Bureau of Investigation Review

Bureau of Investigation Review

Bureau of Investigation Review

Welcome to our next review of Space Cowboys‘ Bureau of Investigation. If you’ve played Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, then you know how this game plays out. It uses the same model but with a finite endpoint. Did we mention it’s set in Boston and Arkham? Yes…yes, it’s another Lovecraft-based game. We do love our Lovecraft here at DHG. So let’s find out how to play this game and dig into our thoughts.

Game Overview – Bureau of Investigation

In Bureau of Investigation, you work cooperatively with your fellow players to unravel a mystery set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft. The game is for 1-8 people ages 14 and up. Each case does take about an hour and a half to play. Like in the original Sherlock Holmes cases, you get a map (in this case of Arkham and Boston), a Directory — like a phonebook of characters, and a case book. Some cases also give you a newspaper to read as well. The game’s goal is to figure out which three locations or people you need to intervene. If you pick the correct three, you’ll score points and win the game.

Full disclaimer: Although we have reviewed Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – It wasn’t our favorite game. We found the game somewhat hard and were demoralized when we read the solutions. Sherlock Holmes would have solved the case with only three clues. So we were a bit nervous going into playing this.

That said, we were confident this game would be much better!

Game Components

There are only a few game components, and they are excellently designed and full of detail. The highlight is the double-sided map of Arkham and Boston. It’s a street map divided into six regions. The map design looks old, with dirt, discoloration, and yellowing around the edges. Interestingly the map is conveniently labeled with numbers over specific locations.

The directory is another component provided, and it’s essentially a book listing characters and places in the story and their “Address.” The addresses are a number and a region. So, 12 SW is location 12 on the Southwest of the map. We’ll get to how this works in the Gameplay section of the review. The directory is well organized, and things are listed alphabetically and by category. Just be careful using it. We looked up the police station in SE Arkham and accidentally chose the SE Boston station, which confused us when we read the corresponding entry in the case book.

Each case also comes with a single sheet newspaper with a series of articles on it and advertising like you’d find in a real newspaper, and even the pictures appear grainy, and sometimes the text appears smudged even. We love this attention to detail to make it look authentic. The newspaper is only a single one-sided sheet of paper, unfortunately. We’d expected it to at least be double-sided and give us more of a “newspaper feel” The back side is entirely blank seemed a bit of a missed opportunity to increase how immersive the paper is.

The final component is the case book. Each case comes with its casebook. The six regions of the location tab the pages to make entries easy to locate. The content contains a number and area followed by a paragraph entry that you read aloud. The book is segmented into two parts, Interviews and investigations. At the back of the book is the solutions section. Overall this is nicely designed, and we like the tabbing system, which is a nice improvement over the Sherlock Holmes games.

Game Setup

This game is super easy to set up. Simply layout the map and directory, and one player starts by acting as the lead investigator and reads the introduction to the case.

Then you are ready to go!

Game Play

As we mentioned at the top, we were apprehensive about how this game plays. That said, Space Cowboys has made some nice improvements to the overall system.

For those that have never played the original, this game works like this:

Players start reading the case’s introduction and try to figure out what location or person they should investigate next. This game doesn’t directly guide you to the next step. It is much more subtle.

For example, the casebook may mention a person’s name or that a person was wearing jewelry. Then you look in the newspaper provided, and there’s an ad for a jeweler. You need to conclude that you need to talk to the jewelers. Once you look up the directory, you find their location at 17EC. Finally, as a group, you decide to “follow the lead” and turn to the EC tab in the case book, find passage 17 EC and read the outcome.

This passage will provide you with more information you will need to choose if you want to “interview” or “investigate.” This last part is different from Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. In that game, you only had the opportunity to visit a location, and whatever happened there happened. In this game, the choice to interview can have a different outcome than the investigation.

The game also now has a finite endpoint, unlike Sherlock Holmes. During the introduction, the casebook tells your team a time limit. Sometimes it’s 15 days or 15 hours, but both equate to 15 leads you can follow. We think this is a significant improvement over the original because we would follow leads ad nauseam and never get to the end. This finite time forces players to make a decision. Finally, that’s the other difference, at the end of the game, you must choose three locations or people to “intervene” at or with. Then you turn to the back of the case book and read the three entries associated with your choices. If you are correct, the passages will end with scoring points.

Overall Impressions

Well, this game was a lot of fun! We love narrative-driven story games, and Bureau of Investigation didn’t disappoint. The game may seem like a lot of reading and discussion, but that makes it an excellent game for a larger group. You can pass the map and newspaper around, and everyone can contribute.

It’s also H. P. Lovecraft stories which we are huge fans of Arkham Horror from Fantasy Flight Games. Admittedly we were a bit nervous with this game, given our experience with the other Sherlock Holmes game, but we were pleasantly surprised.

If you are interested in getting your copy, we have it available in our store!