The (Board) Game is Afoot: Introducing Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s Web

(Note from Selena Buttons: Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting Lucy Keifer, JHWS “Talia”, and getting a peek at the prototype of this excellent board game. The crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter runs through the end of this month. I’m already a backer, and I hope you’ll join me so we can all get a chance to play, so I’ve asked her to write up this post telling you all about it!)

The (Board) Game is Afoot: Introducing Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s Web

(because Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and 221B Baker Street are not very good)
by Lucy Keifer, JHWS “Talia”

I listened the Sherlock Holmes radio plays from the 50s before I could read. Holmes has been in my life since always.

Then in high school I got my hands on a Leslie Klinger Annotated, and the second I knew Higher Criticism was a thing I wrote a paper about how “The Greek Interpreter” makes a lot more sense if the whole thing is just a training exercise staged by Mycroft to see if Melas should be promoted to more important spy-work. (Come on. He’s “sent for at strange hours by foreigners who get into difficulties” and speaks “nearly all” languages. He’s a spy.)

And that might have been it, if my mom and sister hadn’t been stuck in traffic, and my sister hadn’t noticed that the car next to her had a license plate that read SHOLMZ. Obviously, when traffic was completely stopped and they were parallel with the SHOLMZ car, Mom calls over to the guy driving it.

“I like your license plate! Are you a detective?”

“No. I’m the foremost Sherlock Holmes annotator.”

“Then you must be Leslie Klinger!”

“I am Leslie Klinger.”

“My daughter has all your books! She just wrote an article! Will you read it!”

(People have trouble saying no to Mom.)

So Les Klinger read my article, liked my article, asked if I wanted my article in the Baker Street Journal. Then, once that happened, I was invited to the BSJ Contributors dinner, which happened to be part of the New York BSI Weekend. I went, realized that Sherlockians are actually the best people in the world. And then just kept coming back.

The other constant in my life is board games. We are a board game industry family (and I swear, that’s really a thing). Dad’s been a board game exec since ever, and I grew up playtesting board games, critiquing board games, thinking about why board games work, being able to explain why this one is good and this one isn’t. I do a lot of board game design work now, especially since Dad became a freelance consultant/inventor, and our family basically became a very small game company. I’m just legacied in at this point.

And it always bothered me that the Sherlock Holmes board games were so, well, bad. I mean, Holmes solves crimes! He calls his crime solving a game! When he’s played by Johnny Lee Miller he makes these really cool crime-solving collages that look like a game!

So of course the first game I properly invented (with Dad) had to be about Sherlock Holmes.

image2-24This is a crime solving game. It’s played a board of moving tiles – Professor Moriarty is a tile at the center, and all the unsolved crimes in London are tiles around him. Obviously, he’s behind everything – you just have to prove how. So you make chains of tiles (witnesses, informants, clues) and build a case against him. You play as Holmes, Watson, Irene, Lestrade, Mycroft, or Mrs. Hudson… and Moriarty, he plays himself. He steals clues, kidnaps witnesses, kidnaps you, and everyone either wins or loses together. I love cooperative games, and there aren’t nearly enough.

And I make little canonical in-jokes, and came up with special abilities for the characters that reflect their personalities. (Like Mycroft gets to know what Moriarty is going to do slightly before he actually does it.) There are references to Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper that snuck in there too. Not sure how that happened.

Me & my family at the Kickstarter launch party

And now Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s Web is on Kickstarter, and people from Hong Kong and Denmark want to buy my game, and I’m getting in touch with all these interesting websites and podcasts and cons and game cafés.  And my family is so completely behind me, helping me invent the game, doing the art, making the Kickstarter video, doing social media and marketing, and I’m just so overwhelmed by how lovely it’s all been.

So that’s my story. I’d love it if you wanted to check out my game. Please do if you enjoy casual light strategy, co-operative games, mystery solving, story generation, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian England, and/or pretty watercolors.


My sister Emily and me, debuting the game at Comic-Con.

More information about Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty’s Web: