Origins Game Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Game: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Status: in development            Style: Board/RPG/Miniature?
Publisher: Hampster Press       Author: Chris Engle (Matrix Games)
Ages: 10+ for required patience
Recommended for:Sherlockians, people who like open-ended games and storytelling

Gearbox and I were expecting a traditional, table-top board game… so, in other words, we had no idea what we were getting into.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a Matrix games-based Sherlock scenario. If you’ve never played a Matrix game (and I have to confess I had not even heard of them), they are a loosely-GM’d RPG/miniature hybrid.

The game has a simple setup. The board is a map of London. Various characters (Victorian miniatures) are placed on the map (including Holmes and Watson, of course). A marker is used to denote the location of the current scene.

The gameplay has few rules. We could move the piece that marked the scene location, any of the characters, or even invent characters. Sometimes the GM would give a small clue or name a character, but mostly he sat back and observed. We took turns (in no particular order) speaking dialog and describing actions. A die could be used if someone felt an action/idea didn’t fit… but I think it only got used once.

Our group was a mix — game designers, casual players, and a keen teen. Despite the gulfs in experience between the players, the game worked. It was collaborative and messy. We wrote ourselves into corners. Argued about the next move. We had long moments of silence while we contemplated the clock (which was quickly approached the end of the game), our notes, and the messy storyline we had made. In the end, we wrapped up the story, saved Mr. Smith from the asylum, and sent the bad guys to prison via Lastrade. Gearbox and I left exhausted and buzzing with excitement.

When this system works, it is magic. Ideas feed off of ideas. Players run with good ideas. Dead ends find magical escape hatches. Or get abandoned. And a story gets told that is satisfying and fun. Gearbox and I have not stopped talking about this one.

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