I’ve played Hanabi once a couple of years back, and recall it being interesting. A Sherlock Holmes themed game with that same central mechanic and additional gameplay elements piqued my curiosity quite a bit.
Beyond Baker Street capitalizes on its potential nicely, adding depth to the core of Hanabi without getting overly complicated or losing any of the fun.
Like Hanabi, Beyond Baker Street revolves around players being able to see other players’ hands, but not their own. Clues are given by telling someone which cards in their hand are a particular color or number. Players use these clues to try to figure out which cards from their hand should be played at different times.
In Hanabi, players try to place like color cards in sequential order. Here there are three piles of cards on the board representing three types of “leads” (suspects, motives, and opportunities), and the player must play cards of the appropriate color to total the value on the top (face up) card of each pile. There is also a general area called “the impossible” to which players must play cards to reach a total of exactly 20 (marked on an “investigation” track) throughout the game. This represents supporting evidence needed to close the case, where the cards below each lead category represents what’s needed to confirm the proper suspect, motive, and opportunity for the crime.
The theme is used nicely to add depth to the game. The idea is that the players are detectives trying to solve the crime before Sherlock Holmes. Each time you give another player information about their hand the Holmes marker moves closer to zero. If it ever reaches that point Holmes has solved the crime and the players lose. The players can also lose if they eliminate all three cards in any of the lead piles (by accidentally going over the target total, choosing to discard the top card because needed evidence cards to reach its value are already out of play, etc).
The four types of evidence cards are mixed throughout the lead piles, which can present interesting choices in the event that the same color is needed for more than one lead. Difficulty and strategy is also influenced by the “case” that players choose to play at the beginning of each game. There are six different case cards that indicate where Holmes starts on his track, how many cards may be in the impossible before additional cards move Holmes faster, etc. I’ve only played the first case, but it’s already very clear how these variations on initial conditions will put pressure on the players.
As recommended, we played our first game without using the player character cards which have various powers that can both help and hinder the players. I looking forward to trying them for added variability, as well as to playing with more than two players to see how the dynamic changes.
I love the theme in Beyond Baker Street and the way it’s implemented to take a strong base mechanic and flesh it out into something that feels both different and more fully developed than the inspirational game. The various goals and moving parts work well together and provide interesting strategic choices without getting too complex. I had fun with Hanabi, but personally I think the twists here and a lot of extra layers and so far I like this a great deal more. Definitely a welcome addition to my collection.