With the recent feature films and BBC series, Sherlock Holmes has seen somewhat of a resurgence lately. The deductive detective has even extended his services into our hobby of board gaming with the recent reprinting of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective as well as Sid Sackson’s Sleuth late last year. Deduction and bluffing mechanics have largely gone hand in hand with such games, and Ludovic Gaillard’s 2012 release entitled, Lady Alice is no different, but does so in an interesting and unique way.
In Lady Alice, players take on the roles of the various Baker Street Kids; Sherlock Holmes’ detectives in training. To test his trainees on how well they’ve been learning from his unique deductive approach, Mr. Holmes has laid out a case for the Baker Street Kids to solve. It appears that the case revolves around a certain gentleman named Stanley being kidnapped. Mr. Holmes would like his young detectives to provide him with the information on the kidnapper, the place in which the kidnapping occurred, the time in which it occurred, and the object that was in the suspect’s possession (which would link him to the scene of the crime).
– Lady Alice Game Board
– Henry Morton Stanley Notebook of Clues
– Suspect cards
– Location cards
– Hour cards
– Object cards
– Player tokens (blue, red, yellow, green, and white)
– Deduction tokens the match the Player tokens (blue, red, yellow, green, and white)
– Folders with Verdict cards
– Sherlock Holmes Business cards
Each player is given the correct information of one of these four items (suspect, location, hour, or object) at the beginning of the game. Throughout the game, players will attempt to outwit, bluff, and deduce the remaining three items of information from the other players in order to solve the case. Points are scored throughout the game by making correct deductions on certain suspicions, as well as making the final correct accusation of all four items. The Baker Street Kid with the most points after the case has been solved, wins the game.
While there are variant rules for a 3 & 5 player game, Lady Alice is meant to be played as a 4 player game. I’ll speak briefly about the adjustment in rules for a 3 & 5 player game at the end, but during the overview in this review, I’m going to go through it as if we are discussing a 4 player game.
The game board consist of a bunch of different items that Sherlock Holmes has laid out on his writing desk. All of these items make up the possible clues which players will deduce their information from throughout the game.
– A photo of the possible suspects is shown in the top left section of the game board, with individual spaces for each suspect represented around the photo.
– A map of London is located in the top right corner of the game board, and represents the 8 different locations that players must deduce where the crime took place.
– Along the bottom portion of the game board are pictures of the 8 different objects which could possibly link the suspect to the crime, if in their possession.
– In the middle of the board lays a pocket watch and time sheet, which includes the different hours in which the crime could have taken place.
Each player will choose a Baker Kid and take the corresponding player token and deduction tokens of that color. You’ll notice that the deduction tokens have numbers on them ranging from 0-2. These should be laid face down so that these numbers are hidden from the other players. Each player also receives a Verdict Folder and Verdict card.
Before the game can begin, players will each receive 1 different correct clue. To do this, each type of clue is shuffled into a Draw Pile. So, there will be a Draw Pile for the Suspect cards, a Draw pile for the Location cards, one for the Hour cards, and another for the Object cards. After all cards within their own piles have been shuffled, the top card from each Draw Pile is taken, all placed together, and then these 4 cards are shuffled amongst themselves. Then, each player receives one of these clue cards, looks at it, and keeps it hidden from all other players. In this way, 1 player will know the Suspect, 1 player will know the Location, 1 player will know the hour, and the final player will know the Object.
Finally, Sherlock Holmes’ Business cards are placed in a pile to the side of the board, and Henry Morton Stanley’s Notebook is then given to the start player. Now the game can begin.
In Lady Alice, a game Round will consist of 3 different phases: the Suspicion Phase, the Verdict Phase, and the Deduction Phase.
1.) The Suspicion Phase:
The Suspicion Phase revolves around the start player (this moves from player to player in a clockwise fashion from Round to Round) using Henry Morton Stanley’s Notebook to choose a combination of clues, which may contain answers to solving the case. The Notebook contains 4 sections of clues (Suspects, Locations, Hours, and Objects) and each section, divided into flipbooks, contains the 8 possible answers.
During this 1st phase of the game, whoever is the start player will choose a certain combination of clues by flipping through the 4 sections of the book, until he has settled on a Suspect, Location, Hour, and Object and reads his suspicion aloud. These are the 4 items that will be used for the remainder of the Round. Note that when choosing these 4 particular items, they can not be the exact combination that was chosen by the previous player in the previous Suspicion phase.
For instance, Player A begins the game as the start player. He looks through Henry Morton Stanley’s notebook and selects the following items shown, the says, “I suspect Joseph Marlow of having been seen at Waterloo Station, at around 9:00, in possession of a Tribal Mask. These are the 4 items which will be used for the remainder of the Round, until the next Suspicion Phase occurs, which will be taken by Player B.
