Cardboard Children: Sherlock Holmes

By Robert Florence on January 28th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.


As I fell, drunk, out of a carriage in Baker Street, I reflected upon my relationship with that great man Sherlock Holmes. He was a bit of a pain in the arse, cocky, and a junkie. I was a doctor, a learned man of great responsibility. We were strange bedfellows indeed, but we had never shared a bed. That rumour, spread by London villains to discredit Holmes, had destroyed my marriage. Holmes and I had only ever shared a kiss – we had become a little bit giddy in a bubble bath after a night at the opera.

I knocked on the door and was received by Holmes’ landlady, Betty Rawcook. “Dr Watson!” she exclaimed. “Where are your trousers?” I pushed past her, fell, and my face smashed against an oak sideboard. When I came to, I was in Holmes’ room, and the great man was standing over me with a grin on his face.

“Drunk, Watson?” he chuckled.

I tried to get off the couch, but he had tied me to it. Holmes was a great lover of tying people to things. He had once spent a year in Asia, studying the tying of people to stuff, and had come home with an advanced knowledge of knots and pleasure. He now carried lengths of rope everywhere, always prepared for any opportunity to tie a person, bottom up, to an object.

“I’m perfectly sover!” I blurted.

“Now, was that a typo, or did you actually say “sover”? I’d wager you actually said it, in which case I deduce that you are DRUNK!” Holmes raised an eyebrow.

“Amazing, Holmes. How did you-“

“Elementary,” he smiled, and slapped my buttocks. I yelped a little. “I merely observed your state of drunkenness, and then tied you to a couch, and then heard you say the word “sover” and then accused you of being drunk.”

“You are wonderful.” I sighed. “But why did you call me here?”

“Because the game is afoot! By which I mean I’ve been playing a game. Nothing about feet, really.”

Holmes went to his dresser, and lifted a cardboard box. He turned it to show me. His own image was on the front, and the name read SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE. He quickly opened the box and emptied its contents out onto the table.

“What kind of game is this, Holmes? There are no dice. No cards. No tiny plastic space marines!”

“Watson, this is not a board game. This is something very special indeed. This is… an experience. An opportunity to live and breathe in the London of Sherlock Holmes and his lover Watson! “

“Holmes, I am not-“

“Let me detail the contents of this box. Inside you will find ten different case files. Each book introduces a case, and then moves onto a section full of paragraphs relevant to visits you might make through the course of your investigation. There is also a map of London. Each building is given a unique code – as you choose to visit a building, you refer to a paragraph in the case file. You see?! There is also a directory of London people and places. Again – should you wish to visit any of these people, you need only refer to the relevant paragraph and find out what you discovered. And finally – Oh! Watson, this does excite me so! – there are newspapers from the London of the day. You will have to pore over these newspapers to find clues, inconsistencies and new leads!”

“Slow down, Holmes!” I exclaimed. “That was a very large block of text. First – how do you investigate these cases?”

Holmes sat, played violin, had a sip of a drink, read a book, finished a game of chess, and smiled. He walked to the fireplace, wrote a novel, and leaned on the mantel. He lit his pipe, made a phone call to the Italian Embassy, instructed a surgeon on how to improve hygiene in the children’s hospital, and fixed me with a steely stare. “I just told you,” he said.

I tried to remember what he had said. It was a challenge indeed, with the ropes making it deliciously difficult for me to breathe. I started making groaning noises in an attempt to gain some assistance from him, but he only sat and stared at me like some kind of android from a 3D science fiction movie, whatever that is.

“Okay, Watson. I can see that you are about to pass out. Let me go further. This game is almost like a choose-your-own-adventure book, except that you are never given any choices. Every move you make in the game, everywhere you go, everyone you visit, is entirely your decision. Indeed, if you do not have your wits about you, you will struggle to know where to go next. The only information you begin with is the details of the case itself, and a knowledge of London and its inhabitants. Using those facts, and anything you find in the newspapers, you will make decisions on where to go, who to see.”

