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Enjoy solving mysteries? Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a series of cooperative detective games in which players take on the role of the Baker Street Irregulars, amateur sleuths assisting (and competing with) Sherlock Holmes himself to solve cases. Here’s everything you need to know about the game, including spoiler-free thoughts from a LockHouse playthrough!

If you’re a fan of escape rooms, you’ll probably enjoy playing Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. The cases are mysteries, rather than escape room-style puzzles; don’t go into it expecting padlocks and conundrums. Instead, you’ll need to use deductive reasoning skills to find the solutions, searching for evidence and piecing together the truth as you investigate.

Game info

Players: 1-8 (cooperative)
Length: around 90 minutes per case (depending on how long you spend investigating). Each box contains 10 cases.
Age: 14+
Rules: Read the full game rules here, or try playing a demo.

What’s in the box?

Each box contains 10 cases, booklets containing all the leads, hints, and information you’ll need in order to solve a mystery, as well as the solutions themselves. You’ll also find a map of late Victorian London, highlighting hundreds of potential places to investigate, and a directory of names and places, listing everyone and everywhere you might encounter in the course of your investigations, from the police station to the music hall to the tobacconist’s. A list of key informants provides a helpful starting point for your investigations. Finally, there’s a collection of newspapers covering the dates of the cases, so you can scour the columns for any clues or leads buried among the seemingly unrelated ads and news items.

Playthrough

Want to find out more about the gameplay? Here’s a spoiler-free rundown of our experience playing one of the cases, ‘The Mystified Murderess’.

8:30 p.m.
I reflect on the fact that it is currently 8:30 p.m., and that I’m about to start playing a game able to accommodate up to 8 players, and that there is only one of me. I decide to start playing anyway.

the box for the board game Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders, showing a collection of papers and a magnifying glass8:45 p.m.
I finish reading all the setup material. It’s clear from the writing that these games are a tribute of love to the original stories; the writing is immersive and entertaining, with delightful nods to the source material.
A distressed client shows up at Baker Street asking for help from Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately for him, Holmes has got more interesting things to be investigating, and leaves the case with the players to solve instead. Given that the game packaging makes a point of saying how difficult it is to beat Holmes at an investigation, I feel like the client should probably be worried. 

9:00 p.m.
I have not yet followed any leads. Instead, I have gotten distracted by combing through all of the newspapers repeatedly, looking for any mention of anything at all that seems relevant. The newspapers are full of fun little details, and they do a great job of capturing the writing style of the 1880s. I cannot find anything that seems relevant, and am forced to conclude that maybe I actually need to investigate something, despite how entertaining the newspapers are.
It’s time to follow some leads! Every lead that you follow costs you points at the end of the game; the object of the game is to try and solve the case by following fewer leads than Sherlock Holmes. For context, Holmes solved this particular case in 5 leads. I do not know this at the start of the game. I am full of hopes and dreams.

9:15 p.m.
I’ve discovered something!!! I’m an investigative genius!!! At this point I have followed 3 leads, one informative and two useless. I have somehow already made three pages of notes.

9:45 p.m.
I waste a lead by looking someone up at their home address rather than their office. Their housekeeper tells me to try their work address instead. I spend a while deciding whether it would be cheating if I pretended it never happened. I have now visited 8 leads. 

10:00 p.m.
The plot thickens. I become convinced that the case has something to do with a (completely irrelevant) newspaper ad, and spend a while feverishly looking up everyone in the directory with a particular set of (completely irrelevant) initials. I am simultaneously in hell and having the time of my life.

10:30 p.m.
A breakthrough! A plot twist! I’m finally back on the right track! All that time scouring the newspapers finally comes in handy. I am gleeful about it. My notes are becoming increasingly demented, but at least they contain the phrase ‘I knew it!’. The pieces are finally coming together. I have now visited 13 leads.

11:00 p.m.
I visit and question four people in a row, all of whom tell me the exact same thing. I begin to suspect that I might not rival Sherlock Holmes in deductive ability. I consider cheating, but barely manage to cling to the scraps of my integrity. I have now visited 20 leads.

11:15 p.m.
I resign myself to the fact that I am probably not going to beat Sherlock Holmes at this game. Liberated from the pressure of worrying about how many leads I’m following, I go on a wild investigative spree, looking for anything and everything I might have missed. I’m almost certain of most of the facts of the case by this point, but I’m having too much fun talking to every single person in Victorian London to ever want to stop. I have now visited 31 leads.

a deerstalker beside a magnifying glass and some sheets of blank paper11:30 p.m.
There’s just one thing I still don’t understand. By this point my brain has almost entirely stopped working. My notes are frantic. ‘WHAT ABOUT [SPOILER],’ they read, in all caps. ‘WHAT IS THE [SPOILER] AAGH.’ I follow a couple more leads, in the hope that they will help. They do not help. I grit my teeth, and come up with my best guess at the solution. 

11:35 p.m.
…Which, as it turns out, was incorrect. Somehow I have managed to get everything right — apart from the name of the murderer. Oops.
According to the score sheet, Holmes solved the case perfectly by following 5 leads, so he gets a perfect score of 100 points. I count up my score for solving the case, which is 80 points. Next, the score sheet informs me, I must deduct 5 points from my score for every extra lead I followed. I stare at my notes, which helpfully inform me that I have followed a total of 34 leads, making my final score a grand total of… -65 points. It took me three hours to get here. I have never been more proud.

Think you could do better? (You’re almost certainly right.) Luckily, ‘The Mystified Murderess’ case is currently available to play for free!

Review

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a lot of fun. It would probably have been easier to play with more than one player, but it also works well as a solo challenge. There are some good ‘Aha!’ moments, and unraveling the twists and turns of a case is very satisfying, particularly when you follow a lead that confirms all your suspicions and makes you feel like a genius.

The biggest strength of the game, though, is probably its depth. There’s a huge amount of detail provided by all the game materials, and it sets up a vast and immersive world that’s a lot of fun to explore. Given how much attention is paid to creating such an expansive experience, it feels a little bit counterintuitive that the scoring mechanic seems to want to discourage you from exploring too much: the less leads you follow, the better your score will be.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a great challenge for competitive players who’ll enjoy the test of trying to figure out a convoluted solution based on as little evidence as possible — but it’s also a rewarding game for those of us who just want to wander the crime-riddled streets of Sherlock Holmes’ London, leaving no stone unturned.

Still got time to kill? Check out our recommendations for long board games, or solve some puzzles with an escape room board game. And if you’re a fan of mysteries, our Secret Agent escape room is the perfect mission to challenge your wits. 

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