Board Game Review

A Simplified, Yet Complex Solution (221B Baker Street)

This review is enchantingly also available at Zatu here.

Ever watch a detective show where the main character constantly plays dumb, makes zero progress towards solving the crime, then at the last moment has a brainwave and explains every detail clearly and catches the bad-guy? Well… That’s 221B Baker Street by Gibsons. And it’s amazing. These types of detective shows are what inspire a lot of gamers to take on games with a mystery/solution focus; you investigate a town, find clues, question people, rule out suspects and solve the mystery. This family friendly game relies on a lot of concentration and reading between the lines, but it is possible to solve. Very possible.

You, alongside your other players, will take on the roles of competing detectives all attempting to solve a crime that has occurred in old London Town. There are 75 cases to solve, 1000 clues to sort through, and several things to find for each case, so the game isn’t short of complications. But don’t let that fool you! Of the 75 cases you’ll be solving one per game and the clues associated with it are dictated at the start to ensure there’s no confusion… (I promise!) The game is centred around you trying to solve a crime by investigating the town and it’s associated buildings, identifying the culprit, their weapon and the motive, and then reporting back to 221B Baker Street to explain your solution.

You’ll start with Case 1 (unless you’re a rebel) and you’ll read the overview for the case. This will entail those involved, the victim, the key locations and potentially a hidden clue. You’ll then be told which clue each location on the board is associated to (these are listed off in the clue book, listen from 1-1000). Some clues will be very point blank and explain ‘who-dunnit’, whereas others may give you half a clue, and some don’t help at all! I seriously recommend writing down the number of the clue associated to the location when they’re reeled off, you’ll speed up gameplay a lot!! When you enter a location, you’ll look through the clue book for the associated clue and find out what the building’s inhabitants have to say. Frustratingly though, the folk living in London are terrible at passing on information, often playing word association games, saying half a clue, asking a general knowledge question as a clue, or just being as long-winded as possible when passing on their clues. You’d think they’d want to help the police with their investigations, but you’d be wrong. Most of the deduction comes, not from the clues, but how you use them. Missing out on some clues but picking up others can fill in the blanks in some cases! Old school Sherlock Holmes had a lot of red herrings throughout his investigations, and 221B Baker Street is no different. The most critical clue may be the most overlooked, and some of London’s inhabitants may not be as helpful as expected.

Moving around the board can feel slow as they’re based on a D6 result, but as you get more and more clues you’ll appreciate the time between to collate your ideas. Of course, being in competition with other detectives means that you too can be as problematic as the inhabitants of old London Town. Each player starts with a lock and a key. When you enter a building to get a clue, you can then lock it to prevent others from getting in without spending their key. You can collect more locks from Scotland Yard, and you can get more keys from the Locksmith too. A favourite play of mine is locking the Locksmiths up. Sweet irony.

It’s incredible how many London’s inhabitants point the finger at random people for no reason, but you’ll need to have visited most of the locations and cracked all of the clues you’ve found to have any hope of solving the case. On top of that, being certain is more important than being the first to solve it; you only get one guess! I’d recommend writing down as much key info for each clue and working with only what you know to solve everything. Then, once you have a culprit, a weapon and a motive, head on over to 221B and declare your thoughts! Once you’ve done so, preferably in the overly complicated style of Holmes himself, you’ll check the case solution section of the clue book and either read out the solution if you’re correct, or bashfully put the book back in shame if you’re wrong. When you know the solution, there’s always that moment of either “I KNEW IT” or “Oh I get it now!”, which is great really. Very rarely have we been in a situation of not having a clue at all and being lost at the end!

This game puts you in Sherlock Holmes’ shoes. It’s an experience and it’s exactly what you would expect it to be; cracking clues and solving cases. The component quality is on point for the game, with every player token being a severed Sherlock head and the players’ sheets having enough space to get the key details on (though I always end up on the back of the sheet). The helpful clues always point to something of importance and the solutions give enough explanation into the case’s story. In terms of replay-ability… You could play the cases again, and you’re likely to have forgotten the solutions and clues, but 75 cases should keep you busy! The engagement of this game is its key element. Your mind will be entirely focussed on solving the case and breaking it down; no chance of being able to get sidetracked with anything else… But then again, the only interaction you’ll have with other players is going to be locking buildings and making sly comments to your competitors to take them off the trail (playing the Moriarty!). This game is excellent for anyone who is looking for a chance to feel like the investigator extraordinaire himself, and for anyone with a keen interest in puzzles this will also be a hit! See if you can crack the case!