"We all have appointments with the past."
I had just returned from a fortnight away, my annual holiday, when I decided to call on him. I had not seen him in several months, so was wholeheartedly curious, and filled with some trepidation, to discover the current state of both his mental and physical faculties.
Baker Street was as bustling as ever as I called at that oh-so-familiar 221. Mrs. Hudson kindly greeted me at the door and directed me up, knowing full well I didn’t want nor need to be announced nor directed to the upstairs flat.
I found him pacing, as he often did when he was on a case, with his gaze fixed downward, no doubt studying the minute movements of some as yet unseen arachnid or similar creature. The scent of pungent incense hung in the air, certainly designed to conceal from Mrs. Hudson some far fouler stench.
“Good evening, Holmes.”
“My apologies if I am disturbing you, but I have just returned from…”
“Shhhh!!”, he muttered.
“Er… holidays… er… .sorry”, I stammered.
He paused in his pacing, looked up, and studied me but for a moment. “How was Greece?” he asked.
.”Now how the devil did you surmise I’d been to Greece? Wait, is it the slight smell of some Athenian spice, emanating from my clothes? The particular tanning of my complexion, indicative of Aegean latitudes? Or some other subtle tell?”
A hint of a smile appeared on Holmes’ gaunt chiseled face. “No, no, no, my dear doctor. Nothing quite so cerebral.”
He suddenly presented a card, which he must have subtly palmed off the table as he’d paced by. “Mary sent me a postcard from the two of you, from Athens.”
We both chuckled at this.
“Watson, I… we… have a case.” He began. “I was visited this afternoon by Reverend Edward Cussler, Vicar of Saint Sepulchres, in Snow Hill. It seems his daughter, Abigail, has disappeared and he is quite concerned for her well-being.”
It had been too long since we’d last worked together, so a part of me was quite eager to assist in his efforts, while another part of me was conscious that I had a wife waiting for me at home. “Where shall we start?” I heard myself say. “What additional information were you able to glean from the Vicar?”
Holmes’ smile broadened, “The game’s afoot, Watson. We’ll start by visiting The Holbrook hotel, on Holborn Viaduct, I should think”.
Click on the Read More link to find out what happened.
Reverend Cussler had relayed to Holmes that his daughter had been less than fully communicative of late.
He knew little of her current routine but did recall, from his last conversation with her, that she was quite excited about her new job. She’d recently been employed as a chambermaid at a nearby hotel, The Holbrook.
Holmes and I went there straight away and were able to question the hotel’s manager, who in turn arranged for us to speak with some of Abigail’s colleagues. Our interviews assisted us in garnering further information about her comings and goings, most strikingly, that she was a frequent rider on the Snow Hill Omnibus. I knew where Holmes would be leading us next.
As we emerged from the hotel, onto busy Holborn Viaduct, we swiftly leapt onto the nearest conveyance we could find, a Clarence carriage just passing by the hotel's entrance. Little did we know at the time that the forces of no less than three rather nefarious organizations were playing out their own little dramas, just blocks away.
We would learn later, by way of a visit by Lastrade, that the Brick Lane Commune had launched a daring raid on the local constabulary, apparently to nick the police jail wagon, no doubt in an attempt at giving it what for to the "Establishment". Fortunately, Lastrade and his men were there to try and foil their ne'er-do-well efforts, with decidedly mixed results...
At the same time, and in the same area, the local Commune headquarters was raided by members of the wicked Servants of Wubakhamun, that dark, dastardly, cult of the ancient, craven, Elbonian Pharaoh. They had apparently been looking to rob the local coffers of the Commune, while simultaneously defending the entrance to their catacombs from member's of Professor Moriarty's criminal cabal.
Amazingly, Holmes and I found our route to and from the Holbrook unimpeded, having half expected Moriarty and his men to be of some nuisance and to have posed some obstacle to our investigative efforts, as is the custom of the mischievous and malevolent Professor. Unfortunately, despite enjoying a free reign in the manner in which we conducted our investigative efforts, Holmes and I were unable to put an end to "our" game before "the" game had to come to an end.
It was great to see a large turn out of gamers show up at Tea + Victory for our June tribute to the adventures of Holmes and Watson. Playing Osprey Publishing's In Her Majesty's Name, Rob and Mark worked together to command the Scotland Yard faction, while Stephen and his wife Michelle commanded Moriarty and his minions (actually Lord Curr's company). The Servants of Wubakhamun (nee Ra) were commanded by Kurt and his son Kameron while the Brick Lane Commune was commanded by Barry and Daniel. My son Dan helped me as a co-GM.
I designed the game so that each two-player team/faction had a primary, offensive, objective and a secondary, defensive, objective, which was supposed to result in the forces of each faction fighting against the forces of two other factions. The roughly 6' by 38" setup depicted a rough approximation of the Snow Hill area around Saint Sepulchre's in London. Highlights of the table included using 4Ground buildings, a facade for St. Bart's hospital built for the game by Daniel, and a Department 56 Fenway Park ceramic piece re-branded as Holborn Viaduct train station, all sitting on a Cigarbox felt mat. Street lights were by Ironclad, fences by Blotz, vehicles and horses by Warbases, and figures by North Star. My special thanks to Kurt for lending me two-thirds of the figures for this game.
Every team's opposing goals were similar, capture or defend some objective location, except for Scotland Yard's main objective, solve the mystery of the missing Abigail Cussler, and Moriarty's secondary objective, prevent same from occurring. Holmes in the first instance, Watson if Holmes was eliminated, needed to visit a series of locales around Snow Hill, collecting an envelope from me when they reached their next destination, which contained a story snippet that sent them on to their next locale. There were six such special locations and, depending on the first one they chose to visit, the thread of clues leading from one to the next would be different, resulting in one of six different final outcomes that would explain what ultimate fate had befallen poor Abigail.
Special rules were designed to simulate a busy London. Vehicles were moved autonomously along city streets by 2d10" at the end of each turn. Figures could end their move and attempt to leap on a moving vehicle by passing a Pluck test. Success allowed them to make a second, optional, Pluck test to wrest control of the contrivance from its driver, allowing them to control its movement the following turn and making success for other allied figures wanting to leap on automatic. Borrowing from an article I read about Gangs of Rome in Wargames Illustrated, large squares in city streets represented "Crowds". To shorten movement distances on a large table like this, figures could end their move on a Crowd square and with a successful Pluck test, vanish into the Crowd, to be placed exiting any other Crowd on the table the following turn. This led to a great bit of chasing and second guessing where figures were heading through the busy streets of London. We moved Crowds at the end of each turn by 2d6" up or down the street (direction weighted by their current prevailing movement direction) and chose to disperse and then relocate Crowds when I decided the gunfire in an area was getting too alarming.
All in all I'd say it was a very successful experiment of a game and everyone said they had a great time and there were several great suggestions at the end of the game. Suggestions that Holmes and Watson should be allowed double their normal movement speed, to facilitate getting from clue to clue, were discounted, in favor of adding an additional Crowd square and making them stationary (moved only if vehicles or combat action forced them to be). Otherwise the same game will be attempted in the future, twice this summer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, albeit with probably just two factions (Scotland Yard and Moriarty/Curr) and then again in all its glory at OwlCon 2019 (with probably new clues and final outcomes). With luck, perhaps we'll even be able to run this at MillenniumCon in November.
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