Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft from Devir Games serves up an excellent worker-placement game while adding the tension of set collection. The setting is Victorian London, where an anarchist’s bomb has exploded near Parliament. Her Majesty’s Government has placed its cleverest gentleman onto the task of determining guilt, none other than Mycroft Holmes. Yet his famous detective brother, Sherlock, is working the other side of the case, believing there is more conspiracy involved. Players take sides to gather clues and solve the mystery in a race of Holmes against Holmes.
Holmes is a dueling game, with two players facing off to collect the most victory points in a variety of schemes represented by Clue cards. Seven sets of clues are arranged in increasing amounts: three mysterious seals, four burned-out sticks of dynamite, five snubbed cigarettes, and so on up to nine fingerprints. Players seek to collect the most of each suit to win points correlating to the number in the set, with bonuses available for collecting all cards of a type or for collecting special Map Fragment clues.
As the game progresses, players will have to keep track of not only which cards they have collected but also how many of each set their opponent has claimed.
Clue cards in Holmes are bought in a market mechanic from a line of available options through Investigation tokens. These tokens are themselves earned through three actions each day over the course of a “week” of investigating. The options available for those actions will change based on what characters come into play.
Each game begins with the three widely known characters from Holmes stories: loyal compatriot Dr. Watson, long-suffering landlady Mrs. Hudson, and suspicious Inspector Lestrade. After three turns for each player, a new character, like lovable Toby the hound or clever Violet Hunter, is added as a new “day” with three actions refreshed. Play continues through seven days, or 21 turns, when the game ends and players add up their victory points.
The characters offer a wide variety of options for placement of a player’s action. Some provide more Investigation tokens to a player’s pile; others allow players to spend those tokens to pick up Clue cards that have been set out. Each is a little different, such as Billy the Bellboy, allowing a player to discard a Clue in exchange for a wealth of Investigation tokens. A few characters even allow direct attacks upon the opponent, such as stealing cards.
Optional characters give special rules, like a Sherlock/Mycroft card serving as a game of Hot Potato to be rid of, or devious Moriarty requiring players to give up Clues or Investigation tokens, for the truly bold.
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft is a worker-placement game for two players aged ten and up. It is a great time for players who enjoy the decision-making of worker placement while sharing in the thrill of the options constantly changing to demand further decisions. With the variety of character cards each coming into play at different times based on the shuffle, replayability is high as no two games will likely ever be the same.