221B Baker Street

John N. Hansen Co, 1977, 2-6 players, no age range specified so let's say 10 and up. 221B Baker Street is (as one would expect) a game of sleuthing and deduction set in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Play commences by selecting a case card and reading the particulars of the case (generally just a couple of paragraphs outlining the crime in question, the persons involved, and what questions must be answered in order to "win"). Players then take turns rolling a six-sided die and moving around to different locations on the board. Each location (generally) provides some sort of clue (sometimes straightforward, sometimes cryptic) as to the "who", "how" and "why" of the crime. Players look up said clues in the clue book and read them to themselves (making notes on the provided note sheets).

Players can use "Scotland Yard" cards to lock a location after they've visited it. And in a similar vein, other players can use "Skeleton Key" cards to unlock a locked location. Replacement Yard and Key cards are freely available at the Scotland Yard and Locksmith locations. Once a player feels he can answer all of the specified questions about the crime he moves his piece to the starting location, writes down his answers and then compares them to the answers in the solution book. If he gets them all right, he wins. If he doesn't, he's out and has to sit around and wait for someone else to solve the case.

This is an OK game that's easy to get started playing and plays very quickly. However, it does have a few problems. First off, this business of rolling dice and moving around the board in order to visit different locations (and thus find the clues) seems pretty superfluous (not to mention tedious). After the first case, we decided to speed things up by rolling two dice for movement instead of just one.

The cases (and the clues that make them up) are actually pretty sophisticated (and entertaining). Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason as to why a given clue is associated with a particular location. Consequently, there's not really any strategy to be employed when deciding where you're going to go next (basically boiling down to whatever location happens to be closest). Also, the mechanic of locking and unlocking locations seems pretty half-baked (basically becoming a non-event). I think it'd be a lot more interesting if players were given one Yard card at the beginning of the game and that's it (no Keys and no further Yard cards). Allowing players to permanantly lock access to a limited number of locations would definitely add some spice to the proceedings.

My main problem with the game is the almost complete lack of player interaction. Basically you're rolling dice, moving around, reading from the clue book, making notes... and that's it. At one point during a four-player game I looked up from my note sheet and realized that we'd basically been playing the whole game in almost complete silence. And hell, where's the fun in that?

The game comes with twenty cases, and once you've burned through those you're pretty much done. However, I'm told that numerous expansion sets (providing additional cases) have been published over the years.

Spookshow Home