The spot the difference mechanic has been pretty popular for children for quite a few years. The basic premise of spot the difference puzzles is that you are given two different pictures. For the most part the pictures are exactly the same except for a few differences. The goal is to find all of the differences between the two pictures. While not the most popular board game genre there have been quite a few games that have used this type of mechanic released over the years. Probably the most popular game in this genre is Spot It!. Well today I am looking at another game in the genre. Released in 2017 Sherlook is a game about analyzing a crime scene where players are tasked with spotting the differences between two different crime scene photos. While the theme is maybe a little morbid I thought this was a really interesting idea for a board game. Sherlook is one of the best spot the difference board games that I have played even if it may be best in shorter doses.
How to Play Sherlook
- Sort the scoring tokens by their color and place each into their own stack. Place the green tokens picture side down. The other tokens are placed picture side up.
- Place the ten evidence markers in a circle in the middle of the table so all of the players can easily reach them.
- Shuffle the 40 picture cards and place the deck color side up.
Playing the Game
Sherlook is played over ten rounds. Each round begins with flipping over the top green token. The picture on the token determines how the two pictures for the round will be placed.
The top picture from the deck is removed and paced on the bottom of the deck. The next two pictures will then be arranged based on the picture on the green token. The round will then begin.
All of the players will look at the two pictures and try to count the differences between the two cards. Players will keep a tally in their head of the differences they have spotted. Once a player thinks they have spotted all of the differences they will take the evidence marker corresponding to the number of differences that they think there are. Once a player takes a evidence marker they cannot change their mind.
Players will continue trying to spot differences and picking evidence markers until there is only one player remaining that doesn’t have a marker. This player has three seconds to take an evidence marker. If they don’t take one in time they won’t get a marker for scoring.
After everyone has their marker the two pictures will be flipped over to the black and white side. This side of the pictures notes the differences between the cards. Count up the number of differences between the two cards.
Scoring begins with the green point token which is worth three points. If a player picked up the evidence marker with the exact number of differences between the two cards they will take the green token. If no one guessed the right number the green token will be discarded.
Players who guessed lower than the actual number will then compare their evidence markers. The player with the closest number that was below the actual total will take the yellow token which is worth two points. If no one took a token below the actual value the player who received the green token will also take the yellow token.
Finally the players who guessed higher than the actual number of differences will compare their evidence markers. The player with the closest marker that was higher than the actual total will take the red token which is worth one point. If none of the players have a token higher than the actual number the player who took the green token will also take the red token.
After all of the scoring is completed the players will return their evidence markers to the table. The two pictures used for the round will be discarded. The players will then play another round in the same way.
End of Game
The game ends after ten rounds have been played (there are no green tokens remaining). Each player adds up the tokens they received during the game (green=3 points, yellow=2 points, red=1 point). The player who has scored the most points wins the game. If there is a tie the player who received the most green tokens will win. If there is still a tie the tied players will play one more round to determine the winner.
My Thoughts on Sherlook
As I alluded to earlier Sherlook is basically spot the differences the board game. Basically the whole game revolves around looking at two pictures and trying to find the differences as quickly as possible. Once you think you know how many differences there are between the two pictures you have to grab the corresponding evidence marker before someone else can take it. The amount of points you score depends on whether you guessed the correct amount or if you picked the closest number below or above the actual total. The player who collects the most points during the game wins.
With a concept as simple as spotting the differences between two pictures it is not a surprise that the game is quite simple. If the players are familiar with the concept of spotting the differences you could probably teach the game to new players within a minute or two. The gameplay is really straightforward which makes sense as there is no reason to make the game any more complicated than it needed to be. Due to this simplicity I would normally recommend the game to the whole family. The only reason that I am a little hesitant to do so is the game’s theme. In the game you are analyzing murder scenes after all. There is nothing graphic in the pictures outside of the person’s outline (no blood), and there are some weapons on the cards. If that doesn’t really bother you I see no reason why children under the age of ten couldn’t easily play the game. I think the game will actually work best in family settings as I don’t see it really appealing to people who are generally into more strategic games.
In addition to being easy to learn the game is also pretty quick to play. In the game you will end up playing ten different rounds. It will somewhat depend on how fast the players search, but I can see most rounds only taking a couple minutes to complete. With the game consisting of only ten rounds I think you can easily finish a game within 15-30 minutes. As you only use half of the cards in a game this gives you enough time to easily play a rematch round using the other 20 cards. I like the game’s shorter length for a couple reasons. First this is the type of game that is better as a shorter game. The game is quick and to the point instead of dragging itself out. This makes the game great for families especially if you choose to play with younger children. This also makes Sherlook a great filler game for when you don’t have much time available or need a quick break between longer more strategic games.
While the whole spot the difference mechanic has been utilized by quite a few other board games in the past, I think Sherlook does a really good job with it. In fact I think I would consider it to be one of the best games from this genre. I think part of it is the game’s theme which is perfect for this type of game. Other than that I just think the game does a really good job utilizing the mechanics to make for a really fun game. Spotting the differences may not be really deep, but it is quite satisfying. Unlike many of these type of games there are quite a few differences between the two cards. Searching for all of the differences is really fun as it is satisfying being able to spot a clever misdirect. While some of the differences are pretty obvious, others are pretty clever as they are only minor differences. The designer deserves credit as these minor differences add a lot of skill to the game as you can miss some of them pretty easily.
