SNAP Review – Sherlock 13
[Andrew] “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
[Anitra] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!
[Andrew] You nailed it, first try. Doyle writes as Sherlock Holmes, master of deduction, explaining, to Dr. Watson of course, his reasoning. We’ve talked about other Sherlock Holmes themed games at The Family Gamers, but this is the first one where you’ll be doing just that, eliminating the impossible and deducing the truth.
[Anitra] This is a SNAP review for Sherlock 13.
You can play a full game in about 15 minutes or sometimes less, and it’s best for ages 10 and up.
So, what can we say about the art in Sherlock 13? This is a pretty small box, and there aren’t a ton of components. There are four player screens, some paper sheets, and 13 cards.
But wait! The player screens and the cards were illustrated by Vincent Dutrait. We love his art, especially for Victorian era settings like this one, and like Jekyll vs. Hyde, which is one of our favorite games.
The cards all have this cool silhouette on the back and one of 13 characters on the front. Each one has two or three symbols at the bottom of their card.
Four player screens are all different on the outside too, and on the inside, they’ve got an illustration to show the three different actions a player could take on their turn.
And that brings us into the mechanics. How do we play this game?
No matter how many people you have, you start with giving each player a Clue sheet and a player screen. Then, place a random card face-down – this is the Criminal that everyone is going to try to guess.
The remaining 12 cards you’ll distribute equally amongst all the players – with a small change if you have only two players (we’ll get to that in a minute).
Every player looks at their hand of cards and records which suspects they have and how many of each icon they have.
Now it’s time to start guessing!
On your turn, you can take one of three actions: Investigate, Interrogate, or Accuse.
To Investigate, name a symbol. All other players must raise their hand if they have any of that symbol. But they’re not going to tell you how many they have! This is just a yes or no question. And the player asking does not need to indicate whether they have that symbol.
To Interrogate, ask a specific player how many they have of a specific symbol. They must tell you the exact number, out loud, so everyone can hear. (“Andrew, how many lightbulbs do you have?” “Two”)
When you think you have enough information, you can Accuse. Declare out loud which character you think is the Criminal, then secretly check the Criminal card taht’s face down in the middle of the table. If you’re correct, you’ve won the game! But if you’re wrong, you skip the rest of your turns – someone else can figure out the secret identity.
Wait, but we mentioned earlier that this is different at two players. How does that work?
At two players, you deal five cards to each player, then put three cards face-down on the table. The middle card is the Criminal.
The Interrogate and Accuse actions stay the same, you can still ask exactly how many of a symbol someone has. But the Investigate action becomes different. Instead of asking “who has any necklaces? Who has any skulls?”, you choose one of the face-down cards that is next to the Criminal. Exchange that card with a card from your hand – which you must place face-up. You can only do this exchange with a face-down card.
The rest of the game proceeds as usual – but since there won’t be many chances to Investigate, you’ll mostly be asking questions of each other, of how many of a certain symbol they have.
[Anitra] So that’s how we play the game. What did we expect from Sherlock 13?
[Andrew] Well, it’s Vincent Dutrait. All of his art is great! That got us interested pretty much right away.
[Anitra] And the world of Sherlock Holmes seems like the perfect setting for a deduction game.
[Andrew] It is a deduction game, it’s a pure deduction game. I figured after flipping through the rules that we’d be evenly matched on this one, sometimes you’d be winning, sometimes I’d be winning…
But there were some surprises. What surprised us?
[Anitra] I was pretty surprised at how well the two player variation worked. I wasn’t looking forward to a deduction game with just two players; it’s too easy to figure out what the other person has. But having two additional cards to work with made the choices more interesting – you can get more information than your opponent by picking up a face-down card, but you have to reveal information from your own hand in order to do that.
[Andrew] There were two things that surprised me. First, I thought the game was going to be a little more complicated than it is. Maybe it’s the color palette and the Vincent Dutrait art. But I expected something that would have had more than, basically, just two things that you do on your turn. Simplicity is not necessarily bad, it does keep the game moving forward and it does lower the potential for analysis paralysis, which is always a good thing.
[Andrew] The other thing that surprised me about this game, was just how bad I am at this game. Like I said before, I thought we’d be equal, but either you’ve always gotten lucky with the cards that are coming out in the multiple plays we’ve had, or there’s just some thread of deduction that I am just missing. Could be me. Despite that, I always feel like I can do better, or I can always feel like I can figure it out one turn faster. I don’t know. And that brings me back to the game, wanting to play it more. Because it’s so fast, the stakes don’t feel so high, so I don’t get quite as frustrated.
[Anitra] For folks who really like deduction like me, but might find this game a little too easy (hah!), there’s also a variation to make it much harder. Everyone answers the Interrogate and Investigate actions honestly, but without including the last card in their hand. Then you rotate the cards in your hand each round, so it becomes much harder to figure out what everyone else has!
[Andrew] Anitra, do we recommend Sherlock 13?
[Anitra] We would generally recommend this game to anyone who wants a compact and fast deduction game, with a grown-up theme. It feels just a little bit like CLUE, because everyone is trying to deduce the same hidden Criminal, using mostly the same information.
We’re going to give Sherlock 13 three suspects out of five.
And that’s Sherlock 13, in a SNAP!
The Family Gamers received a copy of Sherlock 13 from Arcane Wonders for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 15 minutes or less