It’s important to note that even if you know 1 of the items in the combination of clues (per the card you were given at the beginning of the game), you are allowed to choose something different when flipping through the notebook and selecting your suspicion. This is one way to throw your opponents off and keep them guessing as to what you know or don’t know. Of course, if they figure this out, from round to round, they may be able to deduce the correct answer from your attempt at diversion.
2.) Verdict Phase:
During the Verdict Phase, players will anonymously reveal whether or not the items chosen during the Suspicion Phase are items on the clue cards provided to them at the beginning of the game. This will help to narrow down which clues are valid and which can be excluded.
At the beginning of the Verdict phase, players will take their Verdict Folder and place the Verdict card into the Folder, depending on whether an item from the current combination in the notebook is in their possession or not. The Verdict card has two sides. Placing it on the side with a checkmark means that 1 of the items currently displayed on the notebook is 1 of the clue cards in your possession, while placing it on the side with the “x”, means that none of the items currently displayed on the notebook match your clue card.
For instance, the notebook from the previous example included Joseph Marlow, Waterloo Station, 9:00, and a Tribal Mask. Player B’s clue card that he received at the beginning of the game was in fact, Waterloo Station. Therefore he must place the Verdict card into his Verdict Folder, with the checkmark side faced out.
All other players will also face their Verdict cards out to show whether the Suspicion given by the start player is correct or not. From this example, since 2 of the Verdict Cards are shown on their correct side, players know that 2 of the clues from this particular Suspicion are correct.
After all players have secretly selected the facing of their Verdict cards, they are placed face down in front of the start player, who then shuffles them so that no one has knowledge of which Verdict card belongs to which player. All 4 Verdict cards are then revealed. If all 4 Verdict cards show an “x”, this means that these clues can be excluded from the case, as none of them are viable options.
3.) Deduction Phase:
During the Deduction Phase, players will make deductive conclusions based on the information presented during the first 2 phases of the Round. They may place Deduction tokens on clues that they think are correct (or do so to bluff opponents) and may also make a final accusation in an attempt to complete the investigation. The player to the left of the start player of the Round will begin the Deduction Phase. On his turn, a player has 3 optional actions (place a Deduction token, pass, or make an accusation) and must choose to do one of them.
Place a Deduction token:
Remember that each player has a set of Deduction tokens that range from 0-2 points. If, at the end of the game, players have their Deduction tokens on the correct clue spaces on the game board, they will score points for those tokens. On a player’s turn, he can choose to place a Deduction token (face down) on a clue space. Each clue space may only hold a maximum of 4 Deduction tokens. If a Deduction token is already present when another token is placed beside it, that preceding token is turned to its faced-up numbered side and revealed.
For instance, Player D (yellow) decides on his turn of the Deduction Phase to place a 1-point Deduction token on the London Bridge location clue space, face down. He has a feeling that this may be the correct location of the crime since Player A had placed a Deduction token here earlier in the game, and a few of the other locations have been revealed as false leads.
After placing his Deduction token face down to the right of the Player A’s, Player D then reveals Player A’s token only to find that it is a 0-point Deduction token. It appears that Player A was bluffing and possibly has knowledge that the actual location is not London Bridge.
Since Deduction tokens can score players quite a bit of points at the end of the game, it is important to use them wisely, especially the 0-point tokens. Being able to bluff other players into wasting their 1 and 2-point tokens will give you an advantage as each player is limited to 3 of each number.
A Round of Lady Alice does not end until all players have “passed”. Note however, that once an individual player has passed, his turn during the Deduction Phase is not necessarily over. Even if a player had previously passed during the Deduction Phase, if the turn order comes back around to him, he is then allowed to take any of the 3 optional actions (place a deduction token, pass, or make an accusation).
Make an Accusation:
On his turn during the Deduction Phase, a player may choose to make an official Accusation. That player will announce the Suspect, Location, Hour, and Object that they believe is the correct solution to the case. All players will then use their Verdict folders and Verdict cards to show whether all the clues chosen by that player are correct or not. Unfortunately, if a player makes a false Accusation (one in which all four items are not correct) that player is immediately removed from the game (although they will still participate during the Verdict Phase). So, it is important to choose an Accusation wisely. If however, the Accusation is correct (all Verdict cards show a “checkmark”), the game will immediately end, and players will total up their overall points to determine the winner. It is important to note that just because a player has made a successful Accusation to end the game, he does not automatically win. Points can be scored in a variety of ways, which we’ll discuss next.
Endgame & Scoring:
A game of Lady Alice can end in the following ways:
– A player makes a Suspicion in which all of the clues are correctly identified during the Verdict Phase.
