The theme of Holmes and Watson was what made me decide to to try this game out next. I do love me some Sherlock Holmes and I view him as one of the great serial characters who can be done well with a variety of interpretations.
Of course, the theme's only role is to give the designer a reason to use a Victorian map of London. The game is really about drawing a path across the board, connecting symbols.
Like many of the games in this library, the game consists of a board, along with a writing tool and some dice that you have to supply yourself. Print out the board and you're ready.
The board shows a map of London with a matrix of dots and symbols on the streets. Like the Crayon Train games, H&W is dot-to-dot with strategy. In a nutshell, you are drawing a line across the streets of London, trying to pass through the different symbols to collect sets. You have to stick to the streets and you can never double back.
The active player rolls n+1 dice (n being the number of players, don'tcha know) and there's then a dice draft. Not an amazing level of player interaction but at least there is some. The dice actions are draw a segment, draw two segments, draw segments to reach a fingerprint, draw segments to reach a magnifying glass, and draw segments to reach an eye. Sixes are special and nasty. Those are Moriarty and force you to cross out three symbols on your path.
When someone solves their ninth mystery/completes their ninth set, the game ends. Points are based on the different kinds of sets and most points wins.
H&W feels like it could use at least one more draft. The black-and-white version of the board has references to cards, which clearly no longer a part of the game. There is also a purse mechanic that lets you collect coins to turn into symbols that's easy to figure out (good use of iconography) but isn't mentioned in the rules.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is an adaptation of a non-PnP game that the designer is working on.
All that said, I had fun with H&W. It isn't brilliant and it isn't innovative but it's simple and it works. And, let's be clear. Balanced and clean play, particularly in a game that lasts ten minutes, is strong. The theme is non-existent but the map, which could have been totally abstract, is nice to look at.
In fact, if I make a solitaire binder, which is on my list of things to do in August, H&W will be in it. It is a game I will reach for if I feel like some quick solitaire.