of questions on the case and score points depending on how accurate you are. The first set relates directly to the case and quiz you on different elements of the crime. The second set is bonus points, and relate to events indirectly linked to the case.
Next, you compare the number of leads you used to the amount it took Sherlock to crack the case. For every additional lead, it took compared to Sherlock, you lose five points. If it took you fewer leads than Sherlock, you gain five points for each one.
If your score, in the end, is above 100, then you have beaten Sherlock. Well done! If not, then you still gave it a good shot, and hopefully caught a criminal in the process.
Your First Game of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Co-operative Or Competitive?
You’re told in the rules that you can either play as a team or against each other. The only real difference to the game rules is that in the end, you all put forward individual theories rather than one.
It’s an interesting idea, and I’m sure will be fun for a round or two. However, this ruins one of the key elements of the game: the cooperation. My advice is, if it’s your first turn, stick to playing as a team. It’s much more fun with the group discussion and theorizing.
Stay On Target
You could explore every single lead in the game if you wanted to, but you’ll get a terrible score. The key to getting a good score is to use your time wisely – or, to put it another way, be efficient with your use of leads.
I recommend everybody taking notes when the case details are being read out and when every lead is read out. Identify the crucial information you’re missing, and treat each lead with care.
Nothing Is Elementary (My Dear Watson)
Cracking the case can be tough. Beating Sherlock, though, is nigh on impossible. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t beat him – he is the world’s greatest detective, after all. Just focus on racking up the points and, if you do manage to beat the big man, form a circle and organize a group pat on the back. You earned it.
Pros & Cons
- The cases are genuinely intriguing
- Beautifully written
- Super co-operative
- Great components
- Not really any rules so you can get straight into it
- Requires a lot of attention
- Limited replayability
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is like an escape room in a box. Your team is essentially left to its own devices with your various resources and told to get on it. The resulting discussion and theorizing can be intense and great fun, with the game designed to accommodate out-the-box thinking and theorizing.
You’ll find yourselves exploring all corners of the components for what might seem like the smallest of clues – trawling through the newspapers, tracing lines on the map, diving through the directory to identify someone that might have some useful information to share – only to find it was the key to cracking the case all along.
It’s especially challenging because not all information is relevant. Some characters you speak to might not tell you everything. Other items you come across may not be a clue at all. And it’s up to you to sort the wheat from the chaff and paint a picture of what happened.
The story is brilliantly written, too. From the case file to the individual leads, they could easily have been penned by Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Every clue and lead is fantastically woven into the story. It won’t take long for your whole group to be caught up in the thrill of it. Importantly, though, there’s not so much reading to do that it becomes overwhelming.
I find Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective especially intriguing because, for a difficult game, there are basically no rules. It means you can pretty much open the box and get going. This makes it great for introducing new players to cooperative or deduction board games, as you’ll be underway in no time and not have to spend ages telling people the rules.
That said, the depth of the game could be a challenge for those that struggle to keep focused. There is a lot of information to keep on top of. That’s why it’s important all players are keeping notes and staying focused on the discussion to avoid being left behind.
Finally, remember that once you’ve played a case, you can’t really play it again as you’ll already know everything. So you only get ten bites at the cherry before the magic of the game will be over. It’s definitely worth buying, but just keep in mind that this does have a limited shelf life. The components are deliberately designed to look old, though, so you could always give it to someone as a cheap birthday present.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Review (TL;DR)
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a fantastic cooperative game for any budding detectives out there. It’s all about analysis and deduction, and will likely be a refreshing twist to any game night that traditionally focuses on strategy and tactics.
It’s beautifully written and the gripping mysteries will keep everyone invested, regardless of whether you manage to solve them or not.
Let’s face it, we’ve all dreamed of being Sherlock Holmes at some point in our lives (except that weird kid who always wanted to be Watson). Well, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective may be the closest you’ll get.
The brilliant story-telling, tantalizing plots, eccentric characters, and plentiful red herrings make for a compelling co-operative investigation, and you’re bound to have a great deal of fun while doing it.
Its simple set-up, minimal rules, and stunning components give you the perfect arena to live out your childhood dream.
Oh, and before anyone angrily writes into GameCows HQ – yes, I’m aware Holmes never actually said “Elementary, My Dear Watson.”
Have you tried Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this crime-solving game. Drop a comment below!
Find more great deduction games below:
A passionate traveller as well as a gamer, Joe is trying to play board games in as many countries as possible. No surprise, two of his favourite games are travel-friendly Tiny Epic Galaxies and Coup. But when in his home town of London, Libertalia and Secret Hitler are currently top billing.