Of Gates and Sherlock

gate in the seaHere’s a sample chapter for my new Pathfinder book, Through the Gate in the Sea. You want underwater adventure with a daring salvager and her lizard man friend, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been writing some promo spots for the book in the last few days, the first of which will be going up at Paizo soon. I’ll post a link when it’s ready.

In other news, I finally tried out the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective game. If you’re not in the know, it has a venerable history. Decades old, it was a co-op game long before those were in vogue, sort of a cross between a choose-your-own adventure book and a, well, I don’t know what else, because it’s pretty unique. At this point it’s gone through a number of editions, complete with hard-to-find expansions and one-offs that drive completists like me crazy (although not as crazy as my pal John O’Neill, because he sometimes finds games in shrink wrap and then won’t dare open them… so has to buy another, the madman).

sherlock holmes west endThe French seemed to have loved this Sherlock Holmes game more than anyone else. You’d think it would be the English, but it really took off in France, where the current publishers are based. They’ve been steadily producing expansions that the non-French speaking public hasn’t been able to read. Now, though, many of those expansions are slated for release in English. An odd problem was created when some of the cases were re-translated back from French to English — two cases were a little broken as a result — but that’s supposed to have been cleared up now, and the new version of the original game that featured those cases is supposed to be available later this year. Prior to that, some point mid year, will be ANOTHER expansion. (Well, I SAY expansion, but it’s actually a complete game in itself using the same system, just as the one I picked up.) That’s a total of three boxed games, or thirty cases, some of which are interconnected.

Working in their free time, fans of the game have created some outstanding expansions on their own, and some translators have donated their free time to make some of those European cases available in English. If you visit the Files section of the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective page on Board Game Geek you can find many of these. So long as you have a game board and the directory from one of the boxed sets (like the one I bought last month) you’ll be able to play most of these cases. ( To get them you have to visit others cases’ individual pages — again, you have to check their file sections.)

Right now the only in print edition, released last month, is Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective — Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures. It comes with six standalone cases and four interconnected cases and while it’s an “expansion”  you don’t need any other pieces to play.

consulting detective

Main game, with casebooks in front. Folded map is in back.

Judging by how much fun was had by my wife and son and me last night, I think we’ll be playing for a while to come. I didn’t run it exactly as intended. I decided to present the thing as a game master and them as players, complete to creating personalities for their sleuths. Rather than reading out the encounter from the paragraph book once they’d arrived at a location, I’d have them role-play what they were doing and I’d role-play the people encountered. I even occasionally had them roll dice for things.

The game comes with a wonderful map of Victorian London and a London directory of locations and addresses and businesses that must be visited to investigate the mysteries, and casebooks devoted to the different mysteries that include the clues and red herrings and secret codes that must be cracked — there are all kinds of great puzzles. There are also lovingly created facsimile newspapers in the style of The Times from Holmes’ era, and info in those newspapers can be used in any case. For instance, a later case might require some data that’s found in one of the earlier papers. So you have to be paying attention and do a lot of thinking!

Rather than starting with the cases in the box, I opted to begin with a shorter, fan created case by Yann Gentil, titled “The Hanged Man,” translated for the sheer love of the game by a gentleman named Dominic Mahon. I pulled it down from BoardGame Geek, studied up on it until I knew the motivations and the clues and all that, then created a framing story that served as an origin for the characters and how they met Sherlock Holmes, and ran it.

Boy, were the players transported. They had just an immense amount of fun, and you know what, so did I. We’re really looking forward to playing again. They LOVED using the map, and the directory, and the newspapers, and struggling to solve the code, and tracking down the puzzles… it was a blast.


3 Comments on “Of Gates and Sherlock

  1. That’s funny, I just received the game and after a solo playtrough of a couple of scenarios my first though was I’m going to run this with my friends as a rpg. Glad to hear it worked out well.

    You should check out Mythos Tales as well. It is really the exact same game mechanically, only this one deals with Lovecraftian horror. Just a heads up, you will need to look up the errata files on boardgame geek before playing each case as there are quite a few errors within.


    • Thanks for the rec. I’d been looking at it. I’ve read complaints that the first case or so are a little linear and that it is riddled with errors, but I also hear that it’s pretty good, so I found a copy that had all 9 cases and went ahead and ordered it.

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