Saturday, July 23, 2016

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, A game by Diego Ibanez, Art by Pedro Soto, and produced by Devir -Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, A game by Diego Ibanez, Art by Pedro Soto, and produced by Devir
Reviewed by Jason Elliott from PaladinElliott Productions

What are the recommendations for this game?
Number of players: 2
Time of game: 30 minutes
Age recommendation: 10 years and older

The back story: In this two player game, one of you will choose to represent Sherlock Holmes (arguably the greatest detective of any story) or Mycroft Holmes, who represents the Crown's Prosecution. The two brothers are pitted against each other over a case of one Michael Chapman, who has been arrested  in connection to a bombing in London's Houses of Parliament. If Mycroft wins, then Michael was guilty of being a terrorist, and if Sherlock wins, then Michael is innocent (Michael's family has hired Sherlock to prove his innocence in the matter). It is an investigative duel between the Holmes Brothers.

What comes in the game?
The Game Board (which marks the days- rounds- of the investigation)
3 Action Marker meeples for each player (blue and orange)
12 Character Cards consisting of: Doctor Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, Irene Adler, Inspector Gregson, Wiggins, Langdale Pike, Toby, Shinwell "Porky" Johnson, Billy The Bellboy, Von Kramm, and Violet Hunter
3 Optional Cards consisting of: 1 two sided card of Sherlock/Mycroft,  1 James Moriarty card, and 1 Sebastian Moran card
A clue deck of 52 cards: 3x False Pass, 4x Explosive, 5x Cigarette, 6x Bullet, 7x Button, 8x Footprint, 9x Fingerprint, 5x Wildcard, and 5x Map Fragment
24 Investigation Markers (Magnifying Glass)
Rules Booklet

What is the end game objective? What am I striving for?
In this game you want to collect the most of a type of card. In this sense you are card collecting (collecting clues), and you want to have the most of each type at the end of the game to get the listed number of points on the card. To get these cards, you visit characters that allow you to spend your investigation tokens and in return receive cards. To do this, you will need to visit characters to receive investigation tokens. So get investigation tokens to get cards to have the most of each card type to win the game. Thematically speaking, it is as if you, by having the most of a certain type of clue, make the correct deductions, and receive the points for it.
How do we count these points for end game scoring?
You have 7 main types of clues with the values 3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and if you have the majority of a given number you receive the point value of the card minus the number of cards the opponent holds of that given type.
Example, in our game my wife and I each had 5 nine cards, she had 5 of the nines, and I had 4 and added a wild card, so because of this no one was awarded the points for the nines. Had I not been able to add the wild card to them, she would have had 9 minus my 4 cards of the nine type, giving her a total of 5 points for that number.
You then have the Map Fragment cards that work like this:
If you have one, you lose a point
If you have two, you gain a point
If you have three, you gain 3 points
If you have four, you gain 6 points
and if you have five, you gain 10 points

Special notes about scoring:  You can add the wild card immediately to a preexisting clue set, or start a new clue set on a later turn, but if it is unassigned at game's end, you subtract 3 points for each one this way. The other thing to consider is that you will have some clues as open knowledge (white card image at the bottom of the character card, or private knowledge with a black card image at the bottom of the character card), so you may not know what is being held until the very end of the game. Finally, there are some characters whose ability allows you to steal or trade cards with your opponent, so clues that are out in the open are never truly safe.

How long does the game go? How does a game turn work?
The game is set for seven turns (days of investigation). On day one, you will set up Dr. Watson Mrs. Hudson, and Inspector Lestrade as three characters that are never exhausted. A character is exhausted if both players visit that character on the same day. Exhausted characters must "rest" for the next day and are flipped over at the end of the day. You will draw two characters at random to be placed below Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade for day one. After that you will draw one character at random to be added each day, so this means at the end of the game there will be one character left that was not drawn (this helps keep each game different). The first step is ignored on day one, which is when the new character emerges, as this is already done for day one with setup.  You will take turns taking actions with your meeples, three each, and as you do this lay your meeple down like it is on its back to know it is spent. On new days, you just stand them up to show they are at the ready. You then take turns moving your meeple from where it was to its new location. Some things to remember, you can never have more than one of your meeples on any given character, and you can't go to a character that is exhausted. When you visit a character, you follow the actions listed on the card, and then the other player moves a meeple and does the same. At the end of the day, flip over the characters who are exhausted and the ones who have rested during the day so they are once again active.  For example, if both players visit Inspector Gregson on day one, that will mean that the Inspector will be flipped and unusable for day two, and he will be ready to use on day three. After you have flipped exhausted and rested characters, stand your meeples back up, and draw the new character to start the next day (round).

Final thoughts:
First off, what a great game! My wife scores it as a 9 and I a 10 on the Boardgamegeek scale. We loved that it had a solid yet easy learning curve. We loved that it played very fast, and we loved that it was very close all the way to the end. With this game, you are collecting tokens and cards, and you need to strategize keeping in mind the number of turns and days remaining. If the investigation token pile runs out, you have to spend as no more can be collected, so the game does not lend itself to resource hoarding. You also have to take into account cards that are hidden from public knowledge versus those that are exposed for all to see, as well as wild cards, which can swing the balance at a crucial moment.
The game plays well, with a great theme, but there isn't any actual mystery solving as part of the game.  This can be seen as both a positive and a negative.  For those who want to solve a puzzle or mystery, they might be disappointed but for those who are not really interested in solving mysteries or that aren't huge Sherlock Holmes fans, the theming is good, but not overwhelming. If you are looking for a great two player head to head game where each choice can make the difference in your victory, then look no further because you have found it!

Thank you so much for reading this report on Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft!

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RET. SSG Jason L. Elliott (PaladinElliott)

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