“And do you do this alone?” I asked. Holmes and I liked to play games together.

“You can. But I find that this game is a wonder when played with a friend or a sexual partner. Pour some wine, lay out the map, read the case file… and then conduct your own investigation.”

“But how do you win, Holmes?”

“When you feel that you have enough information to solve the case, you turn to the back of the case file. There you will find some questions. You answer them, and find out your score. You will then compare your score to the score of the master himself, the man you see standing naked before you right now – the great SHERLOCK HOLMES!”

With that, Holmes performed a forward roll that would be the envy of every gymnast in Russia. He leaped to his feet and flashed a smile at me.

“Holmes, you are wonderful,” I sighed. “Can you sum it all up for me, to bring all this to a climax?”

“Indeed. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a wonderful game. An essential purchase. It is a collaborative investigation game, and one that will truly test your brain power. It has a wonderful feel – you will feel like you truly are in London, working alongside the sexy Sherlock Holmes. And the game itself is beautiful. It is a classy, lovely thing. It is –“

At that very point, Holmes flung himself into the fire. Being so full of alcohol, he popped like a fiery balloon. I screamed in terror, but also found it strangely arousing.

“THE GREAT MAN IA!” I screamed, as my couch gained sentience and crawled towards the window. “THE GREAT OLD MAN! IA! IA!” I screamed, and the night air received me, and the moon, and the stars, and the forever.

, .

37 Comments »

  1. Porkolt says:

    I’ll admit this game sounds very interesting.

    But what about replayability? With only 10 cases to go on, doesn’t that mean that after 10 games you’ll be done, because you already know all the answers?

    • juanaricky3 says:

      til I saw the check which was of $9730, I be certain …that…my mother in law was like they say realy taking home money parttime on-line.. there sisters roommate has been doing this 4 only about eleven months and as of now cleared the morgage on their cottage and bourt a gorgeous Saab 99 Turbo. we looked here..Read about

    • Mctittles says:

      I’m curious about this too. If I get the game, and play a test game to see how it works am I now down to 9 games left only?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    I find it somewhat disturbing that I read that with the voices of Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke (and indeed, now we know why!) in my head and somehow none of the dialogue sounded out of place at all.

    • LeMonde says:

      I’ll be reading everything, for the next week, in the voice of Jeremy Brett.

  3. Inigo says:

    I like the Nero Wolfe variant, which has the same rules but also requires gorging on brandy and roasted duck until your heart explodes.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Or the Adrian Monk variant, where you’re compelled to touch every streetlamp (on the map) between each destination and discover new phobias with every case. Just how afraid are you of The Hound of The Baskervilles touching you? Better bring along some extra hand sanitizer!

    • Jesse L says:

      Satisfactory.

  4. Danbanan says:

    This is an updated version of the old sherlock holmes games from the eighties. Yes there are only ten cases but it doesn’t matter. You will get your moneys worth and its hard too. When i played it it usually took med 15+ turns to make a guess and then it was wrong of course then you look at the answer and see how many turns Sherlock took… i think his average is 3 turns or something insane like that.

    With the cool stuff you get in the box, newspaper and map all you need for total immersion is a pipe, a violin and the sound of hooves on cobblestone(opiates optional).

  5. McDan says:

    Alright, that was really really disturbing, one of the strangest cardboard children I’ve ever read actually. How do you do it Rab. (Not how you actually do it, as judging by this it would be very strange). Also the game sounds great, will definetely look it up.

  6. Hikkikomori says:

    “You can. But I find that this game is a wonder when played with a friend or a sexual partner. Pour some wine, lay out the map, read the case file… and then conduct your own investigation.”

    Robert, stop making deep dives into our wallets. Actually nevermind, don’t stop. I love you. Buying it tomorrow with a bottle of absinthe and laudanum.

  7. CptSqweky says:

    How does it compare to the game 221b Baker Street?

