Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why It's My Favorite: London


Game Overview
London is somewhat of a hard game to explain, because to properly understand it requires understanding the cards.  In London players are rebuilding the city following the great fire of 1666 up to 1900.  To do this a player has one of four actions they can do on their turn.  First at the beginning of their turn they must draw a card.  This draw can be from the top of the deck or from an area that players discard cards to.  The first action a player can do is draw three additional cards.  The second action a player can do is claim a borough.  These areas are represented as districts on a board.  Each borough has a cost in money that a player plays, they then put one of their markers on it and draw as many cards as indicated.  At the end of the game these territories are worth points.  Third, a player can build in their city.  The cards a player builds are placed face up in front of them in piles.  A player can have has many piles as they want.  To build a card a player must discard a card of the matching color.  So if I want to play a brown card in front of me, I must also discard a brown card.  Some buildings also have a financial cost as well.

The final action is running the city.  When a player runs a city, they activate all of the buildings they have built.  Often doing this will get the players points and money.  Most buildings are a one time use.  Running a city also generates poverty.  After a city is ran, a player adds up the number of piles they have, add the number of cards in hand, and then subtract the number of boroughs they occupy on the board.  So if I have four piles in front of me, three cards in hand, and occupy two boroughs, I will gain five poverty (4+3-2=5).

This is important because at the end of the game poverty is graded on a curve.  Whoever has the least discards all of it.  Everyone else discards and equal amount and then leftover poverty is worth equal points.  In addition to that, players can take out loans if they wish and their are some cards with special effects like adding underground tokens.  When the card deck runs out the game ends, after people have one final turn.  At the end of the game all points are added up and whoever has the most wins.

Why I Love This Game
All games fall somewhere on two different spectrum.  The first is strategy vs. tactics.  Strategy deals with long term, big picture decisions.  A strategy takes multiple turns to enact and follow through.  Tactics are more short term, immediate decisions.  Tactical decisions are ones that are made turn to turn, making the best decision with in the context of the turns.  I tend to like games that are kind of the in the middle.  I like games that require a strategy, but the way this strategy is fulfilled must be fluid.  I like games with strong tactical decisions where the overall strategy may have to be adapted on the fly because the current tactical situation demands. it.

The second spectrum is luck vs. skill.  A game like chess is zero luck, and all skill.  On the exact opposite end might be a card game like War, where the players have no control and it is all luck.  I like games that do mix luck and skill.  I like games with meaningful decisions where a player with skill  can make the more informed decision.  However, I also like it when the skills aspect is tampered with a luck component, so that players need to make the best of their luck.  Luck can not be the decisive factor, but I do not mind when luck levels the playing field a bit.

So that is a long, theoretical description to basically say London hits the sweet spot on both of those spectrums for me.  Every turn offers several big decisions, and each decision is multi-faceted because they have long term implications but the decision is very tactical as the decision made on what is best for that turn.


I also really like the tableau building aspect of this game.  I enjoy the building aspect, and watching my segment of London grow and advance throughout time.  I also enjoy finding neat and interesting combos as certain cards can compliment each other.  The game has a large deck that it plays out of, and this allows for every game to play out differently.  

So Finally . . . 
If you skimmed everything else, here are my thoughts summed up in a couple of sentences:  London is one of my favorite games because it offers a great mix of strategy and tactics, plus a great mix of luck and strategy.  The interaction of the cards adds a lot of depth to the game,  and every play is a satisfying game play experience.   


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