Sherlock Holmes Card Game

Gibsons, £7

While definitely nothing more than a light card game, this one scores well on atmosphere and strategy. The idea is basically that you are dealt a hand of cards which you have to get rid of as soon as possible but with the twist that one of the players is dealt a villain and thus doesn't want to be found out before he can 'escape' by going out. The first non-criminal player out will get a chance to identify the villain but a certain amount of knowledge is required to guess correctly. Timing of your accusation is therefore important - you run the risk of picking up more cards if you are wrong.

The sequence of play is basically each player lays a card in turn, creating a Holmesian storyline with all sorts of whizzing about in trains to the country and loitering around foggy Scotland Yard in funny hats. If you can't lay, you have to pick up which slows down your progress but which can give you more information as to the holder of Moriarty or one of his fellow nasties (more of whom can emerge during the game). Special cards such as Mycroft, Lestrade and useful clues pop up from time to time adding to the flavour. There is a fairly complex system of scoring points (in fact a little over complex in my view) and the game is played over a number of hands which you will be hard put to spend more than an hour completing. As a generic card game, it comes closest to Rummy with a bit of Hearts thrown in for spice. Not a bad mixture and a surprisingly good game overall. Recommended, and not for sale!

As an aside for you game designers out there, the nicest idea in Sherlock Holmes is that the cards are linked by colour coded prompts with the result that you always know what you can play next. For instance, a typical card might show a pink label allowing only a Hansom Cab move and a red one allowing an accusation. The next player knows he can only play one of these and if he can't, he picks up without delay. A neat idea well carried off and one I shall be quietly lifting for a planned game.

Back to Pompeii or on to Manchester.

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