Games Gazette Logo

CRIME SCENE: LONDON 1892; authored by professional writer Arttu Tuominen, for Game Storm Studios & TACTIC Games Finland 
For Ages 18+ and playable by 1 to several smart thinking, sharp-eyed, detectives.

With so many 'Solve the Puzzle' games now flooding the market anything new has to grip from the start and be worthy of the astuteness of today's game players. LONDON 1892 certainly hits this nail directly on the head. This puzzle game isn't just set in the late 19th Century, it is designed so that the detectives (players) have to work with the same procedures and methods of that era.

The late 1900s was a dark time in London. Streets were dark, thoughts were dark, health was dark. The memory of the killer known as 'Jack the Ripper' was still near the forefront of people's thoughts, and as this story begins the fear of the Ripper is once again in the minds of the citizens.

When you open the box you are confronted by a Case File; a folded piece of hard cardboard headlined 'London Metropolitan Police District' with a Case Number (184) and Incident (Murder) along with the Date and the name of the Reporting Officer. This is a simple file, no fastenings, which has a few sheets of paper slipped inside. There is nothing marked as Rules, the nearest being a folded sheet (printed on all four sides of the fold) headed 'LONDON - GUIDE'.

This 'Guide' begins with setting up the cards, Evidence, Reputation, Crime File, Hint cards - all 4 decks should be placed, without shuffling, next to the Crime Scene image. Also, make sure you have a pen/pencil and paper handy, plus someone who can write quickly/shorthand and someone else who can read the first part of the story from the Case Folder, aloud and succinctly.

Once the first part of the admirably written story has been read, and more importantly, understood, it is time to read the Evidence card marked 'Start' and then commence to scour the Crime Scene itself. All players (detectives) then paw over the squared-off map/scene until you find the necessary clue. Then take the Evidence card that matches the number of the square in which you found the clue. If you have taken the correct Evidence card there will be a coloured string on it that matches the string on the 'Start' card. It is crucial that you do not rotate the card or cards; the strings must match with the cards in equitable alignment. If you are right, then it's time to solve the first puzzle. If you are wrong then go back to the Crime Scene and restart your search.

Discuss the puzzle amongst you. Some of these mysteries will bamboozle you. Some will drive you mad, scouring every centimetre of the Crime Scene whilst cursing your inability to see what is absolutely, directly in front of you. Some will be easy and just fall into place. If you are sure you have all your ducks in a row then check the Crime File card that has the same letter as on your Evidence card. If it matches one of the options (A-D) on the Crime File card it's time to move on.

The investigation moves slowly and painstakingly with you having to locate, check, double-check, guess, outguess yourself, throw out all manner of possibilities to the team, discuss, search, solve other puzzles and clues within the puzzle or clue you are currently undertaking, until you are absolutely positive all clues line up. 

If you really get stuck then take and use a Hint card and read that. Using Hints means losing Reputation (Rep cards) which lower yours and other people's expectancy and confidence in you. Think really hard before throwing your Reputation into the trash!

Generally we have found that the Hint card's only tell us something we have already guessed rather than the specific location of the clue we are searching for. It's almost as if there was a clue within the Hint which you have to decipher to interpret exactly what you are being told. Over 50% of the puzzles are extremely tough to fathom out first time. We have found ourselves going over and over them until the Dime eventually drops, and then the frustration boils up, and sometimes over, as you realise that the answer was either so openly hidden you cannot believe that you missed it for so long - or that the answer is at the furthest end of the evidence trail, away from your actual thinking, that even with 4 brains and a hint it still doesn't have the ring of actuality around it, and you still find it difficult to believe even though you now know it is true - problem setters can be real b******s sometimes, and getting onto their wavelength/thought pattern is just impossible.

As you collect evidence cards - do not expect to solve the case after just one or two cards - you lay them out in the manner and shape prescribed by the string joints. Eventually you should have all the necessary evidence at your fingertips and it is just a case of putting into perspective and order. Focus, thought, skilful tracking and both, Poirot's 'Little Grey Cells' and Holmes' 'Seven percent solution' are required by detectives for the necessary competent elucidation.  

To date, CRIME SCENE LONDON 1892 has been the toughest of all the 'escape room / detection' games we have played, and the only one to have had us quit a session, mid-detection, in need of a mental break. The clues are all there, the stories hold many helpful tidbits, and the evidence and crime cards are excellently worded, to the point where one is not quite sure if a game is being played or an actual case is being investigated. 

Certainly not for young players, nor players who cannot stay focussed and 100% involved. I very much doubt that players will be able to 'guess' the answers - I have yet to find it was Molly with the Hatchet in the Cellar - after just a few clues. You have to build a successful case that cannot be broken before your reputation is ripped to shreds (having said that, this isn't a 'legacy' game so no actual ripping of cards to shreds is required.

There is not too much more I can say without giving anything away to do with the case. I will state clearly that if you do not approach the cases intent on fully focussing you are more than likely not going to solve the compelling puzzles. Many games in this genre are good for the craic, irreverent chatting throughout the session. This is more like a real-life investigation which has the beautiful element of socialising.

Use the Hints wisely, if at all. Search everywhere on the map you deem a possibility - do not give up the first time you think you have found an active clue - there may be a smell of fish in the air. Discuss every probability before flipping cards over to reveal their hints, clues and answers. It may not hit you in the beginning but there is the distinct possibility that sometime during the investigation that light bulb in your brain will suddenly pop on - and then it's Tally-Ho and the game's a-foot!.

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021