Tag Archives: Out of Print

221B Baker Street

I waited far too long to play 221B Baker Street (John N. Hansen Co, 1975). It has been considered a classic since I first heard of it in the 1980’s, but I never had the opportunity to play until this past weekend (November 2009), 34 years after its first publication. And I call myself a “game lover.” For shame!

The game itself is, predictably, based on actual Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Players read a mystery and are given several aspects of the crime to solve. To solve the mystery, however, players must move their pawns from 221B Baker Street on the corner of the London-based map board to various locations throughout the board, in order to collect clues.

The clues are cleverly indexed on the backs of the mystery cards, and the indexes refer to corresponding numbers in the rules book. For example, if I move my pawn into, say, The Boar’s Head Inn on the board, I would look at the back of the card and find the number listed next to “The Boar’s Head Inn.” I would then look up that number in the rules book, and that is where the clue itself is listed. (see examples below) The clues that are given vary in difficulty, and typically give only one part of one of the answers sought. Sometimes the clue given is “No clue at this location,” in which case no information is gained.

 

It is possible to solve the mystery before all clues are found – in fact with a group of adults it is likely that the mystery will be solved before all clues are found. That’s because the clues provide parts of the answers, and given enough parts it is often easy to infer the others. Once a final clue is given, the ultimate answer is only slightly hidden through rhyming or wordplay. Since there are usually three parts to the mystery (in above example, who committed the crime, how it was committed, and why) it takes at least a little while to gather enough clues to even make a guess.

This game has a scavenger-hunt type of feel to it that makes it fun, but it is essentially a race around the board to find enough clues to get something close to the final answer in order to guess it correctly. The rules encourage players, however, to look in places that would makes sense, including the area of the crime scene, potential neighbors, etc. Doing that did not make a big difference in the game I played, though, so it’s an open question whether that makes sense as a strategy over time. There is some strategy (based on efficiently covering the board) in determining one’s path, but the roll of the die determines how far one moves, so the effects of both are largely washed out.

I recommend 221B Baker Street to younger gamers who might be more challenged by what proved to be relatively simple final clues. A very bright youngster of 8 or more, and more typically teens and young adults should find this game a lot of fun. Any person who is a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories definitely deserves to have this game!

Note: This game is currently out of print, but is available used through online sources.

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Faces

faces box

Faces (Buffalo Games, 2005) is just plain fun. Maybe not raucous, side splitting, talk about it for days fun, but it would be hard to make it through a game like this without quite a bit of laughter and conversation. And it would not be a surprise at all if you ended up talking about it for days, or finding yourself labeling the faces you might meet.

There are two main components in Faces: the 194 “faces cards” themselves, which are various single faces of humans or animals with exaggerated features or unique expressions, and the 176 “impressions cards,” which detail a conclusion one might reach after seeing a particular face (i.e., an “impression”). Among the impression cards are such items as “The big eater”, “The neat freak”, “The one with too many cats”, and “The one who’s all talk and no action.” Shown below is a hand featuring the impression “The one holding a grudge.”

faces layout

There are two ways these cards are played, along with a “line-up card” with six slots for six different face cards, eight pawns for eight players along with color-matched voting cards numbered 1-6 for each player, and a scoring track. The two rounds are the “Line-up Round,” and the “Card-in-Hand Round.”

In the Line-up Round, six faces are laid out face-up on the line-up card. Four turns are done with male faces, four with female faces, and four with animal faces. A player, on his or her turn, flips over the top impression card, and players try to decide what face they think will be chosen to match the impression by the player whose turn it is. The turn-taker gets points if they are matched, and a player who matches the turn-taker gets points too.

In the Card-in-Hand Round, each player gets two male, two female, and three animal faces, and players take turns being the judge. The judge turns over an impressions card and reads it, and the other players choose what they think is the best card in their hand for that impression. The judge then chooses the best match, and the submitting player get points. Each player gets to be judge just once. An example of the Card-in-Hand round is below:

faces player choice

Points are tallied on the circular faces board, and the first to the finish is the winner.

faces scoretrack

This is a great game for a random get together – extended family, friends from work, whatever. Everyone can easily relate to making certain assumptions about what other people are based on what they look like, and everybody is in on the joke so there is no one left out.

I recommend this for any person who is part of a family or a network of friends and acquaintances who get together with any frequency. It’s better than a typical card game, but nowhere near a hard core strategy game. It will bring out the best of the extroverts and class clowns in the group, but still allow the quiet ones to participate and enjoy themselves!

Buy Faces on Amazon!