Toy Corner

Review of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

Jun 18, 2024

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

In this series of Sherlock Holmes board games, you and your friends are in the streets of Victorian London trying to solve cases, competing with Sherlock Holmes himself. The series has a total of 4 different board games, each of which has 10 cases to solve. In The Thames Murders, you are tasked to solve, well you guessed it, murders in the river Thames. Competing with Sherlock Holmes, where your goal is to solve each case with the lowest number of clues as possible.

Overview of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

SHCD is not your traditional board game. The experience centres around several key elements that make it stand out. Inside the heavyweight cardboard box, players will find a detailed map of London, an accompanying directory of names and places, a rule book, ten numbered case books, and ten matching newspapers. These components collectively support the storytelling and investigative elements of the game.

One of my favourite aspects is the game’s open-ended gameplay. There’s no linear path to follow, so you can investigate at your own pace. This flexibility allows players to truly dig deep into each case, gathering clues and making connections in their own unique way. The cases vary in difficulty, which adds to the replayability since you never quite know how challenging the next one might be.

From my extensive play sessions, I’ve noticed that SHCD demands logical deduction, attention to detail, and creative thinking. It’s not a game you can just breeze through without engaging your brain. The performance of the game shines in how it makes you feel like a real detective. As for durability, the components are robust enough to withstand repeated play, which is essential given how much time you’ll likely spend poring over the case books and newspapers.

Though the rules are simple, the game itself is deeply engaging. You'll quickly grasp the basics, but mastering the art of detective work takes time. The player count ranges from solo play up to eight participants. However, I found that anything over five players makes the gameplay less enjoyable due to the fragmented discussions and differing opinions.

Comparing SHCD to other detective and mystery board games, its non-linear approach sets it apart. While games like Clue offer structured gameplay, SHCD provides freedom in how you choose to approach the investigation. This nonlinear approach might not appeal to everyone, particularly those who prefer more guided experiences, but for many, it's precisely what adds to the allure.

Game Components and Setup

When you first open the box of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders, you're greeted with a plethora of items that ooze Victorian era charm. There's something quite delightful about the attention to detail. The game comprises ten case booklets, a comprehensive map of Victorian London, lovely newspapers from the era, and a directory. These aren't just throwaway pieces either.

The case booklets are printed on high-quality paper with well-written narratives. Each of the ten cases offers a unique mystery to unravel. The map, though visually dense, is a thing of beauty, contributing greatly to the game's ambience. The newspapers are particularly fun. Each one is packed with articles that might – or might not – hold clues. I must say, these components are durable too. After numerous playthroughs, they still hold up, retaining their structural integrity and visual appeal.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders components

Let's talk about the rules – an area where some games trip over their own feet. Fortunately, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective gets most of it right. The rulebook is clear and well-organized, taking you step-by-step through the game's mechanics. Each player takes on the role of a detective working together or solo to solve cases by visiting various locations, questioning characters, and piecing together the clues.

One thing to note is that this game isn't for someone who dislikes taking notes or prefers a more structured gameplay. The open-ended nature of the investigations can leave new players feeling a bit lost. You might find the objectives somewhat unclear at first, but following the leads and diving into the narrative does become intuitive with a bit of patience. There's no hand-holding here, and that's part of the appeal.

After all, who doesn't want to try their hand at outsmarting Sherlock Holmes himself? Just don’t be surprised if you need to get up and stretch your legs mid-game – you’ll be so engrossed in the mysteries that time simply slips away.

Gameplay of Sherlock Holmes consulting detective: the Thames Murders

First, players receive a case introduction which sets the scene. You're then free to roam London using a detailed map and directory to visit various locations. These visits yield crucial clues. For instance, you might travel to a suspect’s residence, scour a crime scene, or pop by Scotland Yard for some insider information. Each location offers narratives, evidence, and potential red herrings which require thorough note-taking and discussion. Much like real detectives, we must piece together disparate clues to form a coherent theory.

One standout feature is the inclusion of newspapers from the era. These not only add to the rich thematic experience but often contain hidden clues tied to the cases. It's my practice to comb through every word in these papers. You'd be amazed how a seemingly innocuous article about a local fair could hide something significant.

Discussing the evidence with fellow players is not just encouraged, it's necessary. Each person might catch nuances others miss. I’ve found that shared perspectives often lead to breakthroughs. But, it's not all smooth sailing. The game’s complexity demands patience and a meticulous approach. Misinterpreting a clue or chasing a red herring can waste precious investigation time.

Scoring in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is unique. At the end of each case, players answer a series of questions about the details of the case. Points are awarded based on accuracy, but deductions are compared to Holmes’ solution. The challenge lies in how efficiently you solve the case versus the legendary detective.

Pros of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders has some distinct advantages that keep players coming back for more. First off, the open-ended gameplay is a standout feature. There's no linear path, which means you can explore locations and gather clues at your own pace. It feels a bit like being a real detective. You aren't shackled to a set path or order, which encourages you to think creatively and put your deduction skills to the test.

The cases themselves are challenging, requiring a lot of patience and attention to detail. You need to take notes, discuss every piece of information, and analyse everything meticulously. That makes it a fantastic intellectual exercise. You truly have to deduce the means, motive, and opportunity, just like Holmes.

The rules are simple enough for anyone to learn quickly, but the game offers a deeply engaging cooperative experience. You spend most of your time discussing theories and working as a team, which is incredibly satisfying when you finally crack a case. With 10 unique cases ranging from introductory mysteries to tougher challenges, the game is highly replayable.

Cons of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

The included newspapers, while initially fun, can become tedious to read through as they accumulate across multiple cases. If you're someone who doesn't enjoy scouring through extra materials, this might feel like a chore.

The earlier cases in the game are somewhat shallow compared to the later, richer mysteries, which might disappoint some players initially. Besides, there's always the potential for confusing narratives. In "The Mystified Murderess" case, for example, changes in the culprit between editions led to a narrative that didn't fully match the new solution's clues.

Lastly, solving the cases requires a very high level of patience and attention to detail. You need to take meticulous notes, re-read texts multiple times, and discuss every small detail. Some people might find this tedious. At times, deductions feel arbitrary and might require leaps of logic that aren't fully supported by the available evidence, which can be a bit of a letdown for thorough players.

Final Verdict

The intricate cases of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders demand patience and sharp analytical skills, making every solved mystery a rewarding achievement. Despite minor flaws like typos and inconsistent clues, the game's intellectual depth and cooperative nature provide endless hours of engaging gameplay. For those who relish a good challenge and enjoy collaborative problem-solving, this board game remains a standout choice. It's a testament to the timeless appeal of Sherlock Holmes and the enduring fascination with detective work.