Today we get to ask the age old question: Does adding cats to something make it better? I would argue no, but it does make it more marketable to certain people as IDW Games sent me an oddity from their collection called Purrrlock Holmes. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into with this game, but I was determined to find out just what the hell was going on with this. So myself and two friends (thanks, Adam and Cassidy) spent a couple of hours delving into this game at the Watchtower Cafe in SLC.
Purrrlock Holmes (yes, with three R's) is a detective game where you are trying to determine who committed the crime in front of you. You start by mixing up all the cards that have animals and a clock on them. Then you draw a single card that you place in a holder without looking at it. This is the crime you are trying to solve. Depending on the number of players, you then set up a trail of clues with Furriarty (yes, Furriarty) in the middle and his token on the right of whoever starts.
The game will have you draw cards and present them to the rest of the players, two per person. You will ask everyone else if the card has a clue on it, which will either be the animal on the card or the time. If the animal matches or the time matches or is within an hour on either side, they can tell you that it is a clue. If neither match, they tell you no and can provide no hints either way.
If the card has a clue, you place it on the left. If it doesn't, you place it on the right. You then get one guess to match either the number and/or the animal. Using deductive reasoning from the cards below as an example, I was able to determine that the Dog was the criminal on the card in the middle, but that the time was incorrect. The safe bet is to guess one at a time, because if I were to guess "The Dog at 7 o'clock" and it was at 8, I would get it wrong and the other players can't tell me what I got wrong. When you get it right, you earn a token from the path which gets you points toward winning.
If you so choose, you have a card in front of you that can help you eliminate some of the possibilities, as well as give you an extra guess by flipping it over. If you use this option, however, you will get -1 to your score for the rest of the game and cannot use this option again. The goal of this game is to get as many of the paw prints, which you get for every correct guess, and catch up to Furrrarity before he escapes.
You're probably curious about how he escapes, right? Remember the token we had at the start of the game? That is a place-marker for his turn. Every time you make it around the board, he gets a turn, staying "one paw ahead" of you. If he makes it to the end and escapes, the game is over and you tally up your score from the paw prints everyone collected. If you capture him, the game is over and he is worth three points to your final score. Depending on how many players you have and how good you are at deductive reasoning, it is possible to catch up to him and end the game on and awesome bonus. But far too often the ended because we just couldn't get our act together and he escaped.
A could of things about the game that stood out as a problem were the cards to keep track and the instructions. First, the instructions to the game were a nightmare to read. A game this simple should not have a twelve-page rulebook, with pages that redirect you to other pages. The game is for ages 10+, and I'm willing to bet most 10-15-year-old players would give up on the rules after discovering how you're supposed to figure out who committed your crime. Once you figure out the rules, the game is pretty easy and fun to play, but this was a massive hurdle that felt super unnecessary.
The other issue is keeping track of clues. There's no way to track your own personal progress on a game, it's all done by memory because you have to discard your clues on both sides at the end of every round. Meaning if you suddenly forgot or weren't paying attention, you may have missed a clue and will be starting all over again. A good example to fix this would be the game Clue, where you can keep track using a scorecard. It would have been nice to have some variation of that here, but alas, you have to keep everything straight in your mind.
Purrrlock Holmes is a pretty fun game, but it also has a few unnecessary issues that keep it from being a great game. And while it was cute to have cats in place of humans, it doesn't really add anything. You could have called this game "Sherlock Holmes" and it would have made absolutely no difference. This is aimed at cat lovers, plain and simple. Not owning a cat, I could care less. I'm sure there are people who would have a lot of fun playing this, but it just isn't that eye-catching to call it great.