    • Roxton says:

      I was wondering this as well. I have 221B at home and have played a handful of times. I always felt that it was a good idea but implemented rather poorly – too many of the clues, for example, are based on word-games or similar rather than deduction from case-clues (e.g. “The evil robot’s name rhymes with something that might be found in a fireplace” etc.). In addition, the fact that you had to travel via dice around an overly large board, combined with the seal/key mechanic that could block off key locations, made it more dependent on chance and mechanics than raw cerebral deduction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not really what I was looking for in a Sherlock Holmes game. Having said that, it had far more than 10 cases (at least a hundred, if I recall correctly), and it was still fun – if rather time consuming – to play.

      The game described above sounds more focused on the deduction, which is something I think I’d enjoy. Right now our house is still exploring the depths of the War on Terror Boardgame, but when we tire of that I might pick this up, especially as two of them (myself not included!) are big Holmes fans.

    • Corey Cole says:

      Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is to 221B Baker Street as Magic: the Gathering is to Crazy Eights. 221B is a pastime; Consulting Detective is a serious intellectual challenge. To me, it is also a much more fun game. Definitely two thumbs up (or perhaps a 9/10 rating vs. 3/10 for 221B).

      Lori and I played Consulting Detective extensively in the 80′s. It made a good party game as well as fun for a couple. The cases were very well written and had some interesting twists. In addition to the base game, there were several expansions including West End Adventures and The Queen’s Park Affair.

      The latter was designed as a contest. No looking up the answers at the end. You solved the case to the best of your ability, then mailed your answers to the company to try to be the first to completely solve it. It was a rather strange adventure, involving drunk or stoned cricketers, a missing reporter, and a prison escape among many other mysteries (if I recall correctly).

      Zojoi has made a series of PC game cases based on the originals. I have them as a result of their Shadowgate Kickstarter, but haven’t played them yet.

  8. sinister agent says:

    I am pretty sure we had this game when I was a kid. Can’t remember ever playing it properly, though, I was too young to understand it. We had a bloody tonne of board games that we never played, to be honest.

  9. One Pigeon says:

    An excellent review that made me chuckle all the way through.
    Also, a game that my ladypartner may be willing to play with me too! Excellent news since Mage Knight is staring down at me accusingly from the shelf as I type this. It was a no go’er.

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    Bluerps says:

    I think this was the best board game review I’ve ever read. It was definitely the most insane.

  11. Zaxwerks says:

    Well I’ve found my first clue… according to the box art in the picture the game is called “Sherlock Holmes consulting detectVive”

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      DetectVive, is it? Aha! So, it was the Mysterious Manchester Gentleman who was outside the window in the carriage with the loose wheel at four of the clock that night!

      None other than a gentleman who was trained in the art of typesetting at the prestigious “Barzdai School of Typesetting and Box-Folding” could have done such a thing! And the Barzdai School is only open to Lithuanian nobility, so that means the Count couldn’t possibly have been on the boat to France when the scullery-maid saw the shadow on her petticoats!

      With this fact in hand, the entire alibi of the Watchmaker’s Apprentice falls apart under the most casual scrutiny. Without his testimony, the entire matter of the Absent Herring folds up like a shoddily-constructed house of cards, thus confirming the Mysterious Manchester Gentleman’s claim to have been both the motive and the alibi. This leads me to one inescapable conclusion…

      I must be the murderer. Take me away, Inspector Gregory.

  12. rifflesby says:

    The big question (for those of us who own the original 80s version + expansions) is: are they the same cases as in the originals, or new ones?

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    Jubaal says:

    Thanks Rab, excellent column as always. Finally a board game I think my wife would enjoy.

    Just ordered it and will keep my fingers crossed for a good reception from Mrs Jubaal.

    • Kefren says:

      Or my own case, added in to the game as a mod:

      It wasn’t the worst crime scene ever, but there was something about the way the body lay which made me feel something tingling in my spine, that sixth sense that allowed me to solve cases at the last hour with a sudden hunch that always proved right.

