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Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars: First Impressions

The Original Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars

The Original Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street IrregularsThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are a rich source of inspiration for game designers. A quick search on BGG yields dozens of results bearing the master detective’s name. Taking on the Holmes theme challenges game designers to come up with an innovative twist on the source material. The Original Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars, the second game from small publisher Baskerville Productions does just that. With nearly 1,000 backers on Kickstarter and more than $40,000 pledged, let’s take a look at the Baker Street Irregulars.

The lights are on, but no-one’s Holmes

Whereas most Holmes games follow the path of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and deliver up a narrative driven deducing game, Baker Street Irregulars applies the Holmes theme to a card drafting, set collection mechanism. Another twist is that the main focus is not the titular mastermind himself, but his network of plucky informants.

Fans of the Holmes stories will know that the Baker Street Irregulars were Sherlock’s covert eyes and ears in the seedy underworld of Victorian London. These street urchins could pass unsuspected and unnoticed through the capital’s underbelly, gathering information to help Holmes crack his cases. In Baker Street Irregulars, players use these spies in the form of tokens to collect evidence cards, in the hope of arresting a rogue’s gallery of villains drawn from the Sherlock universe.

Baker Street Irregulars

The Game is Afoot

The game is played in 4 rounds consisting of 4 cycles. Each cycle consists of 3 phases. In the first phase, investigation, 2-5 players are dealt 5 evidence cards each from the middle of the table. They will choose one, providing they have enough Baker Street Irregulars tokens left in their supply to pay for it. Once everyone has chosen, players reveal their card and add it to their display. Play then moves on to the second phase, arrest.

In the arrest phase, you are trying to match symbols on your evidence cards to those underneath the villains currently revealed. It usually requires four symbols, but the dastardly Moriarty will only be caught with all nine symbols. Do you go for the big prize? Or should you scoop up several smaller villains while your opponents chase the elusive supervillain down the smoky alleyways of London?

Finally, when everyone has had a chance to perform an arrest, players can place one of their irregulars on a villain as a tail. Once placed, this tail can’t be moved or regained. It will therefore reduce your stock of available Baker Street Irregulars by one until that villain is brought to justice. However, tailing is useful as you can use a tail as a substitute for one symbol when arresting.

Consulting Detective

After the fourth cycle in each round, the remaining cards are revealed and put into a sort of marketplace. Added to this marketplace are three bonus characters: Watson, Wiggins and Holmes. Players now get the opportunity to acquire the left-over evidence cards or one of the bonus cards. Turn order is decided by who has the most irregulars left in their supply.

The single-use bonuses conferred by the characters in the following round can be super effective. Wiggins will let you shift your tail, allowing you to react better to the cards in the draft or a newly revealed villain. Watson will allow you to move up the arrest order, giving you a greater chance of gazumping your opponent on a villain you were both tailing. Holmes has two powers to choose from. Either move to the top of the turn order or cash him in as a wild symbol when making an arrest.

Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars

His Last Bow

At the end of the fourth round, players get a chance to buy the remaining evidence cards and an opportunity to make one last arrest before scoring. Players calculate their scores by adding up the value of the villains they caught and adding it to the special bonuses available on the back of their character cards.

These bonuses provide an extra level of complexity when choosing evidence cards, because players can only choose to score one of three options. Will you have scored more for matching pairs of evidence cards from the same story, collecting evidence with the correct colour curtain rope or from a set of the type of evidence needed?

The winner is the person who has accumulated the most points. In the case of a tie, players fight it out on a treacherous mountain path until one or both tumbles down the Reichenbach Falls to their doom. Only kidding, there are actual fool-proof rules for deciding ties for those among you who can’t handle a CLIFFHANGER – I’ll get my coat.

Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars – Final Thoughts

Baker Street Irregulars is not the deduction or mystery game that you might expect, but Holmes fans will get pleasure recognising the obscure and not so obscure villains that pop up. They will also enjoy the beautiful artwork on the evidence cards. Pictured here is only a prototype early release copy, but the quality of the cards and illustrations is already top notch. Additionally included in the full game are plot twists. These add a new rule each round and hamper the detective’s investigations and plans.

You don’t have to know anything about Holmes to enjoy the basic flow of the game, however. This is a perfectly enjoyable light to mid-weight card game that would work well for the family with older kids. It might even inspire them to pick up a book dig into the source material too.