In case any of you missed it, my top 50 prospects ranking update went up on Thursday. I’ll be back on the Baseball Today podcast on Tuesday.
Scotland Yard is one of the few mass-market boardgames from before Settlers of Catan ushered in the modern era of “Eurogames” to fare well in the comparison to the more sophisticated, less luck-based games that players like me tend to favor. It has a very simple mechanic, has cooperative elements, and involves a tiny bit of luck. The Scotland Yard iOS app, released early last month, is a very strong implementation that only falls short in that it’s a hard game to play with AI opponents or partners.
The game is semi-cooperative, with two to five players as detectives chasing one player, the thief Mr. X, around London, attempting to catch him by landing on the space he occupies in the span of 24 turns. On each turn, a player can move to an adjacent location or station using a taxi, a bus, or the subway. The detectives start the game with a limited number of passes/fares for each method of transportation, and when a detective uses a ticket, he gives it to Mr. X to use on a subsequent turn. The location of Mr. X is obscured for most of the game, but is revealed four times, after moves 3, 8, 13, and 18; on all other turns, the detectives see what method of transportation he used, but not his location. Mr. X also gets two “double move” tickets, allowing him to make two moves within one turn, and has several “black” tickets, where he can obscure his method of transportation as well as his location. Finally, he can take boats along the Thames by using black tickets, a method entirely unavailable to the detectives.
I’ve never played the physical boardgame, but the need for secrecy makes this tailor-made for an adaptation to a mobile platform, whether you’re using pass-and-play or online multiplayer. The graphics in this app are bright and pretty clear, no mean feat for a complex board with lots of fine lines representing paths for each method of transportation; the app also brightly highlights all acceptable moves for each player on his turn, and includes a countdown clock of variable move times for live games.
Playing solely against AI opponents, I found it more fun to play as Mr. X because you can’t coordinate with AI detective players when playing the other side. Yet escaping the detectives quickly became simple, even on the hardest setting, because they’re not deductive enough – for example, they never seem to grasp that when Mr. X reaches one of the stations on the Thames and uses a black ticket, he probably took a boat to a different part of the board. So while gameplay is clean and simple, it’s much better suited to play against live opponents, even if you want to supplement with an AI detective, or want to gang up on an AI-played Mr. X.