Scotland Yard, E. Binz-Blanke, Ravensburger/Milton Bradley, 1983/1985.
Scotland Yard is an enjoyable and simple game wherein one player is hunted and the others hunt. In the role of Mr.X, the hunted player performs hidden movement across a map of London, giving clues to his whereabouts by revealing his form of transportation: taxi, bus, or underground. In the role of the Scotland Yard detectives, the hunters attempt to deduce the whereabouts of Mr. X by fanning out across the city and attempting to trap Mr. X in a deadly cordon. The game is similar to Parker Brother's Great Museum Caper or the olden abstract game of Fox and Geese. There is much enjoyment and anxiety playing the elusive Mr. X and trying to escape your pursuers. There is much cooperation and logical deduction in playing the detectives. The game is short enough to play 3 or 4 games in a row, trading the role of Mr. X and seeing who gets the farthest. All in all, this game makes for good fun whether the players are new or devious veterans.
|Courtesy of Funagain Games|
The playing pieces are plastic pawns with clear plastic pedestals that allow you to see the number of the intersection below. What a great idea! Mr. X. clearly can see the intersections without having to touch or move any of the player pawns.
Mr. X is given a plastic move board for recording his secret moves through the course of the game. There are 22 windows in which Mr. X writes the move and then covers with a ticket. The ticket is the clue as to where Mr. X has moved, either via taxi, bus or underground. Mr. X also has two type of special tickets: the doubler ticket which allows Mr. X to move twice (there are two of these allowed per game), and the black ticket which allows Mr. to use any transport or even travel along the Thames (there are one of these given to Mr. X per opponent per game). The detective must carefully consider moves as they have a limited number of each type of ticket. Aside from the doubler and black tickets, Mr. X's tickets are nearly unlimited.
The move board also has oblong windows on turn 3 and approximately every five turns thereafter. These windows indicate that Mr. X must show his presence on the map, a injurious deadly give-away of his position. The first move after this revelation consists of exasperated detectives rushing to the spot to nab the criminal. Mr. X attempts to rectify this slip up by immediately playing double move tickets returning to obscurity, playing black tickets to cover his tracks, or surfacing in some out-of-the-way, unreachable area.
The game also contains a funny visor for blocking Mr. X's eye movements - a telling clue. We supplement the visor with mirrored sunglasses and a baseball cap, giving Mr. X the aura of mystery and cold detachment. Even with the glasses, detectives always have fun trying to read the head posture, facial movements, and lips of Mr. X. In the future I imagine we will augment this with a cape, or even disguise makeup, to help hide subtler "tells" and conjure up the illusion of his elusiveness.
The play balance is tough for Mr. X in this game. Some sloppy play by the detectives is allowable and correctable by readjusting the capture net after Mr. X next surfaces. Mr. X cannot afford sloppy play and must always be at least 2 stops from any captor to assure he is not caught. When we first played this game, Mr. X was caught every game as the Scotland Yard detectives always deduced Mr. X's position through logical moves from a given sighting. For example, if Mr. X was spotted on turn 8, the detectives deduced he was on one of the 3 neighboring taxi spaces on turn 9, and the one given bus stop on turn 10. As we became more sophisicated, our Mr. X players have introduced some "stupid moves" in an attempt to shake the pusuit. For instance, doubling back on a given route, or playing an expensive black ticket to make a simple taxi move, or running right into the middle of a group of pursuers, all these seemingly illogical moves are valid attempts to confuse the attackers.
The most important strategy for Mr. X is to hang on as long as possible, attempting to force the detective to use their best tickets. Late in the game, ticket shortages can be used by Mr. X to slip by the captors. "Aha, the green player has no more taxi tickets, I can walk by him there." The detectives must take care to not spend a complete set of tickets before Mr. X is caught.
Another important strategy is controlling the location of Mr. X's appearance. It is important that on those turns where Mr. X surfaces, he surface on on intersection with many travel options. Although usually in scare supply, a black ticket played on a three way (taxi, bus, underground) stop can maximize the doubt and confusion on Mr. X's whereabouts for the next turn.
Detective strategy consists of forming a wall and attempting to close in Mr. X. A good wall can remove more than half the board from play. An excellent wall can narrow down Mr. X's position to one or two spots. After surfacing, the detective can count the spaces to which Mr. X may move. Ha, ha. Logic versus stealth. A hidden game of chess. A deadly game of cat and mouse.
All in all, I enjoy this game immensely and would recommend to most any board gamer to try or purchase this game. It was released by Ravensburger in 1983, winning the German Game Press "Game of the Year" award, and has since been released by Milton Bradley in America so copies should be readily available. One last tactic for Mr. X, especially if he sits stoically and stone-faced throughout the game. If you are caught, sit there silently for a moment, and then suddenly jump up and give a loud scream. The change in personality certainly will startle your captors and give laughs all around.