Review – I Say, Holmes! from Victory Point Games
Designer – Alan Emrich
Art – Clark Miller
Than you to Victory Point Games for providing a review copy of this game.
Victory Point Games continues their move to broaden their market with I Say, Holmes!, a card game for 3 to 8 players ages 13 and up based on the classic adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Author Conan Doyle. This is a re-implementation of an earlier version of this game which I haven’t played. And I also believe that the earlier version was a re-implementation of the earlier Sherlock Holmes: The Card Game. So there is a history of versions of the game although I am writing strictly about the latest version.
From Victory Point Games – As Consulting Detectives, you play cards to progress Holmes’ and Watson’s story as they set out to solve another mysterious case. Villains will appear in player’s hands, and ultimately one player will be Arrested and found Guilty of harboring one or more Villains or, alternately, one player’s Villains in hand will successfully Escape from our intrepid heroes and end that adventure.
1 Starting Player card
33 Information cards
5 Villain cards
9 Interrupt cards
29 Travel cards
14 Action cards
14 City cards
8 “I Say” cards
13 Country cards
1 City/Country cards
1 Travel marker
8 Telegram tokens
15 “I say” tokens
6 Case Closed book tokens
5 Villain tokens
The components are consistent with the very good standard that is now being produced by Victory Point Games. For me, the art is particularly pleasing as it captures the theme very well indeed.
I won’t go into great detail at all but here is an overview.
The cards are shuffled and dealt. There is a starting deck set up that scales according to the number of players. Whoever holds the Come, Watson, Come! The Game is Afoot! card begins.
The object of the game is to gain the most points.
Each round, players are seeking to identify who holds Villain cards, so they can attempt to Arrest a Guilty player or make an Impromptu Arrest. Then the round is completed , points awarded and Case Closed Book token is given to the round winner. Players get points for escaping Villains, collecting “I Say” tokens and Case Closed tokens. Telegram tokens are used to mostly inflict negative points upon other players.
The Turn process is relatively straightforward…
1. Play a Suitable (non-“I Say”) Card face up in front of the player to your left:
2. This card becomes the new “Current” card; discard the previous Current card in the Discard Pile. The Game is
Afoot! Card is not discarded but is placed to one side until the next Round.
3. If a Move Card is played, place the Travel marker on the Location marker.
4. If a Location Card is played, remove the Travel marker and make sure the Location marker matches the location (City or Country) of the new Current card. You would flip it when arriving at a Dissimilar Location.
5. Immediately perform any Special Instructions on the card played.
6. If applicable, that other player can play an Interrupt card in response.
NOTE – If you can’t play a card legally to the Current card, you must draw a new card and play it immediately or keep if it is an I Say card that you wish to keep. This will be the way cards come back into your hand and it happens often. The current card is then passed to the left.
7. Your turn now ends and the player to your left will take their turn.
As I said, this core game process is actually pretty straight forward although the rules seem to make it hard to see that as there are specific rules covering other card plays, Deductions, Suitable and Un-suitable cards, Escaping or Impromptu Arrests and Arrests. My sense is that the rules need to be simplified a bit. If you persevere and understand the rules for the various types of cards, you will be fine. The cards mostly speak for themselves.
If you have played UNO (and who hasn’t?), the card play mechanic plays very much like it. You are essentially trying to get rid of the cards in your hand by matching types of cards on top of the Current card. You are also trying to deduce which of your opponents are holding Villain cards so you can attempt and hopefully succeed in arresting a Villain. If you think you know which player has a Villain and you play an arrest card, and you are right, Yay, you win the round and you go into the Case Closed scoring.
As your hand becomes depleted during the game you may have alternative opportunities such as having a Villain Escape or you may be able to make an Impromptu Arrest to Close a Case.
Case Closed Scoring
After an Arrest is scored, the Arresting player then takes the appropriate Case Closed Book token from the available pool.