Like a lot of these type of games Sherlook is also a speed game. I honestly don’t know how else you could make such a game. Speed is key to the game as being able to pick your number before the other players can play a big role in your success. It doesn’t matter how good you are at spotting differences if you can’t grab the corresponding evidence marker before the other players. You want to take your time so you can find all of the differences, but you also don’t want to take too long that you lose out on the number you want. Players need to be decisive once they have analyzed the whole picture so they don’t lose out on the opportunity to grab the evidence marker that they think is correct. If a player doesn’t get the evidence marker that they think is correct they then have to make an important decision.
Unlike a lot of spot the difference games you don’t need to be exactly right in order to score points in the game. The game doesn’t require you to point out the differences so you can make an educated guess about the actual total. If you don’t get the evidence marker that you want you have to make one of two decisions. First you can decide to add one or more to the total you counted and pick the next highest number hoping that you missed one of the differences. Otherwise you can choose to pick a number one lower hoping that you double counted or counted something as a difference when it wasn’t actually a difference. Normally I would say to bid the higher number as it is more likely that you missed a difference than you miscounted the ones that you noticed. The one reason to possibly choose the lower end of the spectrum is the fact that you can score two points for being the closest answer below the actual value than being above the actual amount.
This leads to players potentially hedging their bets. At no time during the game do you have to point out the actual differences. This allows players to make an educated guess on how many differences there are between the two pictures. Players shouldn’t randomly just guess their answer, but this allows players to make an educated guess should the player not have enough time to find all of the differences. If a player gets a pretty big lead on the other players they could also choose a number that they know is more likely to score them points so they can maintain their lead. This can lead to some gamesmanship, but it does add some strategy to the game. While it is hard for players to remember all of the differences between the pictures, I wish the game could have added some sort of mechanic for players to show the differences they found preventing players from just randomly guessing.
As for the components I think they are pretty good for the most part. I think the game’s artwork is quite good. I like the game’s art style and as I mentioned earlier I think the differences between some of the cards are quite clever. I also found the idea of using evidence markers for the numbers you grab to be quite clever. This was a really good use of the theme in my opinion. For the most part the component quality is quite good. The biggest problem with the components is the fact that I wish there were more picture cards. The game includes 40 different pictures. This means that you can play two games before having to reuse cards. Having more cards would have let you avoid repeats for longer. I also think the game could have used a couple different scenarios for the pictures as it gets a little repetitive looking at the same crime scene in every picture.
I had quite a bit of fun with Sherlook, but it does have two problems that do hurt the overall experience. First the layout of the cards is quite important to the game. Having a straight on view of the cards can give a player a huge advantage in the game. Unless all of the players sit on the same side of the table one player is going to have an advantage solely based on how the cards are placed. This is made evident by the fact that throughout the game the cards will be placed in different ways. How the cards are placed can make it considerably easier or harder to spot the differences. At first I thought this was a stupid mechanic, but in practice it actually adds an interesting mechanic to the game as you need to adjust to how the pictures are laid out. The player that gets the best viewing angle of the cards though is going to have a significant advantage in the game.
By far the biggest problem with Sherlook though is the fact that it is one of those games that is better in shorter doses. This is due to a couple reasons. First the gameplay is pretty basic as you are doing the same things in every round. After a while this gets a little repetitive as there isn’t a lot of variety in the game. The main reason though is the fact that you quickly start to “learn the cards”. What I mean by this is that all of the cards are based off of one main image. The differences are then introduced by changing elements of this main image. As all of the pictures share most of the same key elements you pretty quickly start to notice these elements that are in every picture. This makes it pretty easy to spot the differences between cards. After one game you start to instinctively notice these differences. After a couple games it gets even worse. Adding in the fact that there are only 40 cards and the game will start to become a little repetitive after your second game in a row. Thus Sherlook is the type of game that you will play one or two times and then put it away for a while as you wait to forget the differences between the cards.
Should You Buy Sherlook?
At first glance it is pretty obvious that Sherlook is your basic spot the differences game. You are given two pictures and you need to find the differences between them. Adding to this is a speed element as you need to find the number of differences and take the corresponding evidence marker before the other players are able to take it. Sherlook shares a lot in common with many other spot the difference games, and yet it is probably one of the best games from the genre that I have played. I think this comes from a couple different things. First I like the change from spotting the one difference between two cards to determining the total number of differences between the two pictures. Second I like that the game is really easy to learn and plays really quickly. Outside of the theme maybe being a little questionable for younger children, I think Sherlook is a game that the whole family can enjoy. The game does have a couple issues though. How the cards are placed makes a pretty big difference on the game which means one of the players will get a pretty big advantage in the game. Most importantly Sherlook is a fun game but it is one of those games that can get repetitive after a while where you are better off playing it once or twice and then putting it away for another day.
My recommendation for Sherlook comes down to your opinion of spot the difference games. If you have never really cared for this genre I don’t see you enjoying Sherlook. If you like these type of games though I think you could really enjoy Sherlook and should consider picking it up.