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Scotland Yard Review

scotland yard (1)

I like to be at the cutting edge of all things board games, previews of the latest Kickstarters, pre-release demos of games by the hottest designers, those secret games which will never come to retail, and with that in mind let me introduce the latest game to get the super hyped latest game review treatment, the classic 1983 game Scotland Yard.

This game will be 40 years old next year. 40. That is madness. My version is even old in terms of board games as it is the 2014 reprint.

So why am I reviewing this Ravensburger classic now in 2022? And is it worth your time finding a copy (hint it is very easy to find a copy and well worth your time). Read on and all will be revealed.

London’s Calling

In this two to six player game one person plays Mr.X who is trying to evade the detectives and police for twenty two rounds to win the game. Whilst all the detectives (and police) have to do to win is either land on the same space as Mr.X or corner him so he cannot move without being caught.

The big twist here is Mr.X’s moves are almost always completely hidden with only his mode of transport known (and sometimes not even that). Only a few times during the game will Mr.X pop up on the board and show where he currently is. It is at this point the detectives can start to deduce where he is travelling to.

Big Yellow Taxi

The large and very colourful board gives a birds eye view of central London with everyone’s favourite landmarks noted such as ‘The Gerkin’, ‘Tower Bridge’, ‘Covent Garden’ and the most popular of all ‘The Shard’. At each intersection of road is a circle with one to three colours represented as well as a number.

The sections that are only yellow can only be travelled to / from by taxi. Now I don’t know about you but I always thought taxis were black in London. In fact I think they are famous for it. And whilst I think about it I swear there is another city which claims fame for its yellow taxis. All joking aside I completely understand from a graphical design point of view why they wouldn’t want to use black as taxis are the main mode of transport on the board and it would be hard to read with black lines everywhere.

When any detective, Mr.X or police travel via taxi it is just one space which means it is the slowest form of travel.

The turquoise spaces allow you to travel via bus. This is a more efficient mode of transport and will result in longer distances travelled. Just like all forms of transport in this game you must stop when you reach the next location that has the same colour (yellow taxi, turquoise bus, red underground) but a bus could move you between 1 and 7 spaces.

The rarest form of travel but by far the most efficient in Scotland Yard, is the red underground space. Using these can move your character from one side of the board to the other very quickly and is an essential mode of transport to help Mr.X evade capture and the detectives to close the net quickly.

Magic Bus

To set up Scotland Yard gives all detectives a player mat (and matching player piece) and then four underground tickets, eight bus tickets and eleven taxi tickets. These are limited and a detective could find themselves at a point where they can no longer use a particular mode of transport. It is possible that a detective could use all of their taxi tickets and then they could be stuck in a location where a taxi is the only mode of transport. If this occurs to all of the detectives the game is over and Mr.X wins.

When playing with less than four detectives you add police officers to the game. For only two detectives you add two police officers, and for three detectives you add just one. To note a police officer you take a player pawn and put a cardboard ring over it.

Mr.X starts with a playing piece, a visor (for shielding your eyes so the other players cannot see where you are looking on the board), a travel log with paper, a pencil (which you have to provide yourself – a very strange decision by Ravensburger), five black tickets and two double move tickets. Mr.X doesn’t need any normal transport tickets as he just uses them from the general supply and they are unlimited.

The detectives (and police) then take a starting location token and place their pieces on the number indicated. Mr.X takes a starting location token from the X tokens and keeps his starting position secret.

Going Underground

Each round Mr.X will make his move first, he will write his new location on the next space on the travel log and then cover that with his mode of transport. So all other players know how Mr.X has moved. Then the detectives will move their pieces one at a time by spending their tickets. The police are controlled by all players and do not have a supply of tickets and instead can use any mode of transport for free.

The game continues like this until either Mr.X has been caught or you reach the 3rd, 8th, 13th, 18th and 24th move Mr.X makes at which point the Mr.X playing piece must be placed on the board at his current location. The piece only stays on the board for that turn and it is always surprising and funny to find out you were so close earlier on but have now moved the detective piece away from that spot.

Mr.X has two special tokens he can use during the game. The first is the double move. This allows him to move his piece twice before the other players get to move. He must still show both his modes of transport and write both locations in his travel log. You can use this just before you have to reveal your location so that you show your location and then immediately move away from it and take your piece off the board.

The second special token is the black ticket. These are brilliant as they can be used to mask the type of transport you used (by placing them on your travel log instead of the actual ticket) or in a few locations along the River Thames they can be used to move by ferry. Only Mr.X can use the ferries and it is a fantastic way of evading the detectives.

The game continues like this until the end of the 22nd round or until Mr.X is caught.

Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner

There is a reason this game is still in print 40 years after release and that is because it is brilliant. The hidden movement is essentially the only mechanism in this game and it is all the better for it. Too many games these days add further layers of mechanisms in addition to the hidden movement and they become bloated and unnecessarily complicated because of it.

The game includes an excellent two player variant where one player controls two detectives and two police officers meaning this game is also perfect for a much wider audience.

I recommend this game to all gamers out there and all age groups. It is so easy to play you can get your kids, parents or grandparents playing within just a few minutes but there are just enough tactics that the ‘hardcore’ gamers will have a blast.

It’s London Baby Yeah! (I had to put in one Austin Powers reference sorry)

That concludes our thoughts on Scotland Yard. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Scotland Yard today click here!