Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a mystery-solving game that requires you to work your way through a series of cases as you match wits with London’s Greatest detective
Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is a stand-alone expansion for Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. It offers a 4-case campaign as you attempt to thwart Jack the Ripper himself, along with a series of 6 new cases in the vein of the earlier Sherlock game.
If you’re not familiar with Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, then I’d recommend checking out my review from last autumn of the original set (also known as The Thames Murders and Other Cases), as I won’t be going over all the basics again. If you know the game and just want the low-down on this new instalment, then jump right in.
What’s in the box? Some very nice books
I thought that the version of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective that I reviewed last year was a good game, and it looked nice, but there were certainly some production issues that repeated playing of the game uncovered.
Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is a definite step up. The box is more solid (opening sideways in a drawer-like fashion) and the books inside are a better quality of paper, printed in a nice clear font that removes the issues the previous version had of trying to decipher calligraphy-like text. Where the base game became almost a byword for typos and errors, Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures has clearly been thoroughly proof-read and, whilst there are still 1 or 2 errors that made it through the net, the overall impression is much better.
Side-by-side comparison of the fonts in the previous box and this one
Aside from fonts and editing, there are lots of nice little touches in Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures, which might seem like small things, but actually make a big difference in enhancing the game play experience: the answers to the questions at the end of each case are now on a separate sheet of paper in an envelope, making it much less likely that you’ll accidentally catch sight of them during your investigation, and likewise the questions themselves and the solution which follows are printed upside-down at the back of the book.
Rather than just 10 virtually identical issues of The Times (as seen in the original game), Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures comes with a more varied selection of Newspapers, which again helps to liven things up a little, and provide some interesting variety.
The map and the directory have changed very little from the main version of the game – 90% of the time, you could probably use them interchangeably, but obviously it’s best to use the version that came with the cases you’re currently trying to solve.
Jack the Ripper
The Jack the Ripper cases in Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures are the biggest departure gameplay wise from the original Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. Based on the real-life events which took place in 1888, these cases have a much darker tone than the concocted Sherlock investigations, and feature some dark and frequently rather vivid descriptions of crimes and victims.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is probably a bit dry and a bit heavy to be playing with young children anyway but these 4 cases, played as a campaign, are ones that I’d be particularly wary of playing with children. In fact, we found some of the post-mortem descriptions of the victims’ bodies to be particularly graphic, to the point where my wife felt ill whilst we were playing.
The fact that the Jack the Ripper cases are based on historical events has a few unusual consequences gameplay-wise. For one thing, you can’t solve the mystery on any of the first 3 nights – Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is not about to re-write history. It also means that if you have detailed historical knowledge of the Jack the Ripper cases, details may leap out at you more immediately than they would to someone approaching the case in a vacuum. Historical knowledge or not, you probably need to play the Jack the Ripper cases in a fairly condensed period of time, as you’ll be expected to remember things from one session to the next.
One nice touch with the 4 Jack the Ripper cases is the brief historical note which comes at the end of each of them, highlighting historical points, and explaining where they have made subjective judgements or simply used artistic licence to construct a coherent mystery narrative. This certainly made it feel like the whole thing had been illuminating, although it didn’t solve the thematic issues I had with these cases.
From a functional standpoint, I thought that the Jack the Ripper cases were well-executed: there is a separate map of Whitechapel on the back of the main London map (expect to spend A LOT of time peering at this map, unless your knowledge of London geography is very good), and there are extra Police and Medical contacts available for these particular cases, focusing on the events in Whitechapel, rather than being back-and-forth to Scotland Yard all the time.
That said, I still find the decision to create a Jack the Ripper campaign a bit odd. Aside from being a bleak topic compared with your typical Sherlock Holmes story, Jack the Ripper felt very different despite being structurally very similar. The questions at the end of the case are quite different in style to the standard in Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (not least because “whodunit?” is not among them), and we crashed and burned spectacularly on most of these, both on the cases where we followed most of the key leads, and on the ones where we got ourselves utterly lost.
Pitting the players against a historical, unsolved series of murders also led to a certain amount of contrived event-weaving in the Jack the Ripper cases. Tenuous explanations as to why Sherlock Holmes was unable to solve the case at the first attempt, and a strained attempt to allow the players “success” in the game, whilst investigating a whole string of cases which they can’t actually solve, all gave these cases a fairly unsatisfying feel.
Personally, I would rather they had stuck with the standard format of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: stand-alone, made-up cases with a few lighter notes to avoid the mood getting too grim. These 4 cases will be enjoyable for those who want to put themselves right in amongst these dark events, but are definitely not for the squeamish.
West End Adventures
Whilst the first 4 cases in Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures are dark, gritty and (mostly) historical, the remaining 6, the “West End Adventures” take us back to the world of Sherlock Holmes, complete with entertainingly contrived plot twists, and a fair dose of theatricality. Indeed, one of the cases actually centres around a play – a play telling the story of Sherlock Holmes no less!
By-and-large, the cases are solid, with a good mixture of narrative and problem-solving. As noted above, Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is generally much better put together than earlier editions or expansions of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, so in that respect, playing the game is a little easier, but overall, it’s a very similar experience to the original game.
This particular lead can be of more use if you’ve already uncovered particular details elsewhere…
Although the gameplay in these cases is familiar, the designers haven’t been standing still – there are various little twists in the options presented to the players – maps of locations where players can explore sub-locations or even (borrowing a twist from Mythos Tales) leads that can give you extra information if you already know things.
Whilst there are a few comments to be found on the internet about issues with the cases that prevent you from finding the solution in a particular way, the errata for Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures is tiny compared with the base game, or with Mythos Tales, both of which become unplayable at points without the extra information.
Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures: Final Thoughts
If you like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective then, sooner or later you’re going to want new cases. In that respect, Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures, is a great addition to the game, providing new cases, delivered with better-quality components. The 6 Sherlock cases in this box, the “West End Adventures” are more of what people have come to expect and enjoy from this game.
If you’re new to the world of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective then the higher production quality makes Jack the Ripper and West End Adventures a really easy place to get in to the game. The issue of longevity is the same as with any iteration of the game, and if you like this type of activity, then it’s certainly done well-enough to justify the expense, as well as offering the chance for a sell-on with minimal depreciation.
The Jack the Ripper cases are noticeably different to the Sherlock ones, and personally I think that, whilst interesting, they were ultimately a let-down. I would have preferred a box which just came with 10 more Sherlock cases and didn’t do too much to blur the line between fiction and reality. As I’ve already said, the tone is different, and the whole experience has a slightly altered feel to it. That said, if you’re happy with the darker, grislier style, these cases still give you plenty of mystery to explore.
This box makes me very enthusiastic about the future of this franchise, knowing that development is now in the hands of a company who will deliver the production quality the idea needs.
Overall I’d give this 7/10 – solid, but it definitely had potential to be something more.
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.