Review: Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail

Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail box artDesigner: Stephen Sauer
Artist: Jacqui Davis
Publisher: IDW Games
Category: Deduction
Players: 2-5
Price: $23.98  IDW Games
Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail is a deduction and memory game from IDW Games. Designer Stephen Sauer has also designed Caffeine Rush, The Aberrant Apothecary, The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands, and more.
IDW Games is part of the media company IDW, which also contains IDW Entertainment, Top Shelf Productions, and the San Diego Comic Art Gallery. IDW Games publishes individual titles as well as licensed IPs, such as Machi Koro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past, The Planet of the Apes, Fire & Axe, and more.

Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail paw print tokens

Content Guide

Purrrlock Holmes is about catching the goons behind Furriarty’s plot, but besides some creepy animals, the game is light-hearted.
 Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail cards tokens and tableau


Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail paw print and token

Quickly, only three turns remain before he escapes!

Purrrlock Holmes is a witty 2-5 player game of deduction where players sleuth their way to scoring points and catching the dastardly Furriarty.
In Purrrlock Holmes, players are given a card which faces their opponents and they must investigate to discover the hidden identity of their mystery card. Meanwhile, Furriarty moves once a round along a paw print track, which will eventually end the game if he escapes. These tokens grant 1-3 points, and catching Furriarty grants 3 points.
There are five cronies in the deck, including: a gross frog, a sad puppy, a sniveling goose, a dark crow, and an elderly rat. These members of Furriarty’s gang have an associated number between 1-12 on their card. On a player’s turn, they must play a card from their hand, while the others at the table tell them if the played card is a clue to the hidden card, or a dead end.
If the played card is the same animal type as the hidden card, it is a clue. If the card has the same, or an adjacent, number to the hidden card, it is a clue. If it is a different animal, or not the same or an adjacent number, then it’s a dead end.
Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail mid game

Here is my setup from my own perspective.

Players sort their clues and dead ends, and using deductive reasoning from their own cards and the played cards of their foes, can choose to guess one or both characteristics of their hidden card. If players only guess one characteristic correctly, they may take a paw print token. If a player guesses both characteristics correctly, they may take two paw print tokens. In either case, that player will take a new card and get to investigate again (without guessing). However, if any part of a guess is incorrect, the player gains nothing and it becomes the next player’s turn.
This continues until either Furriarty is caught on the paw print track, or escapes because players took far too long to catch him.
Listen, I don’t love playing the same game over and over again. Sometimes as a reviewer, it’s a chore when you receive a boring game you need to play six or more times to get it and feel comfortable reviewing. This isn’t the case with Purrrlock Holmes—I played three times in a row on our first game night and loved each game.
Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail cards and tableau

Clues on the left, dead ends on the right.

Purrrlock Holmes is cheeky and filled with dumb puns, but it doesn’t force silly humor on you. Games are fast and full of critical thinking, but they don’t drag. It comes in a Machi Koro-sized box, learns relatively quickly, and seems like an obvious choice for teaching games featuring deduction.
You don’t sit idly waiting for your next turn because you’re either preoccupied thinking about what your mystery card could be, or excitedly screaming “DEAD END” at your friends around the table on their turns. The addition of being able to guess one or both parts of your card makes each guess weighty, as an incorrect guess gives your friends better chances of winning. You can even flip your tableau to give yourself an extra guess during the game at the cost of losing a point.
It should be mentioned that after you’ve made your investigation, you give your extra two cards to the next player. Wise decision-making dictates you shouldn’t give cards relating to the player’s hidden card, as that could be an easy tip-off. Of course, what if you need to play the other cards to help yourself? These are some of the thoughts you’ll work through in each game.
Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail dog cards

Seriously, this dog looks so dopey.

Purrrlock Holmes is arguably a younger kid’s game, but can easily entertain other ages. Deducing your card means you can either use the visible clues around the table, or card count everything that’s gone into the discard pile. Some of your friends might be excellent at this game, while you might prefer the clues just in front of you. This makes the game cater to different groups quite well, so it’s accessible for many.
Artwork is nice and dreary. Each animal crook has a silly gang name, and their mugshots will be quickly burned into your memory. You flip over your card and say, “No! I knew it was the rat!” followed by your friends rolling their eyes, “sure you did.” You’ll laugh and yell at your wrong guesses on your way to catching Furriarty, and it’s a blast.
Components are nice and cards feel good to shuffle. Taking paw print tokens is wonderful, until you flip them to find they’re only worth a point each. Furriarty is chubby and old and it’s a joy to catch him.
Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail scotland pound litter box and chief inspector tokens

Will you win or lose?

The insert is fine, with good slots for pieces, but it’s a little difficult to get the cards out of their slot. The stands for hidden cards seem intentionally easy to knock over. This is arguably a thematic decision for the game, as tracking someone and their footsteps might tip them off to your investigation. In fact, if you knock over your own or someone else’s card stand, you’ll ruin both of your investigations and have to draw new cards.
Another odd thing is instead of declaring a winner in the case of Furriarty escaping, the player with the least points is declared loser, with no winner. In either case of winning or losing, the crowned player is given a token signifying their victory or loss. This is fine, but a bit odd. It makes me to think this token exists purely for the laughs of small children. I haven’t encountered many games that include a winner’s chip, and I’m not opposed to it. However, I’m generally ready to tear a game down when someone wins instead of handing over a chip and a pat on the back.
The game wasn’t horrible to learn, but I did spend some time rereading sections of rules. The rulebook feels pretty long and over explains some concepts when some things could be explained with fewer words. It’s a simple game, so the rulebook threw me off a bit.
Overall, Purrrlock Holmes is a great card game. It’s compact and offers enough complexity while being capable of introducing new gamers to deduction. Furthermore, my longtime gamers really liked it which makes me excited for Purrrlock Holmes longevity. Definitely give this one a try.
Purrrlock Holmes Furriarty's Trail box with my kitty.

Jasper approved.

The Bottom Line

Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty's Trail is a welcome addition for gamers looking for a cute and fast game using deductive reasoning.