221b BAKER STREET – Review

Created by Gibson, 2-6 players age 10+.

Here we have a game recreated by Gibson from the original 221b Baker Street of 1975. Fitting for us at Retro Reviewer to be reviewing another game that has lasted the test of time and had an overhaul, bringing it back to life and onto even more shelves. With it’s shiny new black cover, the game inside is not too dissimilar to the original, and is more obvious when you see the board.

Quote: “Victorian London and somewhere from within the gloom of the swirling mist, a muffled cry is heard followed soon after by the sound of running feet.  It’s nearly midnight and most honest folk have long since taken to their beds.”   The game is afoot! Gibson 2014.

This game can be either competitive or collaborative dependent on the players level of knowledge i.e. General Knowledge.  The reason I mention this is that the clues to the cases cover an array of genres that span decades of history, using knowledge of the English Language as well as pop music, old wives tales, and many many more, I don’t want to give the game away of course.

The premise is simple, remember this is an old game, therefore it has old mechanics, it’s a typical roll and move game with many empty spaces on the board and you can spend a lot of your time rolling and moving, to then do nothing until your next turn.  Simple actions are also involved. Players just need to go into every building they can and gain a clue from each place they visit.  There are 75 Case cards in the base game, each game uses one Case card, the card will instruct you on what you need to discover. You are all Sherlock Holmes, so dust off your deerstalker, clean up your magnifying glass and get detecting!

We like this game for many different reasons, myself (Jayne) I love a good clue driven detective game, and I love all things Sherlock Holmes, having a wealth of ‘random’ knowledge in my head allows me to draw on this during the game and have that feeling of achievement when I am able to solve a clue when my younger counterparts can’t. Hecate also enjoys this game for she too has a wealth of similar knowledge in her head, she has a mind for solving the clues and is able to use her process of deduction to get the results needed to win, and win she does. Others in our team are not so enthusiastic about the game if we are honest. Emily finds the game frustrating as she has difficulty in solving the clues and the game is better played collaboratively with both Emily and Sean.

Each clue is found written in the rule book, the pages are vast, the clue pool is enormous, and this is why the game is easily played again and again. However, and there is an ‘however’, if you have solved all 75 cases then the game replayablity for you is over, and that is when you can purchase the expansion pack to keep going with an additional 50 cases. (Both Base game and expansion pack links can be found at the foot of this blog).

Retro Reviewer Criteria:

  1. Overall strategy – Apart from being able to answer the clues, that is really the only strategy you will need to play this game, dice rolling is how you move around the board and you will need to visit nearly all of the buildings along the way.  There are some aspects where you can lock a door to stop others from entering but this doesn’t really hinder the game too much.
  2. Originality and integration of theme – Back in the 1970’s when Sherlock Holmes began to appear on the television as a series in the mid 60’s and in the film The Private life of Sherlock Holmes in the 70’s, this game would have been very popular. The theme is integrated in the buildings of London around the board, the types of cases are specific to the era, and are narratively similar to those that were created by Arthur Connan Doyle in his novels of Sherlock Holmes and the cases he worked on.
  3. Depth of skill needed – Again as mentioned above, general knowledge and being able to solve clues ie crossword clues, is key to this game.
  4. Originality in the game mechanics – These game mechanics would have probably been innovative in the 1970’s. Modern day mechanics of dice rolling seems to be dwindling in the hobby board game market, but the traditionalist is happy to roll a die or two and not do anything if landing on a blank square, which is perfect as this game has a lot of standing around waiting for your next turn.
  5. Interaction of Players – Collaborative you will be solving clues to crack the case, individually the only interaction you will have is ‘Can you pass the book when you have finished please’ and ‘It’s your turn’!
  6. Luck factor – Luck on the roll of the die, luck on knowing what a riddle means and even more luck on remembering what the answer could be as this will win you the game.
  7. Rule Book – The rules are simple, as mentioned the rule book is enormous but the majority of the 79 pages are clues, the rules themselves span only across  5 pages and are easy to follow.
  8. Fun factor – (Eight kinds of fun) –
    1. Sensation – If you like a colorful game board, then this has it, if you like rolling a die, then this game has that too.
    2. Fantasy – the game pulls you into a very basic world of Victorian London and Sherlock Holmes and his detective work.
    3. Narrative – you need to follow the narrative to crack the clues and solve the case.
    4. Discovery – you will learn new random knowledge facts as you progress through the game, which could come in handy for the next time you are stuck on a crossword!
  9. Emotions of players during and afterwards – The game is quite passive, the only time you would become a little frustrated is if a player lands on your square, as they can send you to the other side of the board if they wish, as it takes a long time to travel from one side to the other, with multiple empty turns, that can become a little annoying.  When you guess a clue or when you know a riddle you feel quite clever and get back on your clue solving horse and away you trot, with a new enthusiasm saying ‘I can do this!’ attitude… you would hope it lasts throughout the game.
  10. Replayability – You can play this game 75 times but will then need to buy the expansion to solve an additional 50, unless you have left this game for 3-4 decades without playing and totally forgotten the answers to the cases, you could play it again from scratch 🙂

Overall comments: This game is a nice game to have, it is not one that you would pull out time and time again but is very suitable for occasionally and as something different if you have guests (if we ever have guest again in this pandemic nightmare we are currently living in). It is an escape and quite a pleasant one at that.  The pawns are plastic 3D printed Sherlock Holmes’ head and shoulders and that in itself is quite twee.

If this is the game for you and you’re intrigued by our review and want to purchase this game, support a small business and click here for the Amazon link:

 

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EXPANSION PACK:

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Disclaimer: as part of the Amazon Affiliates Programme, we will receive a small percentage of your purchase of this game, this does not affect the price you pay, but we want to thank you for supporting us through this programme.

 

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