London the board game, as it suggests, is based in London. London is a card drafting and hand management game, based on rebuilding London after the Great Fire of London in 1666. You will each play the role of an architect, hoping to get prestige as you work. There is a fine balancing act between buildings, money, land, and poverty while developing the city. While rebuilding London you will gain prestige, which goes towards winning the game. But keep an eye on your poverty, as this could go against you at the end of the game. This is a game where you do not know who has won until the very end. Even if you are charging ahead with prestige, you still may not win.
London the board game was created by Martin Wallace. Martin Wallace also produced Brass Birmingham (winning 7 awards), Wildlands (winning 1 award), and Railways of the World (nominated for 3 awards). This is a game for 2 to 4 players ages 13 and up, which I think is a fair age category.
What’s In The Box
- Instruction book
- Development board
- 101 City cards
- 20 Borough cards
- 4 score trackers
- 48 Coin tokens
- 12 Loan tokens
- 44 Poverty tokens
As you can see, there aren't too many different components to London. Just lots of them. The city cards and trackers go in one pile on the board, and we put all the other items in a pile on the table. The city cards are labelled A, B, or C. We like to put them back in the box as they're discarded, which makes it easier to tidy away and prepare next time. The instruction book is 10 pages long and clear, with diagrams to help explain.
London is fairly easy to understand but does take a little longer to find a strategy. The strategy you choose may have to change during the game, depending on the cards that you draw or are available to you. I like the fact that you can either choose cards from the pile, or cards on the development board that have been discarded. This sometimes allows you to get back cards that you have had to discard.
At the beginning of your turn, you pick up a card from the development board or from the deck. You can then either:
- Buy land/borough card (these can give you little bonuses)
- Develop your city (play cards. Some are free, some you pay as you put them down or pay for when you run your city).
- Run your city (where you can make money, get prestige, reduce, or gain poverty).
- Draw three cards.
When playing a card, you have to discard a card of the same colour. Therefore, each time you play a card, you are actually playing two cards. This can reduce your hand quickly. This can be a bonus, as during some parts of the game the cards in your hand generate poverty. You don’t want poverty. Some cards also need to be paid for. This could be as you play the card or as you run your city.
Don’t worry though, if you do run out of money, you can take a loan. Be aware though, for every £10 loan you take you must pay £15 back. If you have not paid them back, they go against you at the end of the game.
Ending London The Board Game
The game ends when the city deck is empty. At this point you add up your prestige points, the points on your cards in your city, points for any money left, and minus points for loans. The deal-breaker is the amount of poverty each player has left at the end. The difference in the amount of poverty you have compared to other players could make or break your reputation as an architect, so keep an eye on your poverty.
London the board game is fairly unique, but its main mechanisms are hand management, tableau-building, and running your city. In that concept it would be similar to Deus as they work the same mechanically. Race for the Galaxy also has some similarities.
If you prefer the history element in a board game, then here is some you may enjoy:
- Pandemic: Fall of Rome – Fighting viruses
- Cyclades – Fighting for territory
- Splendor – Based during the renaissance
- Twilight Struggle – Set during the cold war
Luckily, all the games mentioned require no historical knowledge.
London is a realistic game. If you like a more real-life game then this is for you. There is a lot of juggling to do in this game, but there are a variety of ways to achieve your goals. Just like a lot of games, they have a quirky way of deciding who goes first. For London it's whoever set up the game, so make sure you get there first!