Welcome to the new Game Night Blog Carnival! This is a new feature we’re doing once a month with a few other RPG blogs. If you have an RPG blog, and would like to participate, check out the FAQ at the main Game Night page.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids to visit my parents for a couple of days. These visits usually include a visit with my uncle as well, who incidentally was the one who introduced me to D&D. Of course, when we all get together, we will often play games.
This time, my uncle disappeared up the stairs into his attic, and returned with a dusty, careworn box. By the art and font on the box, I could tell it was made quite a few years ago. The game? Scotland Yard, and like any game that has been selling for 25+ years, it’s fun and has lots of replay value (Monopoly notwithstanding).
Scotland Yard is a (mostly) cooperative game, where one player pits himself against the rest of the group in what really boils down to a test of logic. The goal of the game is for the “Policemen,” played by the group, to catch “Mr. X,” who is played by one of the players. Mr. X’s goal is to elude capture. The board is a map of London with various transportation stops – over 100, I believe – laid over it. Each of these stops is accessible by some form of transportation, whether it be taxi, subway (“underground”), or bus. Some stops are accessible by two or more forms of transportation. On each person’s turn, they spend a transportation ticket to move to the next transportation stop along the route. So, on my turn, I could spend a taxi ticket to move to the next taxi stand in any direction. Or a bus ticket to move to the next bus stop. As a policeman, if you end (or begin) your turn on the same space as Mr. X, he is captured, and the policemen win. If, on the other hand, the policemen are unable to accomplish this before they run out of tickets, Mr. X wins. And that’s pretty much it.
What tools does Mr. X have to elude capture? The most obvious one is that Mr. X makes all his moves in secret. While the rest of the group gets to see what TYPE of ticket Mr. X uses on his turn, they don’t know in which DIRECTION he travelled. Every fifth turn or so, Mr. X has to show himself on the map for a round, but on his next move, he disappears again. Mr. X also gets two “2x” tokens. These let him spend two tickets in one turn, effectively moving quickly out of harm’s way by double moving. Since there are only two of them, they’re a precious resource. It’s important to note that, as the policemen spend tickets to move around the board, they’re giving those tickets to Mr. X. As a result, the policemen have a limited number of each type of ticket, but Mr. X has virtually unlimited tickets. Finally, Mr. X recieves five “black” tickets. These effectively act as wild card tickets, and mask what type of transportation Mr. X has taken on his turn. They can also be spent to ride the ferry up and down the Thames river, which is a route that only Mr. X can take.
The result is an almost chess-like game where there’s only one piece that needs to be captured… and no one knows where that piece is.
One of the things I really like about this game is its total lack of randomness. The only random element is your starting location; after that is determined and the game begins, there is absolutely nothing random that happens. No card draws, no dice rolls, no “gotcha” surprises. All relevant information is available to everyone, and it is up to the players to use their wits to win the game. Another element of the game that I enjoyed was the table talk amongst the policemen (which the rules encourage). Each person argues why they think Mr. X is “around here somewhere” and what the group should do to “form a net.” All while carefully counting each type of ticket they have left as their supply dwindles. Bwah-ha-haaa. Ok, maybe that aspect is only fun for Mr. X. But hey, the only thing he gets to do is sit there and practice his poker face.
I highly recommend this game for any group that enjoys low randomness, high strategy games. Two big thumbs up.
- Game: Scotland Yard (a sequel, called “Mr. X,” uses a map of Europe)
- Publisher: Milton Bradley (original)/Ravensburger (current)
- Type of game: Strategy
- Number of Players: 3-6 (policemen control more than one pawn with less than 6 players)
- Time to play: 45 min to an hour, unless you have several “overanalyzing discussers” at the table.