Session Report – 25 July 2011

London

Cards at the ready

Tonight we managed to play the much lauded and highly rated Martin Wallace game London. Although it comes boxed as a board game, it’s a card game with one or two minor tweaks that hardly seem worth the effort. The major issue for us was the lack of player interaction.

The game has a deck of cards. You draw cards into your hand. By paying certain costs – cards and money – you may play these cards in front of you. Most cards have a benefit which you receive in a turn when you ‘run’ your city. As you may only do one action a turn – build on the map of London, play cards into your city, run your city, or draw cards – there’s a constant question about timing. And there are never enough assets to go around.

There are two clever aspects of the design. First, discards are on to an open display and other players may draw from there. So you must watch your discards – and other players’ discards – carefully. Second, after you run your city, you generate poverty points depending on various factors. So, building up an all powerful combination is rarely enough. You must work out a way of getting rid of the poverty, or at least restricting it.

The building on the map of London gets you cards and victory points, but it didn’t quite mesh with the card play. It does the job of being something else to do, but fails to inspire.

By a miracle, I won tonight’s game, just ahead of Daniel and Abraham. Laurie struggled a little with the cards. (There are a lot of cards, and a lot of potential combinations.) We may play it again, but it seems unlikely to become a favourite. It’s got great potential for ‘analysis paralysis’ so be warned. In places, a clever design, but not so clever to play.

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