Scotland Yard is a simple, semi-cooperative game for two to six players. One player controls Mr. X, a criminal trying to elude capture by the Scotland Yard detectives. The other one to five players play as the Scotland Yard detectives trying to capture Mr. X. The board is a map of London, and each space on the board bears a number and tells what modes of public transit stop at that space.
|This is an older version of the game, similar to the one I|
have. You can see on this picture the numbered spaces.
What I like about Scotland Yard is the amount of interactivity. Table talk is encouraged, and this is the most fun part of the game. The detectives are working together to try to nab Mr. X, and the game keeps up the tension the whole way through. I also like that the detectives have a shorted supply of tickets (that is, they cannot take whatever transport they want the whole game). This forces careful planning and budgeting of tickets early on, as Mr. X will most likely escape by taxi if the detectives are not careful. Playing as Mr. X has its own set of challenges. You try not to reveal where you are or show on your face when the detectives hit on your strategy. You also try not to celebrate when they completely miss the boat (or water taxi). I typically try to provide Mr. X with a pair of sunglasses; newer, fancier versions than my garage sale find now include a hat that says "Mr. X" on it (which is a nice touch, though I doubt Mr. X would advertise himself like that on London transit). I also like that Scotland Yard is simple--you can teach it in about five minutes--but the strategy is deeper than the initial simplicity of the gameplay. And because it is mostly cooperative, new players can join in and not be expected to have fully formed strategies at the start.
What I don't like about Scotland Yard is that the game is tipped--almost overwhelmingly so--in Mr. X's favor. Mr. X's ticket supply is not limited. He also has two tiles that allow him to move twice, helping him elude capture. He can take the water taxi. Catching Mr. X, in my (admittedly limited) experience, is rare. I suppose this makes it that much more gratifying when you do capture him, but Mr. X is more often caught by a fatal error in his logic than in the superiority of the detectives'. Also, Scotland Yard is a fairly cerebral game and can result in long, analysis-heavy turns. And because it is a cooperative game, it can become a "ringleader" kind of game, where one player calls the shots and the other players do his bidding. (I'm sure I'm guilty on all these counts.)
Scotland Yard isn't the kind of game I'd pull out all the time, or even often, but I do enjoy it most of the time I play it. If you're in the mood for a strictly cooperative game, I would choose Pandemic over Scotland Yard, but if you're looking for a mostly cooperative game with an added element of human unpredictability and competition, Scotland Yard should be a hit.