Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft

The year is 1895 and a bomb has exploded in the House of Parliament. The man apprehended and charged with the crime was a young man named Michael Chapman. Mycroft Holmes has been tasked with proving the young man's guilt, and Sherlock Holmes has been hired by the young man's parents to prove his innocence. This is the game Holmes: Sherlock and MycroftHolmes: Sherlock and Mycroft is a 2 player game for ages 10+. It takes about 30 minutes to play and retails for $25.

Setup
1. Lay out the Game Board between the two players.
2. Place the Character Cards of Doctor Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Inspector Lastrade in their respective spaces on the Game Board.
3. Shuffle the remaining Character Cards (not including James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran). Place the stack face down in the space under Doctor Watson, and then deal out two cards in the Day 1 spots.
4. Place the Investigation Markers in a reserve in the center of the table.
5. Determine a first player who will pick his character - Sherlock or Mycroft. Then, give each player three Action Markers of the same color and five Investigation Markers.
6. Shuffle the Clue Deck very thoroughly, and make a face down deck. Deal out four cards face-up next to the Clue Deck.
Game Play - The game takes place over seven rounds with the following three phases each round:
1. Start of the Day - Reveal a new Character Card in the appropriate day and stand up the six Action Markers. (Note: This phase is skipped in the first round.)
2. Investigation - Take one of your Action Markers that is laying down and lay it down on top of a Character Card that doesn't have any of your Action Markers. You then execute the action of that character. For example, Doctor Watson lets you use one Investigation Marker to obtain one face up Clue, and Mrs. Hudson lets you get three Investigation Markers from the reserve.
3. End of the Day - Check and see if any Character Card is occupied by an Action Marker of each character. If so, turn the Character Card face down, as they will be unavailable to land on the next round.

Scoring
The game consists of nine types of clues - three cards with a value of 3, four cards with a value of 4, etc. all the way up to nine cards with a value of 9. There are also two types of special clues - wildcards and map fragments.

Since some characters allow you to hide Clue Cards you first flip these over and assign them to their appropriate value column. Wildcards are limited to one per column, i.e., you couldn't have two Wildcards represent a value of 9. You then score cards as follows: If you have two 3s and your opponent has one 3, you get one point. If you have three 4s and your opponent has one 4, you get three points. If you get all the 5s, you would get eight points (5 + 3 bonus points). You don't get bonus points, if you have Wildcards making up the total of a certain number. Map fragments score more points the more you have going -1, 1, 3, 6, and 10. Most points win!

Review
Holmes: Sherlock and Mycroft is a game that mixes worker placement, set collection, and resource management. What makes this game different from other worker placement games is that not all the spaces are available in the first round. More unlock as time goes by, and depending on the order in which they unlock, it can create a completely different game play experience. The set collection scoring mechanism is nice too. Instead of whoever has the majority of a certain set getting all the points, the majority person only gets a difference in points. Since the random nature of the cards being dealt out, this can prevent someone from running away with the game due to mere luck of the draw.

Another positive for the game is the different ways you can tweak the game. By adding one or two villain cards, you can introduce negative elements into the game that require advance planning or else you'll be seriously hurt in terms of your set collection. You can also introduce a double-sided Holmes card that will increase the tactical nature of the game, allowing you to reserve a single card to buy it later and also keep it from your opponent.

The art in the game is solid both with the Character Cards and the Clue Cards. This is helpful, because it serves as a distraction that you are not just collecting 3s and 4s, but you are collecting clues like a fingerprint, cigarette butt, or a button. Unfortunately, even with the great art, the theme still feels a little pasted on, like you could have used in theme for this game and it would have resulted in the same game play. With Sherlock Holmes now in the public domain, I imagine we will see more than a few games dedicated to the great literary detective. I just hope that the mechanics and game play are as solid as this one.

This game was provided to me for free by Devir in exchange for an honest review.