Sherlock Fails to Catch Jack the Ripper – Game Review
Jack the Ripper may be part of the collective consciousness, but I really didn’t know anything about the case until this week.
Earlier this year I was introduced to a boardgame called Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. It was less board and more oral story with an interesting concept and a terribly frustrating execution. The short version: you play as members of Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars. By tracking down leads you are challenged to solve the case in as few steps as possible in order to beat the amazing Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, Sherlock cheats. He uses information you the player don’t have access to, magically traces only the correct – generally obscure or illogical – leads and makes up answers at the end. Anyway, with my family, we played all 10 cases, grew frustrated with the system and moved onto other things.
That is until my brother brought home the expansion/sequel. Now, I know he is going to do a much better (and more detailed analysis) of the game when we finish this next series of 10 cases. But in the meantime here is my feelings of the matter. We are, to date, only four cases in to the expansion and have just concluded the Ripper Series.
First, I would like to say that I like the general concept of the series. I like the idea of tracking down clues and solving mysteries. We have even decided to dismiss the scoring system of the game which encourages players to visit as few locations as possible and ultimately miss out on much of the story. Instead, this time around we are not counting our leads, but chasing up whatever clues catch our fancy – while trying to accumulate enough knowledge to answer the random assortment of questions at the end.
The first four cases of the expansion are all tied to Jack the Ripper. Obviously you cannot identify Jack until the end of Case Four. However, you are still given a series of questions to answer related to the earlier cases. I liked the idea of creating a great arch with smaller steps. I even liked the new mechanics which allowed you to get more information from different locations/witnesses by adding clue numbers together (under specific conditions). This meant you could learn more about a character you had already been introduced to.
What failed was the writing ultimately.
I learned that the case of Jack the Ripper actually did consist of a confusing mass of information and misinformation. The police did a terrible job and the coroner actually included wrong information in his report. An unknown and highly debated number of women are actually attributed to Jack. The newspapers actually fabricated letters apparently from the serial killer. So, this does explain some of the conflicting testimonies you are presented in the game.
Unfortunately, the writers, chose one of the weakest culprits to be Jack. Even Watson points out some of the numerous flaws to Sherlock’s weak explanation at the end of the fourth case. It was so utterly unsatisfying. Thus, I cannot say I am terribly excited to proceed with the other cases, though how they can be worse is difficult to imagine.
Yet, all was not lost. By playing this game, I did learn more about Jack the Ripper. And more interestingly, I discovered that my brother’s first novel was inspired by the case. No, it does not follow any one of the theories. But I can now see the influences of this bloody and violent case on the writing of Thyre. Something I found far more interesting that Sherlock’s impossible solution.