Game Review: Scotland Yard

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

One Thursday night in January 2011, Loren rode out to Nathan’s with me, and we played some games. One was the Cleopatra game which Nathan reviewed. He asked me if I would like to review the other game, Scotland Yard, and I said that I would. I have a relatively long history with Scotland Yard, the game that is. I’ve never been in trouble with the law (in Britain) in my entire life.

If you read our Game Review theme week last year… We haven’t done a theme week this year. Perhaps a goal for the second ten-weeks. If you read the theme week in question, you may remember that I spoke of how my parents would often buy games for us to play as a family. Then after one or more times playing the game as a family, my brother and I would be the only ones all that interested in playing. It varied from game to game as to how often my parents would play, but in almost all the cases, my brother and I played the games more frequently as a two player thing.

Scotland Yard was a game that we could sometimes get one or both of our parents to play, but we did play it pretty frequently as two players. Luckily, the game plays well either way.

The basic premise of Scotland Yard is that Mr. X is on the run, and there are five detectives who are trying to capture Mr. X on the streets of London. The game board is a map of London with routes for Taxi, Bus, and Underground train. Mr. X and the detectives each may travel these routes, but the detectives have limited resources, and Mr. X does not.

The starting points of the detectives and Mr. X are decided randomly. The detectives are represented by plastic pawns and their positions are known throughout the game. Mr. X is also represented by a plastic pawn, but Mr. X’s position on the board is only shown five times a game. The only clues the detectives have are when Mr. X surfaces, and what form of transportation Mr. X uses each turn, which is shown with fare tickets for either Taxi, Bus, or Underground.

It seems very overwhelming at first. When we played with Loren, he could not understand how Mr. X (played by me that game) could ever possibly be caught. The answer is that there are five detectives, and all five are used each game. If six players are playing, one plays Mr. X and five play detectives. If two players are playing, one plays Mr. X and one plays all five detectives. Any other number of players between, and the players choose how many multiple detectives are played, but all five are always used. It’s harder to elude capture than it would seem.

The game is all strategy aside from the random starting points, but it is well balanced, so the strategy can never be taken for granted. I’m sure that a person could study the board and work out the most optimal courses to take, but for the average player, it’s just a question of resource management. For the detectives it’s the fare tickets. For Mr. X it’s the five special Black Tickets that mask Mr. X’s movements, and allow Mr. X to ride the ferry, which the detectives cannot do, as well as the two 2x movement tickets that help Mr. X out of tight spots.

When Nathan and I were in the shop, one of my duties was to hit garage sales and thrift shops to find things that might sell well on eBay. I’ve always been interested in the idea of buying board games cheap, and reconstructing them if they were missing pieces by buying other copies with missing pieces. I decided to pursue this. I found a full copy of Scotland Yard at a thrift shop for a dollar. Since it was complete, we put it immediately up for auction, and got $17 for it. It was one of our biggest ROI of all the shop merchandise, up there with a model train set, some hardback books, and a few things that I’d have to look at sales records to remember.

Since we sold the game so quickly, and for so much, we never got a chance to play it back then. I can’t remember if I found a copy of the game first or if Nathan did. I do remember I found it in a thrift shop in Haltom City, and that I do believe it was before Nathan also found a copy.

Loren thought the game was great, and the end of our particular game was almost like the end of a Hollywood movie. Literally the last move that each of the detectives could make, and if they made one wrong move, Mr. X could have finished the game without fear of capture, but they managed to figure out where Mr. X was, so I lost the game… barely.

If you like strategy games that play well with any range of 2 to 6 players, I suggest you find a copy of the game. Nathan says he prefers the look of the older version of the game. Maybe he’ll explain why in the comments section.

1 thought on “Game Review: Scotland Yard

  1. Scotland Yard (the older edition) has a much more 'vintage look' as opposed to the newer one which uses darker colors. The use of lighter colors in the old map appeals to me much more. Just check out a google seach on it and you can make up your own mind.

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