      “Who’s the dame?” I asked Sun Wat, the new transferee on a cultural exchange. I had my suspicions about Sun Wat. She wasn’t a small China woman. I’d seen her smoking a pipe. Something smelt off, and that’s an Eastern promise.

      “Madam ‘Tanya Arse’, I think you would call her a mistress?” Sun Wat growled in her throaty way.

      It made sense. The dead dame did look like lady whiplash, wearing wild leather leggings looped by bestudded belts. The dark and dangling dildo made my teeth clench. Something smelt off, and you can strap that promise on and call it Judith.

      “Do you want to examine the body?” rumbled Sun Wat.

      “I don’t need to,” I said calmly. “See that plastic boner? It’s 12 inches long, I estimate. It all adds up. She was on the game, and it’s a foot (long), Sun Wat.”

      I didn’t bother with the forensic results. I was tired of them. They seem to be everywhere nowadays. I didn’t need them. I had a hunch. It didn’t help me directly but people felt sympathy for me, that and the limp: sometimes they opened up.

      The woman with her feet on my desk could have been a body double for the dildo dangle deceased dame. ‘Tanya Cheex’, she’d said on entering, holding out her hand.

      “Bet you could,” I replied, eyeing up her whip.

      Something smelt off, like an egg.

      Two sisters? Both long legged dominat- domitrices- dom- ix – whip women. My senses tingled.

      “Why’d you kill her?” I asked.

      “Kill my sister, what do you mean?” she replied.

      “It was worth a try,” I said. Sometimes they crack under the pressure of my interrogation. I’m a tough dick to face, I’m told. The toughest. I never go soft on ‘em. But this was one tough cookie. Like that one my Gran did once with broken pieces of gobstopper in. I wasn’t swallowing that, and I wasn’t following this dame’s lines either.

      “You know we found a secret panel in your sister’s dungeon?” I was toying with her, old School, 1983 without the batteries. “A secret panel that would hold someone of about… 6 foot one.”

      “I’m 5 foot eight,” she replied smugly.

      “Not in those 5 inch heels you’re not!” I yelled. “Book her, boys!”

      As she was dragged out she angrily spat, cat-like “How’d you work all this fairy story out?”

      “My hunch. My lovely manly lump. My hump, my hump, my hump. Now, take her out.”

      Another case solved, another scum sucking, mud crawling, bottom feeder locked away where the Sun Wat don’t shine.

      “Oops, I did it again,” I thought as I lit my pipe. “After all, I’m 6 foot one in brogues.”

    • Esteis says:

      Good to see this here: the last paragraph made me, too, think of Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald”. It is indeed a fantastic short story, and it beautifully captures Arthur Conan Doyle’s style.

      I am not, as I said, a writer by profession, and I hesitate to describe that place, knowing that my words cannot do it justice. Still, I have begun this narrative, and I fear I must continue. A murder had been committed in that little bedsit. The body, what was left of it, was still there, on the floor. I saw it, but, at first, somehow, I did not see it. What I saw instead was what had sprayed and gushed from the throat and chest of the victim: in colour it ranged from bile-green to grass-green. It had soaked into the threadbare carpet and spattered the wallpaper. I imagined it for one moment the work of some hellish artist, who had decided to create a study in emerald.

  14. Melipone says:

    Fantastic review Rab; that made my morning.

  15. Doghaus says:

    That was amusing, but does anyone have a link to the publisher’s website or something where there’s actual information about the game?

    My feeble Google skills are bringing up the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective the board game from the ’80s, the mobile app, the full motion video DVD game, the card game and online shops that don’t stock it.

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  17. Saarlaender39 says:

    So, this is actually a remake/reprint of the Game of the year 1985, “Sherlock Holmes Criminal Cabinet”?
    Bought that one (in wonderful Condition) a few months ago on Ebay.
    Very nice game.

  18. Firkragg says:

    Bloody brilliant, this will make the perfect birthday gift for my twin sister. Shes a huge Sherlock fan and even more perfect, will happen to be in London when I send it over :)