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BEYOND BAKER STREET

This is Robin Lees & Steve Mackenzie's cooperative game of racing against the great Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes by detecting the Suspect, their Motive and the Opportunity. It is published by Z-Man Games and takes 2-4 players aged 10+ about 30 minutes to play. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes I am always interested in anything that could broaden my interest and enjoyment in the great consulting detective. 221b Baker Street (Gibson's Games) is still one of my favourite games as is their Sherlock Holmes card game (even though the gold ink on the back of the cards wears off) and I guess I hold other Holmes' games to their standards. I am happy to report that BEYOND BAKER STREET is indeed a game worthy of the Holmes mantle.

To win you have to work together but in a clever way. You cannot discuss with each other what cards to play for example, but you can give hints, though even they depend on the Character you have either chosen or randomly drawn. BEYOND BAKER STREET uses the mechanic where players hold their hand of cards fanned out with the front side facing away from them, thus they never see the cards in their hand but they can see the cards in all other player's hands. The cards in a player's hand are called Evidence cards and there are four colours of these and only three points of Investigation and of course there is no control of which colour or colours the Lead cards will be or whether you will have any of the cards required in your hand. Let me explain....

To begin with you need a Case for without it you have nothing to solve and thus you select one of the Case Files from the six available. There are three pieces of information on the Case File cards and each of these is important in its own way (well two of them are, the other is just the Case Number). So we establish that the Case number is in the top left and ranges from Case File 1 which is reasonably easy to do getting harder on its way to Case File 6 which is extremely difficult. The Case File's important points are the number of the space where Holmes begins, the closer to zero the harder to solve, and the number of cards that are "safe" in The Impossible - this being the name given to the pile of discarded cards.

The three Lead piles are separate decks of Suspect, Motive and Opportunity which have been shuffled and the top card on each pile flipped over. Each of these has a value and a colour and to fully investigate each of these the players have to lay on them the correct colour, type and eventually cards to the exact value required. The way to win is to have confirmed (played a marker on) each of these and the Investigation marker exactly on 20 of the Investigation track. You actually cannot confirm the last of the Lead piles (you can do them in any order) until the Investigation marker is on the 20 of the investigation track, not nearly on it but exactly on it. There are other "exacts" within the game; to confirm any of the flipped lead cards you have to play out cards that accumulate to the exact value on the card. If you go over that number you prove that piece of evidence to be false and the next card from the pile is flipped over and you begin again. However if you go over the 20 on the Investigation track you lose. You also lose if Sherlock Holmes reaches the zero on his track.

With your cards fanned out pointing away from you the game begins and you have to choose one from the five options: Assist, Investigate, Confirm, Eliminate or Pursue, though obviously you cannot choose Confirm until it has reached its Evidence total. The basic effects of your choice is as follows: Choosing Assist means that you can give some information to another player about their cards, sticking exactly to the boundaries of the rules and the Character you have of course, it also moves Holmes one space forward towards his victory. Investigate lets you play a card, as yet unseen by you and thus only guided by the hints of your fellow detectives, onto one of the four piles (3 Leads plus the Impossible). Confirm, already noted but it also moves Holmes one space backwards. Eliminate requires you to discard a card into the Impossible and Pursue removes the face up lead card from one of the three piles and removes any evidence so far played on them.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" spake Sherlock Holmes to John Watson and this is why we have The Impossible discard pile. The Case File determines how many cards may be played safely into the Impossible and for every card played over this number Holmes moves closer to victory - hint Case File #6 allows ONE card only in the Impossible and starts Holmes just 8 points away from Victory (I told you it was extremely tough to solve).

BEYOND BAKER STREET uses some previously known elementary mechanics in a way that they weren't previously used and so becomes a game that is quick and easy to learn, a lot of fun to play and an interactive game where on achieving victory you really feel as if you have put one over on the great Master of Detection, the Consulting Detective himself, Sherlock Holmes. Of course it is easy for the players to cheat, especially when giving hints to other players, but honesty is the best policy and much more gratifying to win by. There are only 6 Cases but that is more than enough due to the fact that it is unlikely to play exactly the same case twice, but even if you somehow did pull out the exact same selection of cards as you had done previously the solving would still be achieved (or not) in a different way.

Lots of playability and replayability. Suitable for the family or core gamers who enjoy a challenge and definitely playable within the suggested 30 minute time frame. Classic artwork by Atha Kanoani sets of the elegance and style of this most enjoyable game. Now is the time for you to do a little detection yourself and see if you can discover this little gem at your local game store.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015