Teaching Time: 5 mins
Playing Time: 30 mins
Setup Time: 5 mins
Value For Money: Mid
At some point I seem to have decided to review all the Spiel Des Jahre winners. Now, for some of them like Elfenland or Hare and Tortoise I feel like I'm adding useful information by doing so, but for Scotland Yard it feels a little bit like reviewing Monopoly. Not that Scotland Yard is totally mainstream but who is reading my blog that hasn't got a decent idea about Scotland Yard?
Scotland Yard is the daddy of hidden movement games but unlike other SDJ winners that have spawned many followers it does not feel as though it has been surpassed by any of its offspring, rather it continues to feel like the purest expression of its type. During the game players split into sides, one taking the part of Mr X and all others his hunters, police from the titular yard. The rules include an option for hunters doubling up allowing the game to be played head to head if need be. Mr X moves hidden across the board, his player noting stops on a piece of paper, unlike some games the noting sheet is any old piece of paper so there's no need to be precious about them. Mr X surfaces around the map at various points during play, otherwise his movement is noted just by the methods of transport he uses. Hunters have to correlate fleeting glimpses with movement patterns, not all movement methods being available at all locations, to draw a net around Mr X. If a hunter moves onto Mr X's location they win, if he keeps on the run for long enough he wins.
The game play is simple enough to teach to the most mainstream player but far more tactical, engaging and satisfying than in most modern gateway games. The initial set up of player's pieces (by randomly drawing face down location counters) is a touch fiddly and will have players who want a "start space" groaning, but its over soon and the rest of the game is pure elegance. The learning curve is both natural and rewarding with a first time Mr X having little chance of success, but after four or five games he will be playing cat and mouse with his former hunters. Copies of Scotland Yard can be picked up very cheaply, it turns up in charity shops quite regularly since family gamers often find its one against many game play uncomfortable. Even not second hand £20 new does not make it into the top quarter of the prices of most modern games. If you've not played a hidden movement game before this is the place to start, if you have a hidden movement game but don't own Scotland Yard something odd has happened. If you enjoy the genre Scotland Yard is hidden movement at its purest. If you don't like the genre Scotland Yard is light enough that it might actually change your mind on the subject. The game is one of the tightest and cleanest examples of tabletop tension you'll ever get your Gran to play and it comes in under a single note. What's not to like?