– A player makes a successful Accusation during the Deduction Phase.
Once the game has ended, players will remove all Deduction tokens off of the board that are not part of the 4 correct clues of the solution. For instance, if at the end of the game, Waterloo Station is found to be the correct Location of the crime, then the only Deduction tokens left on the board for scoring in the Location area, are those that were placed on the Waterloo Station space. Deduction tokens placed by a player that made a false Accusation are also removed before scoring, but only at the end of the game, not when the Accusation is made. This keeps other players from placing Deduction tokens on spaces that were maxed out from that player’s tokens for the remainder of the game.
After facing up all the remaining Deduction Tokens that were on spaces that match the correct clues of the solution, all “0” value tokens are removed, then points are awarded to players in the following ways:
– The written point value of each Deduction token are added.
– Any player whom has at least 1 Deduction token in each of the 4 correct clue spaces, receives 2 additional points.
– If a player guessed the correct solution during the Suspicion Phase, that player receives 1 additional point.
– If a player made a successful Accusation, that player receives 3 additional points.
The player with the most points wins the game.
For example, let’s take a look at the following 4 clues spaces on the board and how the Deduction tokens have been arranged. Let’s say that the correct solution was:
at the British Museum…
at 15:00 hours…
…and with Henry Morton Stanley’s Spyglass in her possession…
Using the above examples:
– Player A (blue) would receive 6 total points for his Deduction tokens.
– Player B (red) would receive 7 total points for his Deduction tokens.
– Player C (green) would receive 5 total points for his Deduction tokens.
– Player D (yellow) would receive 6 total points for his Deduction tokens.
– Player B (red) would also receive 2 additional points, since he has at least 1 Deduction token in each of the 4 correct clues spaces that match the final solution to the case.
– Let’s say that Player C (green) successfully made the correct Accusation. He would therefore score an additional 3 points.
So in this example, the final score would be:
Player B = 9 points
Player C = 8 points
Player D = 6 points
So even though Player C made the correct Accusation, Player B would win based off the total number of points scored at the end of the game.
3 & 5 Player Games:
Although Lady Alice is meant to be played as a 4-player game, there are a few ways to adjust it for a 3 or 5 player game. In a 3 player game, one of the clue categories is randomly removed so that players do not know which one is missing. Players are also limited to placing 3 Deduction tokens onto a clue space. Players will still use all 4 categories during the Suspicion Phase, but can only announce 3 clues when making an Accusation.
In a 5 player game, a 5th clue card is randomly chosen from the remaining clues and given to the 5th player. Because of this, there will be 1 clue from 3 different categories and 2 clues from a final category as part of the answer. Therefore, the correct solution can include 2 Suspects or even 2 Locations, etc. Players can now place a maximum of 5 Deduction tokens on a clue space. An Accusation or correct Suspicion will still only contain 4 clues, so players will only need to figure out 1 of the 2 clues in the final category. With a 5 player game, these is an additional scoring bonus, in that the player who has figured out which category contains 2 clues (by placing a token on each clue space) will receive 2 additional points.
Lady Alice blends an interesting balance of bluffing and deduction into a game that plays fairly quickly. Most of the game will be played during the Deduction Phase where players will have to decide where to place their potential points, while trying to bluff their opponents into wasting points on false clues. Since only 4 tokens can be placed on a clue space, passing on a turn can be quite risky. Being able to flip over a previously placed token on a clue space will give players quick feedback into whether they have been bluffed or may be on the right track to a correct clue (though even this can be a bluff within itself). And it may seem a bit awkward at first that note-taking is not allowed, but with the Sherlock Holmes Business cards covering false clues, as well as the placement of Deduction tokens on clue spaces, players won’t have a hard time narrowing down their choices of clues in each category.
It should be noted that though rare, a game of Lady Alice can end fairly quickly if at the beginning of the game, the initial start player luckily chooses 3 of the 4 clues correctly during the Suspicion Phase. Though this isn’t likely to happen often, it allows the player who knows his category is incorrect the ability to determine the final solution after 1 turn. Being that there are 8 clues in 4 different categories, it’s a rare occurrence, but one I feel should be discussed. Though, it can be easily mitigated by dealing fresh clue cards and starting the game over in a matter of seconds.
Lady Alice is a fresh and unique entry for fans of bluffing and deduction games, and one that really needs a group of 4 to be enjoyed the way it was designed. With the addition of the “0” value Deduction tokens, players are given a variety of tools to strategically delude their opponents into wasting points and gaining an advantage. All revolved around a strong theme including the deduction master himself, Sherlock Holmes, Lady Alice is a neatly built package that is quite accessible to both casual and more devoted board gamers alike.