I was two years old when Scotland Yard won it’s Spiel des Jahres award in 1983. The game was one of my favourites when I was younger and since it’s still around, over 20 years later, it must have something going for it.
I played it again recently, using a new edition from 2000 or so. The new edition looks nice, but for some reason they’ve changed all the bright colours to darker tones. That’s what’s in these days, I suppose. It still looks pretty good to me, I just love the London map — it’s one of my favourite cities, after all. The map has always been one of the main attractions in the game for me.
The idea remains the same: one of the players is dreaded mister X, who tries to escape from the other players, who are detectives. Detectives try to capture mister X. To make things more difficult, mister X moves in secret. Other players only know which movement method mister X uses (taxi, bus or underground).
Now you see me, now you don’t
Mister X must surface every now and then and it’s those moments which give hope to the detectives. After they see mister X, deduction starts. Ok, he was there and used a bus, where can he be now? However, the tree of possible locations gets very bushy very quickly, so there’s lots of guessing involved.
Catching mister X takes lots of thinking and most importantly teamwork. The detectives must work tightly together — so tight, that the game might actually be best as a two-player game of mister X versus one player commanding the full array of five detectives.
Good and bad
The biggest problem with Scotland Yard is the unbalance. Playing mister X is great fun, being a detective is less fun. This is particularly so when mister X surfaces somewhere across the board — you’ll spend many turns just slowly moving closer and frankly, that’s boring.
On the positive side, Scotland Yard is very easy game to play and teach. The concept is simple and rules are straightforward. There are few special cases to remember. It’s just use the ticket and move, and that’s it.
While I’m not in a rush to buy the game, I’ll definitely play it if an opportunity presents itself. Had I a ten-year old child, I would be tempted to get the game to hook another generation of gamers to the joys of Scotland Yard.