The Sherlock Holmes game we deserve.
Location: at home
Date Played: 2017 / 2018
Team size: 1-8; we recommend 1-4
Duration: 60-120 minutes
Price: $40 for 10 cases
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures was the finest tabletop mystery game we’ve played to date. It was easy to get into, but an intellectual commitment to complete. It was seriously challenging, but still lighthearted and humorous. We wished the scoring system felt more sensible, but it didn’t really matter as we could judge our own improvement. If you’re seeking a difficult tabletop mystery series, this is the game to play.
Who is this for?
- Story seekers
- Couch detectives
- People who enjoy reading
- Any experience level
- Fantastic writing
- Interactive storytelling
- Clever mysteries
- Easy to learn
- Easy to setup
- Challenging yet fair
Each chapter cast us as members of the Baker Street Irregulars, child informants working for and learning from Sherlock Holmes. We would team up with a familiar character from Holmes’ canon like Wiggins (the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars) or Dr. Watson.
Each episode presented us with a case. We followed the leads wherever they took us in order to solve the case… and any other mysteries that arose along the way.
The game components were impressively simple and streamlined. They included:
Rulebook / Informant Information
The rulebook was especially lean and the game easy to learn. Once we knew how to play, there wasn’t any reason to return to the rules. The rules weren’t nuanced.
The back of the rulebook listed recurring informants whom we could visit during gameplay for records, investigative details, rumors, and the like. These characters were important for solving cases and added continuity to the world.
10 Case Books
(4 Books for the Jack the Ripper campaign and 6 Individual Cases)
Each case book provided:
- Narratives for all relevant locations in London (tied to location codes)
- End-game questions
- End-game answers
- Pompous Sherlock Holmes monologue explaining the case
The 4-part Jack the Ripper campaign had a unique game map, special informants, and a connected narrative.
Every other episode stood alone.
Each case had a corresponding newspaper filled with assorted information including obviously relevant tidbits, well-hidden details, and plenty of color.
The map of London was divided into districts with each building and block numbered. The map allowed us to understand the proximity of places. It also occasionally allowed us to make deductions regarding leads as well.
The directory was the interface. It listed every citizen and legal business in London with corresponding codes to look them up in the case books.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was a prose-based mystery adventure. With the exception of the map, all components were written… and well written at that.
One player would read the introduction, while another would take notes on people, places, and evidence.
From there, we took turns deciding where we’d visit next. We’d look the location up on the map and in the directory, find the corresponding passage in the case book, and read what happened upon our arrival, taking notes all along the way.
We repeated this process until we either felt confident in what happened with the case or the trail went cold and we decided to see how much of the mystery we had solved.
After answering the questions at the back of the book, we’d read the Holmes’ monologue to determine what had happened and how he solved the case.
The stories were interesting and unexpected. They twisted in odd directions, but the twists felt grounded.
The cases didn’t feel like a mediocre version of Sherlock Holmes, or a kids’ edition, or dumbed down deduction. The mysteries were smart, challenging, and well written.
By casting us as the Baker Street Irregulars, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective spared us one of the common storytelling problems in many Holmes-themed escape rooms: who the hell are we supposed to be? Are we collectively Holmes, or Watson, or some random friend? This character choice allowed us to be us and not some hive-mind Watson.
We were allowed to use any information in the game or in our own heads to solve puzzles. Our knowledge of the world was relevant. My favorite example of this was in the Seventh Case, A Question of Identity. At the start of the game, Lisa was reading the newspaper and mentioned to me that there was a column of personals. Without having seen that newspaper I asked, “Is one of them enciphered?” She looked up at me surprised and asked, “How did you know?” It was a little fact that I had picked up about communication in the 1890s from having read The Code Book.
The more we played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and inhabited that London, the more the world felt natural and real. We got a handle on who the informants were and when we should go to them.
The materials felt great. The paper stock was varied and of high quality.
The game was easy to learn and quick to setup. When we decided that we want to play a case of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, setting up the game took one of us roughly the same amount of time that the other needed to pour a couple of glasses of port.
While the individual cases were not replayable, the box contained 10 different cases and absolutely no reason to write on or otherwise destroy any of the materials. You’re free to share them with friends.
There’s a massive 4-part Jack the Ripper campaign.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective was challenging but fair. This game pushed us harder intellectually than any escape game (real life or tabletop). When we nailed the facts of a case we felt incredibly accomplished. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective had no gimmes.
The cases weren’t of equal quality. Some of them left us feeling unfulfilled, like they weren’t quite complete.
The scoring system was kind of a joke. We mostly ignored it. We acquired points for correctly answering questions about the case. We lost points for each additional lead we followed beyond the laughably low number that Holmes needed. We disliked this scoring system because it discouraged exploring the world and thoroughly investigating the crimes… which just felt wrong.
We found the limited amount of information Holmes ultimately worked with dubious at best. This contributed to our dislike of the scoring system. I worked for a prosecutor’s office for a couple of years and I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking Holmes’ lack of evidence to court. I know he’s essentially a superhero, but when we read Holmes’ deduction process at the conclusion of each case, it felt like a weak and silly conclusion that’s best acknowledged, but not taken to heart.
Tips for Playing
- Reserve a couple of hours for gameplay.
- Be ready to tackle a lot of reading, and out-loud reading if you’re playing as a group.
- Have snacks, drinks, and whatever else that will add to the vibe of the mystery.
- Play for yourself, not for the scoring system.
- Take good notes and revisit them.
- This is the third edition of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective; other versions offer different cases.
Disclosure: Asmodee provided a free reviewer copy of this game.
(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)