Scotland Yard

Here’s Scotland Yard reviewed in Finnish.

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.

Darker tones

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.

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4 responses to “Scotland Yard”

  1. Scotland Yard is, in my opinion, a two-player game, not 3-6 as the box claims. The boredom you cite does not exist when one player controls all the detectives.
    As for balance, I think working with 4 detectives is pretty good. With 5 you should almost always make the arrest and 3 should be quite challenging for the lawmen.

  2. “Scotland Yard is, in my opinion, a two-player game, not 3-6 as the box claims. The boredom you cite does not exist when one player controls all the detectives.”
    Yes, that’s what I wrote in the Finnish review as well. This applies for serious gamers, basically — as a family game, it works perfectly well with three to six.
    What comes to the amount of detectives, it’s easy to start with five and then reduce once you get good enough. That offers a small handicapping mechanism — those are always good.

  3. Against newer players, Mister X can always surface more regularly.
    Also, against fewer players Mister X can try and limit his options (without telling his opponents). Maybe try to use only taxis for four moves in a row. That kind of thing.

  4. I played scotland yard (the old version that is) a few times now in the last couple of years (after not playing it for about fifteen years) and I must say: it’s just a very good game, even for serious gamers.
    About the balance I agree: it works best with four detectives. It’s a balanced game where both mr. x as the detectives have a good chance of winning. (Needless to say it’s much more satisfactory to win if you’re mr.x!)
    However, about the number of players I couldn’t disagree more. If you play with a lot of players it indeed becomes too chaotic and people will become too easily distracted, but with only two players it’s just too dull. In my opinion if you’re a bit of a serious gamer three players is definitely the best way to play it. In that way two players can both control two detectives. Although it’s not really important who controls who, because the fun is you do it TOGETHER, meaning you discuss everything openly over the board. That means analyzing all possible moves&positions and discussing possible future moves in a chesslike manner. The tension you feel as mr.x. when they’re intensively discussing your possible escape routes, and especially if they’re weighing the chance that you’re at the place you actually are, is just unbearable. (They’re supposed to warn people with a heart condition if you play it this way!) I experienced it really put an extra flavour to the game and makes it one of the most challenging and exciting games I’ve ever played.
    Not something you wanna play on a very regular basis like caylus, hammer of the scots etc. but it’ll always be good for a lot of fun.
    And of course they should deliver something like a hat and sunglasses with it, without it you’ll become paranoid as hell.