It must be the token with the highest Case Point value on its front that does not exceed the Grand Total scored by the other players based upon the score value of the cards in their hands.
If the Case Closed Book token taken was “Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow,” the game ends and Victory Points are scored.
Ending the Game
When a player has made a successful Arrest and must take the “Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow” Case Closed Book token, the game (and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) has come to an end.
The player with the most points wins. Points are earned by winning rounds and gaining Case Books, collecting I Say tokens and Telegram tokens and Villain tokens when one of your Villains escapes.
Note – In the standard game, each player plays one card from their hand upon the Current card and to me and those I played with the game played too slowly (see opinions below). An exception to this was a 3 player game where the card draws allowed a very early arrest and because the players had very few points in their hands, the final Case Book was taken an the game ended which seemed very odd.
Variant Rule – I think that this should be a standard rule.
In this variant, players may play any number of cards from their hand, one at a time in succession, before passing the turn. All of the cards must be Suitable. You may continue to play out cards until:
• You play a Travel card (your turn ends; pass that card to the player on your left as usual), or
• You have no Suitable card left to play (pass the Current card to the player on your left, as usual)
• Your hand is empty (see “Impromptu Arrest”)
• You escape as the Villain (see “Escaping”)
The last card played will be the Current card; other cards played prior to this will be placed in the Discard Pile.
Did I enjoy I Say, Holmes?
I’m in a quandary on this one I’m afraid.
Its supposed to take 45 minutes and with 3-4 players it could but with wrong cards coming up it will be longer. I wouldn’t play it with more.
Serious gamers may struggle, as it is very random, and you really have little control. And although this is to be expected in a card game, if you get caught in a loop of wrong cards coming up, its a real problem.
Each time I’ve played, it seemed to take too long. We needed to use the fast play variant to move things along and it did help a lot.
For me there’s no real deduction. It was pretty much a guess as to who had Villains. This was a disappointment.
If you get stuck with a poor hand due to luck it could be very frustrating.
The rules seem more complicated than the game actually is.
Its not a story telling game really. The cards link what could be a story but if you actually try to tell a story it really slows down.
The end game scoring is too random. The game length unpredictable.
I like the game mechanic a lot actually as it is like Uno but far more interesting in the Sherlock Holmes world. I like the idea of a bit of British banter.
I enjoyed it when we played quickly, not looking too hard for an optimum card to play.
There is loads of replay-ability as none of the games I played was like any of the others and there are plenty of cards which should mean different results each game.
I love the artwork which is nicely evocative of the Holmesian world.
The fast play variant is a must and does help move things along. Without it the game seems to grind and you could get stuck in seeming very long rounds with the wrong cards coming up.
I recommend agreeing a limited amount of rounds – 2-3 max. The game lends itself to this.
Playing with the players able to see the token scores seems to help actually. Commonly known information decreases the randomness to a degree and made it more interesting for me.
All in all, I Say, Holmes! is a reasonable game. I like the mechanic and look and feel. However, I think that there are some problems. Primarily, the danger of a loop of unhelpful cards can make the game go on too long and that could be frustrating. Also, the point chit tokens are chosen at random and I actually think it would work better if they were open information.
The card play and the interaction works well and is fun to me but I’m not convinced about the end game as it can be too unpredictable. I was surprised at the unpredictability of game length and scoring. I can live with the game length problem by limiting the game to 2-3 rounds. The scoring, as I said, could be less random.
I asked a friend for his thoughts…
A few thoughts on I Say, Holmes.
– I liked the theme and the card art.
– It felt very random and I can see that could pan out over a number of rounds but ultimately this felt very frustrating.
– I would have liked more control and the fast variant did give some of that but did often feel like the game was playing me at times.
– Not a bad game but there are other games I would prefer to play.
– Not one of VPGs best and a slightly odd choice for trying to reach a wider audience though Kickstarter.
So, not bad, but i would need to play with some house rules.
For more information go to –http://www.victorypointgames.com/