Hi. Barb here, feeling nostalgic about mystery games.
When I was a kid, my family wouldn’t play Clue with me. I always won. The story became family lore and got spun a couple of different ways. I always contended they wouldn’t play with me. My mother claimed I gave up playing with them because it was too easy. Either way, perhaps my future as a mystery writer was foretold.
It was not until I was a grown-up with kids of my own that I discovered the ultimate mystery game: Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. When our kids were small, Bill and I used to vacation with another couple, and once we had wrestled the three, and later four kids to bed, we played this game every single night.
The game, which was published in 1981, had the best game board ever. A map of London. To this day, huge swaths of my London geography knowledge hark back to what I learned playing this game.
The players in the game are the Baker Street Irregulars, personified by Wiggins. At the beginning of the game Sherlock gathers you and gives you the case, which is contained, along with all the clues, in a big brown notebook.
The players take turns moving around London and collecting clues. You might start at the scene of the crime, or go Scotland Yard to find out what they’ll tell you. You interview witnesses, who lead you to others with information and suspects. There’s a newspaper for each day of the case, where you can read reports of what’s happened, but also check the advertisements, personal ads and articles that at first seem unrelated. If you are stuck and suspect has an international angle, you might consult with Mycroft. Or maybe hang around the Inns of Court and hear what the gossip is.
The game is completely collaborative. Everyone hears every clue. You are working together to solve the case. There are no dice or spinners or spaces to count, so there is no luck involved at all. You determine where you want to go and in what order.
We would play for hours, often interrupted by encore appearances by our offspring. One memorable night the five-year-old appeared on the balcony ringing the two story living room to announce, “Mom! Dad! My heart’s stopped beating!” Reassured that his heart had certainly not stopped beating, he was led off again to bed.
Together the players decide when they are ready to name the suspect and provide their theory of the case. Then you answer eight to ten questions, comparing your solution to Sherlock’s. The trick is to know when enough is enough, when you have enough clues to make the intuitive leaps required to construct the right solution.
The game later had extensions, additional cases and boards. Even later, it became a video game, but we never followed it there. To me, it’s just happy memories of long summer nights, relaxing with good friends.
Do you have a favorite mystery game? Any other Sherlock players out there?