A new Sherlock Holmes board game releasing next year won’t feature the famous consulting detective at all, as he’s replaced by his faithful dog Toby.
The Animals of Baker Street is a family-friendly investigation game from King of Tokyo and Bunny Kingdom publisher Iello, which revealed the upcoming board game at this year’s Essen Spiel 2021 convention in Germany.
As the name suggests, The Animals of Baker Street swaps the human investigators working on behalf of Holmes in games such as Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective for a team of animal detectives led by Holmes’ canine companion Toby. (Holmes pedants will note that Toby technically belongs to Mr. Sherman in his appearance in Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Holmes novel The Sign of the Four, but has gone to become the detective’s de facto animal companion in later stories and spin-offs.)
Players can choose between a menagerie of animal characters, including Clay the frog, Briar the bird, Cherry the mouse and Calabash the tarantula, named after Holmes’ signature pipe. Not directly playable, Toby instead serves as a tutor for the characters, offering assistance by suggesting hints for each case.
Gameplay is designed to be light, driving six narrative scenarios (plus a tutorial) written in collaboration with children’s author Clémentine Beauvais, whose book Piglettes won French young adult fiction prize, the Prix Sorcières. Each standalone scenario will last around 45 minutes with between one and four players.
Update 19/10/2021: Dave Neale, designer of last year's excellent Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective instalment The Baker Street Irregulars, has since confirmed to Dicebreaker that he co-designed and co-wrote The Animals of Baker Street alongside Beauvais.
During each scenario, players travel to locations on the main board, which each have a corresponding location card. The locations represent human areas such as the street, vaults and Sherlock’s room, as well as places only accessible by animals, including a warren, tree, bush and under the floorboards. The double-sided board features day and night variations for a greater variety of places to investigate.
At each location, players attempt to match lines at the top of their character’s card and any relevant items they have collected with those on the location card. If the lines match up, the player successfully collects a clue and reads the narrative text on the card. Players spend time to move between locations, and may lose time for pursuing incorrect leads.
Iello described The Animals of Baker Street as “very narrative”, with a family-friendly tone versus the more mature content of other mystery games, including various Holmes-inspired titles. The game is recommended for ages 10 and up.
The Animals of Baker Street is planned to release at Essen Spiel 2022, which is expected to return to the German city in October 2022.