“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,”
There are layers of information hidden in the way we communicate. Listening to what someone says, when they say it, and the contextual circumstances of the statement are all important clues to let you interpret what they are really trying to get across. Sherlock Holmes is a master of deducing the clues he’s presented with. In Beyond Baker Street you take on the role of some of the great detective’s contemporaries and struggle to solve a crime before he is able to and you end up with egg on your face again.
Beyond Baker Street is a cooperative game in the same vein as Hanabi. Players work together to share clues back and forth in an effort to establish who had a motive, an opportunity and ultimately who committed a crime. Just like Hanabi, players will have hands of cards held away from them, so that they can see their teammates’ cards, but not their own. The success or failure of your attempt at crime solving will depend entirely at how well you can share information.
Adding to the theme are the character cards. Each player will get to take control of a character, a contemporary of Holmes. Depending on the character you may have a special ability or a detriment to the solving of the case.
There are a number of different cases to chose from that will determine the difficulty of the game. A suspect, motive and opportunity are chosen from separate decks and laid out in the appropriate spots on the board. These are the likely elements in the crime you’re trying to solve, the Leads. They will be different numbers and different categories (or colours) of cards. The goal of the game is to play Evidence cards towards the Leads in an effort to confirm them and thus solve the crime. You want to play Evidence cards that match the same colour as the Lead you’re putting them towards and that add up to the same number of the lead. So if in the Opportunity part of the case we have a Lead of a purple 9, we want to play purple evidence cards towards it that add up to 9.
On a turn players can do one of a number of different actions. Assisting allows them to tell a teammate something about the cards in their hand, either the colour or the number. However, like Hanabi they must indicate every card that shares that characteristic. When you assist a teammate you must pay a price, Holmes moves closer to the ‘0’ on his track. When he gets to the end, he’s solved the case and you’ve failed. Investigating allows you to play evidence cards toward different leads in the game. If you’ve played an Evidence card that matches the Lead colour, then great! You’re closer to solving that part of the crime. If the colours don’t match then you have to play the card underneath the Lead adding to the overall total you need to solve that part of the case. If the total of Evidence cards matches the total for any Lead, you can spend your turn to Confirm that part of the case, locking it in. You can Eliminate a card, discarding it and advancing the progress on the Investigation track by the number of the card you got rid of. You must have reached at least 20 on the investigation track to solve the case. The last action you can take on your turn is to Pursue. When your Leads aren’t going anywhere you have the option of discarding them and drawing a new one. The Evidence cards played towards that Lead are shuffled back into the deck. It’s a risky move, but sometimes necessary when a Lead goes cold.
Beyond Baker Street is tough. You’re not going to win by accident. You have to play smart. Makes sense considering you’re trying to outsmart the world’s greatest detective. I got to try this at the Gathering of Friends and the copy I played with was final art, but not final components. BBS was designed by Robin Lees and Steve Mackenzie. It started as a print and play game and gained a lot of buzz. Since then it’s been picked up by Z-Man Games and will see a wide release this summer.
I am a huge Hanabi fan, it’s probably one of my favourite games. I love the mechanics and the difficulty of the limited communication, but as much as I love it, even I can attest that the theme is pretty painted on. Beyond Baker Street really explores the same mechanic with a rich theme that works well on a number of different levels. It’s certainly a bit of a deeper game with the character cards and the case files allowing to have more control over the experience you have. Definitely give Beyond Baker Street a try when it hits the market. I never thought I’d say this, but it might just fit a Hanabi sized hole in your game shelf.