Board Game Reviews

Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail Review

Theme and What is It?

Furriarty is terrorizing London, and it's up to Purrrlock Holmes to stop him before he completes his plans and escapes! However, Purrrlock cannot do it alone and you, as a newly inducted Inspector at Scotland Pound, must help bust members of Furriarty's gang in order to help Purrrlock get closer to the bewhiskered baddie that's been bullying all of Baker Street.

As one might have already surmised, Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Tail is very much inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, Sherlock Holmes but with more feline twist. So in this version, Purrrlock takes on the role of the super sleuth who is attempting to track his arch-nemesis Furriarty. It’s up to Purrrlock and Scotland Pound’s finest cadre of detectives to track down Furriarty’s henchmen and stop him from escaping.

Gameplay Mechanics

Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail is a cooperative/competitive deduction game whereby each player (inspector) will be assigned a suspect that they will have to catch. The suspect’s identity is hidden to the player but is known to others as the clue card with the suspect’s identity is placed facing away from the player (standees are provided to each player and are required to place the clue card facing away on the standee). What each player will find on a clue card is a clock face and the suspect’s identity. In order to deduce the identity of the suspect, all other players will attempt to provide clues to the active player of the clue card on the standee. If a player successfully deduces the card, the character on that clue card would be considered caught.

The setup of the game is that each player will be assigned a double-sided player board that has clock face and all the possible identities in the clue cards. On the left of the player board is a symbol of a smoking pipe and on the right, a fish skeleton. The pipe represents the lead cards and the fish skeleton, the dead-end cards. The lead cards are the cards that will provide the player the possible suspects of time. The dead end cards will help the player eliminate possible false leads or as the fish skeleton implies, dead ends. A deck of clue cards (shuffled of course) will be placed for easy access for all players. Each player will then be assigned a clue card that’s to be placed on the standee with the front facing away from them. The face of the clue card should be visible for all other players. Each player will then be assigned two cards (except for the first player who gets four). The player with the most cats in their home gets to be the first player.

In addition to the clue cards, Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail provides 18 Paw Print tokens and 2 Furriarty Tokens. The Paw Print tokens are used to represent the trail of Furriarty, as to how close players are to catching him or how close he is to escaping. Depending on the number of players, a number of Paw Print tokens are placed to the left of a Furriarty token and a couple more Paw Print tokens to the right of Furriarty.

Starting with the first player (the one with the most cats at home), choose two clue cards from the hand and place them in front of the table. All players will then inform the active player on which of the clue cards chosen are leads or dead-ends. Clue cards that are considered leads have the same suspect OR the same time OR a time that’s adjacent to the one specified on the standee.

For example:

Once a player had sorted out the lead and dead end cards, he or she has a choice of making a guess as to time or the identity of the suspect on the clue card. They can also take a stab on guessing both. If the player correctly makes a guess on the time or identity, they take one Paw Print token from the trail, signifying that they are getting closer to Furriarty. If they managed to guess both time and identity correctly, they take two Paw Print tokens, bringing the players closer on the trail to Furriarty. Once they have guessed correctly, they will then draw a new clue card from the deck to be placed on the standee. They will attempt to deduce the time and identity of that card on their next turn. If a player successfully deduces the card and that Furriarty’s token is the left most token on the trail, he takes Furriarty’s token and the investigator’s win.

At the end of the turn, if they had chosen not to guess or managed to guess correctly, they draw two cards and pass two cards on to the next player. Players who did not guess correctly do not draw two cards but must pass their remaining hand onto the next player. So guessing incorrectly penalizes the players in that on their next turn they will have two less cards to choose from.

Once all players are done with their turn, there is another Furriarty token placed between the last player and first player. That token represents Furriarty’s turn. If the Furriarty had been caught by then, on Furriarty’s turn, move the Furriarty token on the trail one space towards the right. So at the end of every turn, Furriarty moves one step closer to escaping. If Furriarty’s turn ends with no Paw Print tokens in front (or to its right), Furriarty wins and the inspectors have let themselves and Purrrlock down.

Once the game ends, presumably with the successful capture of Furriarty, players will tally the points on their Paw Print tokens. The player with the most points will be declared the winner and made the new chief inspector of Scotland Pound. The player with the least points will assume the role of litter box inspector.

Initial Impressions

The box cover alone should be enough to tell anyone that Purrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail is a family game. Unfortunately my playgroup are all adults and we didn’t have any children among us. The impression that I got from my playgroup though is that despite the family oriented feline theme, Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s trail was rather fun. The rules of the game are simple enough that it should not be barrier for any family members. The deduction mechanics is simple to learn and all new players will have difficulty getting going on the very first turn.

Quality of Components and Insert

At a glance, I thought the game seemed simplistic. Buy stone, save stone, build tower, rinse, repeat.

This oversimplifies the game because although that is the mechanic, it takes a whole lot more planning than building towers willy nilly. Stone is also a finite resource that is replenished through a card mechanic are varying amounts throughout the game, making each building session quite different. I was drawn to the art, and the building pieces just seemed to fit perfectly for the game.

Artistic Direction

At a glance, I thought the game seemed simplistic. Buy stone, save stone, build tower, rinse, repeat.

This oversimplifies the game because although that is the mechanic, it takes a whole lot more planning than building towers willy nilly. Stone is also a finite resource that is replenished through a card mechanic are varying amounts throughout the game, making each building session quite different. I was drawn to the art, and the building pieces just seemed to fit perfectly for the game.

Fun Factor

Purrrlock Holmes is a fairly engaging deduction game. Its simple gameplay mechanics ensures that experience and new gamers should have no problems learning the rules and all should be able to hit the ground running. While the theme is not bland, Purrrlock Holmes may not offer much in the way of replayability on a game night. I would use Purrrlock Holmes as a filler or starter for a game night just to warm up all players on the table.

Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion

The deduction mechanic can be surprisingly challenging as the set-up of the game doesn’t allow for many turns, as Furriarty is usually placed 4 or 5 tokens away from his escape. All the inspector’s will have only 4 or 5 turns to catch Furriarty, so this means that Purrrlock Holmes can be quite unforgiving. By the first round of turns, if no Paw Print tokens are taken, then the inspectors will be facing an uphill climb to catch Furriarty. This would imply that if no players have taken a Paw Print token by the end of the first turn, it’s quite likely that Furriarty escapes.

Conclusions

My playgroup had fun playing two or three rounds with Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail but were eager to move on to something more engaging. A round of Purrrlock shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes, so I would place Purrrlock Holmes as a good filler game at best. It has a clever deduction mechanic but is surprisingly an unforgiving game given its suggested age-range.

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Mark Long

Mark Long

I've been a tabletop gaming enthusiast ever since the 90s, indulging in games such as Magic The Gathering, Steve Jackson's Car Wars, GURPS and occasionally miniature war games such as Warhammer and Infinity.
Mark Long

Latest posts by Mark Long (see all)

I've been a tabletop gaming enthusiast ever since the 90s, indulging in games such as Magic The Gathering, Steve Jackson's Car Wars, GURPS and occasionally miniature war games such as Warhammer and Infinity.

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