"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" - Theodosius Dobzhansky
There is grandeur in this view of life, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
I sat down at lunch with my usual group of coworkers/gamers. There was myself, Shandy, Mike, and Harry. Today we played the new release of Sleuth for the second time. The first time we pretty much failed miserably, our notation was no good and we lost track of the earlier clues. The result was we were unable to home in on the missing gem and, after almost two times through the deck, we had to call it due to time. However, we did see the potential in the game and we all went back to our offices and worked out new notation schemes.
This is the scheme that I worked out. I use the notation sheet that comes with the game and then, when information is revealed, I record it below the matrix in a column, corresponding to the appropriate player, using a code. The code is five digits long, the first digit is the clue number, the second is the number of cards revealed in the clue, the third is the color, the fourth is the gem type, and the fifth digit is the number of gems. For example, Shandy’s column looked like this:
1. 1 R D _
2. 3 G _ _
3. 2 G _ 2
4. 1 _ O _
This is translated as:
1. one red diamond
2. three greens
3. two green pairs
4. one opal
I assign one corner of each cell to one of the other players. For example, in our game Shandy was the upper left corner, Mike was upper right, and Harry was lower right. After each clue is recorded as described above I write the clue number in the appropriate corner of each cell which is a possibility. So, for example, after clue 1. was revealed for Shandy I put a little ‘1’ in the upper left corner of each red diamond cell. Thereafter, as I eliminate cards I can quickly revisit the relevant clues. So if, later in the game, I asked Harry for red diamonds and he showed me two I would put two big H’s in those cells and then I would know to go back and check clue number one for Shandy, and sure enough I can assign the third red diamond to her. If I can positively determine that a player does not have a card I put a dot in their corner of the cell for that card.
And so, using this notation, we began the game. My problem in the beginning was whether to ask specific questions or general questions. What I mean by that is if I had the blue opal pair and blue opal cluster in my hand should I use my turn to ask someone about the blue opals? Hoping to locate the blue opal single? (assuming I have the appropriate search card) or should I ask about pearl singles, of which I know nothing? For now I think it is better to ask the general questions early, so I picked out the search cards which corresponded to the most blank spaces on my matrix and used those.
This time the game progressed much better for me, my notation helped me to quickly identify who held what cards. And, more importantly, who didn’t hold what cards. It wasn’t too long before I had several cells with two dots in them, meaning I had ruled out two players from having that card and only had to rule out the third to identify it as the missing gem. This is where not having the right search cards became a problem. I often didn’t have the right search card to target a specific gem that I needed to find out about. I was probably one turn away from discarding all my search cards and redrawing when Shandy asked Harry if he had any opal singles. This turned out to be exactly the question I needed because I had already identified the blue, red, and yellow opal singles and I had ruled out Shandy and Mike from having the green opal single. Harry answered that he had no opal singles and this meant that I had identified the green opal single as the missing gem.
I announced that I was going to make a guess and circled the green opal single cell on my matrix and looked at the missing card. Sure enough I was right! It turns out the other players were close to being able to guess too. We had identified the missing gem with plenty of cards left in the search deck which was a dramatic improvement from the last game.
Overall I think Sleuth is a fun game. I’m afraid it may get a little repetitive, however. And with equally skilled players I’m afraid it may come down to who draws the right search card at the right time. So I think it’s a good little game that should not be pulled out too often to keep it fresh. I give it a 7.