In the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (SHCD) cooperative deduction game it’s your business to know what other people do not know. The newest iteration of the series, The Baker Street Irregulars, was developed by designer Dave Neale and published by Space Cowboys. In the ten cases included in this standalone set, players take on the role of Sherlock’s trusty group of street children, the Irregulars, and are thrust into a curious world of intrigue, scandal, and murder. Do you have what it takes to help Sherlock Holmes investigate the unique crimes found within? Enter the fog-filled London streets and be at the ready to follow those leads.
Each casebook in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective starts with a narrative introduction and gives a general idea of how to approach an investigation. Players can then consult the provided map of London to determine the best locations to visit that will lead to the next vital clue. The map has five districts and prominent sites are numbered so they can be easily referenced. Each case features a copy of the local in-era newspaper, The Times, which may include pertinent case information. Also provided is a list of Sherlock’s frequent informants and a London directory. The directory features names, businesses, and lists of organizations that may be utilized throughout play.
With all of this information in hand, players must identify the best possible leads with the information gleaned at each location. One case may task players with visiting the scene of a crime, only to then be confronted with multiple angles on what may have happened. Thus, possibilities fluctuate and provide plenty of opportunities for pushing the narrative forward. Players may even find cases morphing into something completely different as information shifts and distorts the scope of the crime.
Options will eventually dwindle as you get closer to the solution or find yourself chasing a bad lead. There’s only so much time you can spend on the streets of London before you have to accept the information you’ve collected and move to solve the case. Before you return to Sherlock with your deductions, you are confronted with two series of questions that must be answered. The first series will directly relate to the case, whereas the second series will relate to mysteries or puzzles players may have encountered along the way.
Answering these questions correctly allows players to earn points toward end game scoring. And you’ll need all the points you can get. When you arrive at the solution, the number of leads taken is compared to how Sherlock would have solved the case. For each extra lead beyond Sherlock’s “perfect” solution, points are subtracted from those gained while answering the two sets of case questions. To earn Sherlock’s respect, you must score 100 points. While this may not be impossible, the challenge is certainly real.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a text-heavy storytelling game that requires focus, heavy note-taking, and the ability to parse information to deduce potential pathways forward. It can be played as a group but is best at two players who can bounce ideas off of each other to spark new life into the decision space. The first four cases can be played in any order. The final six cases are loosely linked together as they require players to refer back to previous newspapers to dig for potential clues and locations. Playing cases in order is recommended.
The approach to The Baker Street Irregulars feels like a reintroduction to the series and is a great way for new gamers to experience the fun. The narrative during the ten cases spans from 1885 to 1890. It features a heavy emphasis on the ragtag group of kids that Sherlock Holmes utilized as his investigative team. You play their role in previous Consulting Detective collections, but here the lives of these clever children are brought to the forefront and encompass a much larger thematic emphasis for the events at play.
It is due to this focus that The Baker Street Irregulars feels fresh. There’s a cohesive vision here, and without going into the specifics of any case, there is plenty of heart on display with regard to both design and narration. As each case unfolds, players will find themselves attaching closer to the young detectives as more casework comes to light. This iteration brings many highlights that stand among the best cases created for the SHCD series.
The Baker Street Irregulars also features a new investigation design. Some leads allow you to circle letters on a play aid that will come in handy when exploring locations further or asking experts and potential suspects clarifying questions. This new addition opens up the lead work in compelling and intricate ways, as you may return to an old lead with a circled letter and break the case wide open.
This narrative series has come a long way since the original set of cases. The first collection centered on the Thames, whereas the second used Jack the Ripper as a thematic element for several cases. The third allowed players to explore a single location, Carlton House, in much more detail, and also added the Queen’s Park set that spanned multiple cases. Not all of these elements worked for us, especially the Jack the Ripper cases, but for the most part the Consulting Detective series has had more highs than lows. The Baker Street Irregulars feels like the most complete collection yet.
With that said, it isn’t without its faults. True to form, some cases see Sherlock taking deductive reasoning to an unbelievable level, making it hard to surpass his score. Other cases feature pathways that can only be followed if you’ve picked up on a very specific moment in the story. It can certainly leave players frustrated when something is revealed in the solution that seems so easy to discover in hindsight. There’s also one case in particular that features a solution that didn’t feel believable to us, even if the ride was fun.
But this shouldn’t stop you from seeking out The Baker Street Irregulars. Overall, the price of admission is reasonable even if you’ll only be able to play each case one time through. Considering that this may just be the best collection yet is further reason to be excited to reenter the streets of London. There are so many interesting characters to meet, including many of your favorites. And then there’s the Great Detective, watching from afar, awaiting the results of your arduous investigation. True to form, Sherlock Holmes is ever prepared to demonstrate that he always knows what others do not.
The Baker Street Irregulars is a can’t-miss collection of new cases. It may surpass all previous sets with its focus on exciting new mechanics and top-notch narration. I recommend this as the go-to set for anyone who has not yet played the series.
Final Score: 4.5 – Don’t let this reintroduction to the series fool you. It’s filled with a wonderful cast of characters, many memorable cases, and plenty of hidden details to satiate the detective within.
• A great starting point for new investigators with plenty for seasoned sleuths to enjoy.
• Brings a narrative cohesion not seen in the other Consulting Detective collections.
• The circled letter mechanic creates a new dynamic for following leads.
• Sherlock’s deductions can feel like a leap of logic.
• One case, in particular, stretches the limits of believability even if it isn’t impossible to solve.