When you think of a Sherlock Holmes themed game, deduction is the mechanic that readily comes to mind. Games like Consulting Detective and Sherlock 13 have an air of mystery to them that you’re trying to solve. The new title Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft eschews that common motif and instead forces the famous brothers to collect sets of clues in an effort to prove the guilt or innocence of a suspect.
OnFebruary 24th, 1895 a bomb rocked the city of London. A young man with links to anarchist groups was picked up close to the scene and thrown into jail. As Mycroft you are working to prove the suspect’s guilt, collecting evidence to build your case. Sherlock has been hired by the man’s family to prove his innocence. The game is played over the course of seven days. Whoever has been able to collect the most points of evidence will win the case.
Holmes is an interesting hybrid of set collection and worker placement. The players each have three action tokens. The board lists off the days with different spaces for cards representing different character’s from the great detective’s universe. At the start of the game faithful companion Watson, competitive inspector Lestrade, and housekeeper and landlady Mrs. Hudson are available. Two additional characters will be added on day 1 to start the game. That gives the players five options of characters to seek aid from. Each new day, another character is added. Players can never be sure what order the cards will come out in.
The goal of the game is to collect sets of Clue cards. There are seven different types of clues (fingerprints, bombs, bullets, footprints etc.) numbered between 3-9. This indicates how many there are of each type. They also determine the value for having the most of that clue at the end of the game. Having the most 8s at the end of the game is worth eight points minus the amount of 8s your opponent has. If a player manages to get all the cards in a clue type they will get a bonus three points. On top of the clues being collected their are wild cards and pieces of a map. One map piece will lose you a point, but putting together a set can have great value.
To acquire clues players will have to spend their Action tokens to visit some of the Holmes’ brothers contemporaries. This will give them a special benefit like earning Investigation tokens (the currency of the game), or giving them the opportunity to collect Clue cards.The three starting characters are always available to visit. Watson and Lestrade allow players to exchange Investigation tokens for Clue cards. Mrs. Hudson gives you rest and earns you three Investigation tokens. Some of the different characters are affected depending on the day of the week you visit them. For example, Billy the Bellboy allows players to discard a clue, earning them Investigation tokens equal to its value minus the day of the week; a much more powerful action the earlier in the week you perform it. The randomness of when the cards comes out makes for a fresh experience every time you play, forcing new strategies depending on the way the game unfolds.
If both players have visited the same character on a given day, that person is exhausted and flipped over for the following day. Only the starting three characters are immune from this.
After seven days the evidence is tallied and the fate of the young suspect is determined. Holmes is a fairly tight 20-30 minute two-player game. Some of the character cards are much more powerful than others, but I love the idea of the day of the week playing an important role in their value. I was also a pretty big fan of the marriage of set collection and worker placement. They just seemed to work together really well in this instance. If you can get your hands on a copy of Holmes I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a fun, quick game with some interesting decisions and just the right amount of luck.