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GenCan’t 2018 – Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail

Purrrlock Holmes

Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail from IDW Games
(All photos of IDW Games product were taken and edited by KristaG)

Some of you, like myself, were unable to make it to GenCon this year in Indianapolis, Indiana. As unfortunate as this may seem, it doesn’t mean board games can’t still be played this weekend! I, for example, am actually going to be leading several demo games at my local game store as they participate in GenCan’t! One of the games I’m going to be teaching is Purrrlock Holmes: Furriary’s Trail. Purrrlock Holmes was released in 2017 by IDW Games. This charming puzzler was designed by Stephen Sauer and includes artwork by Jacqui Davis. In this 2-5 player card game, players take on the roles of rookie Inspectors at Scotland Pound and work together in a race against the clock to catch the dastardly Furriarty before he escapes. However, each rookie Inspector is also competing to prove their worth in hopes of being promoted to Chief Inspector. Those that allow too many cases to slip through their paws, though, will get demoted to Litter Box Inspector!

A Study in Scarlet

(Image from

Sherlock Holmes first appeared alongside his faithful companion Dr. Watson in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. These characters alongside Holmes’ arch-nemesis Professor James Moriarty were created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and are, in my opinion, some of the most iconic and easily recognizable characters in the genre of detective fiction. With this being the case, I feel it should be fairly obvious that there’s some detective work to be done when playing Purrrlock Holmes. Players will channel their inner Sherlock while using their observation skills mixed with some deductive reasoning and memory to determine not only who committed the crime, but at what time. The more investigations that are successfully completed, the close the elusive mastermind Furriarty is to being caught!

Purrrlock Holmes Set Up

Enjoying a nice 2-player game by the pool.

Before sitting down to play, Furriarty’s literal trail must be set up. The length of the trail and how close Furriarty is to his escape is determined by the number of players. The more players there are, the longer the trail, but with so many Inspectors on his tail, Furriarty is much closer to fleeing London so players will have to be quick! After setting up the trail as shown in the rule book and determining the first player, the Furriarty token is placed between the first and last player (on the right of the first player). This marks his place in the turn rotation – yes, Furriarty gets his own turn! Each player then takes a player board and card stand and places it in their play area. The 60 Clue cards are shuffled before dealing 1 face down to each player, who then places it in their respective card stand facing away from them and without looking at it. This is where the set up gets a little interesting (and perhaps confusing for the first time you play it). As part of the setup, players will get to investigate 2 cards each in order to “seed the investigation” and gather a little bit of knowledge about the case before the game even begins. After these initial investigations are finished, 4 Clue cards are dealt to the starting player and only 2 Clue cards to all other players and then the real detective work begins!

Purrrlock Holmes Solved Case

A correctly solved case! Can you guess how it was solved?

Much like in the beloved stories, there is a little bit of cat and mouse (or, in this case, cat and cat) as players chase after Furriarty, but, in reality, much of the game is spent dealing with his minions. Over a series of rounds where each player takes a turn, players will go through an Action and Clean Up phase before passing play to the next player. The Action phase is where all of the actual investigating is conducted along with any attempts at solving the case by “guessing” at the answers. While investigating, the active player will choose 2 Clue cards from their hand and reveal them one at a time. The other players will then inform them if the Clue is a “Lead” (matching in either suspect, time, or has adjacent time on the card) or a “Dead End” (matches nothing). However, why the card is a Lead or a Dead End is left a secret. Should a player want to test their deduction skills, they may use the Guess action. To do this, they must first declare which detail (suspect, hour, or both) they want to guess before they actually make their guess. Once the player has guessed, the other players can only tell them if they are right or wrong in their hypothesis. Like with the Investigations, though, players can not tell you which part of your guess is correct or incorrect if trying to guess both. If a player successfully solves the entire case (suspect and hour), they collect 2 paw print tokens from Furriarty’s trail. If they only correctly guessed at half of it, they will reap half of the rewards (1 paw print token instead of 2). During this point in the game, it is quite possible to capture Furriarty before he escapes as his token is picked up just like any other paw print! Depending on how well a player makes their guesses will regulate what happens next on their turn and is explained in full detail in the rulebook. The player’s guess will also determine how their Clean Up phase goes – either they will get to simply pass their cards on to the next player and draw 2 new ones or they will be unable to draw. Play passes to the right and the game continues until all Investigators have taken their turn.

Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty Escapes!

Even with several solved cases between us, Furriarty still escaped…

As stated above, Furriarty gets his own turn. On his turn, the Furriarty token is advanced one space towards the end of the trail. The paw print token that Furriarty passes over is flipped face-up, revealing the victory point value of the token. If Furriarty makes it to the end of the trail without being captured, players will get one last round in order to try and catch him. If no one manages to do so, he slinks off into the night and the game immediately ends without a winner and the player with the least amount of victory points is demoted to Litter Box Inspector, However, should someone catch the furtive feline before he escapes, the game also immediately ends. Regardless of which player captured him, the player who scored the highest number of victory points will be the one that is promoted to Scotland Pound Chief Inspector.

I am being completely honest when I say that Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail is a game that I love even though I absolutely suck at it. Though many have suggested that I just need to work on my deduction skills, it’s really more of an issue of my memory not always being as great as it should be. I often forget what Clues I’ve already guessed or what guesses I had gotten wrong that tend to do me in. Regardless of these personal shortcomings, though, I truly enjoy playing it with my friends – so much so that I even gave a copy of it away as a wedding gift! I love the theme (The Great Mouse Detective and Sherlock Holmes movies were a big part of my childhood for a while), the way Jacqui Davis managed to make each of the characters look distinguished with her art style, and I do actually enjoy the way the game makes you think. The more I play it and exercise my brain, the better my memory gets as well, which is definitely an unexpected perk of playing a game! It also means that I am demoted less and less often (I’ve still yet to win, though)! The game itself is completely language independent as long as you know and understand the rules, which makes it a good one to teach kids, players that don’t like to read a lot when trying to play, or those like my Player 2 who have certain issues with their vision. Though I don’t see much in the way of expansion for this particular game, I would really like to see more like it – at least as far as ones that test my brain and works with my way of thinking the way this one does!


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