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Having had my interest piqued by the one-and-done escape room games such as the Exit and Unlock games, as well as the excellent crime-scene-in-a-box that was Decktective, I was keen to find other series or formats that may offer similar experiences.

Which is how I stumbled upon the Q System games, each of which is a single crime to be solved, either by a single player or in a group.

The general play is very similar to Decktective, in that players are given details of a crime that’s happened, then each have a hand of cards to play from – once all cards have been either played or discarded, the player or group try to solve the crime – then unseal a multiple choice questionnaire which they collectively answer.

Players score points at the end depending on how many questions they got right, but must also subtract points for any irrelevant clues that were played face up over the course of the game. The final score gives the player(s) their overall rank, in which they’re bestowed the title of a Sherlock Holmes character – the top score giving them the title of Sherlock Holmes and the bottom being Inspector Lestrade.

It plays extremely quickly, even when pausing to discuss clues. Only underlined text or ‘headline’ text can be read from cards before they’re played, with no other details permitted unless the card is played on the table. It’s very easy to be drawn in by the red herrings present on a few of the cards and start dreaming up motives that don’t actually have any bearing on the case, as well as drawing incorrect conclusions as to which characters were involved.

The scoring system – in which points are deducted for playing irrelevant clue cards – feels overly harsh, particularly as you won’t be building up a clear picture of where things are going until you’re close to being out of cards. The questionnaire is a neat way of getting those points back, however, and even if you are heading down a red herring strewn path, you’ll likely still stumble upon some of the culprits, even if it’s for slightly the wrong reasons.

The main issue is that the game is likely to last less than an hour and, due to its linear, single crime nature, can’t be played again. Though the gameplay is extremely similar to the Decktective game that I previously covered, it doesn’t have any mid or late game plot twists that spice up and add to the proceedings, nor is there a 3D crime scene to study. There are details on the cards that add to the clues if carefully inspected, however, which it pays to be aware of.

The Sherlock connection is very tenuous, too – it doesn’t really feel like there’s much in the way of reference to – or need for – the fictional detective to be involved at all. Ultimately, however, it was a reasonably fun game and – along with the other games in the series, that all use the same ‘Q System’ game mechanics – is extremely cheap at the moment, being available for just a few quid online. For that price, it’s well worth trying; at full price, however, I’d say it’s a little too expensive to be good value, especially given that – for just a few quid more – the far more satisfying and creative Decktective game can be purchased instead.

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