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Game Overview: Old London Bridge, or Everybody Must Get Stoned

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Old London Bridge
Old London Bridge from Gabriele Bubola, Leo Colovini, and Queen Games feels like an Old Eurogame that's been magically transported to 2022 — although this isn't surprising given that Queen has been releasing games aimed at the Spiel des Jahres market since at least the mid-1990s. My first experiences with the company were playing Dirk Henn's Showmanager and Wolfgang Kramer's Expedition — two titles from 1996 — in the early 2000s, and I still love both of those designs.

Old London Bridge challenges players to build a new bridge in London after the wooden one burned, so now you're going to have a stone foundation that can support buildings, which means the "old London bridge" is actually the new bridge, but apparently viewed from today's perspective, which makes it old.

Anyway, your goal is to place building tiles on a bridge, earning money in the process. Make the most money, and you win.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In each round, you bid for turn order, then place your figure on a non-X empty space in the central wheel. You earn 1-3 money in consultation fees from the placement, then you take the building tile at the top of the stack next to you and add it to your bridge. Instead of choosing one of these five spaces, you can place your figure in the center star to choose from any of the six top tiles, but you must pay 2 money for that privilege.

Non-park tiles are numbered 1-60, and the tile you place must be lower than the tile to its immediate left. If it's not, then you need to throw out a tile in your bridge so that you can place the new tile in a numerically pleasing order. A park is a building tile that resets the count, so you can place any number to the right of a park.

When you place four of the building types, you gain a bonus matching the building, with the strength of the bonus matching the number of crests in the same color as the tile you just placed:

• Chapel: Advance on the church track, which determines tie-breaks in bidding during a round and endgame scoring. Gain money as you reach certain spaces.
• Bridge gate: Advance on the bridge track, gaining a special power tile every third space and 10 money (i.e., points) at the track's end.
• Hostelry: Gain people, that is, bidding power.
• Haberdasher: Gain money.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
I haberdashered the heck out of my bridge

The more colored crests you have matching the tile you just drafted, the better, so you're trying to match crests while keeping the numbers in order (because you're penalized if you don't fill your bridge, while also competing for a bonus based on the number of building tiles placed) and earning money and advancing on various tracks.

The challenge is somewhat minimal compared to how complex and interwoven some games are, but the challenge is present nonetheless. Casual players will do okay, while those who have a focus for their building efforts or who pay attention to what others have built and anticipate their choices in a round will probably do better.

The two-player game shortens the game from twelve rounds to six, with players bidding twice and taking two building tiles each round. This change provides a somewhat different challenge since you must base your bid upon which two tiles will fit your plans and your existing tiles.

In the video below, I give examples of gameplay and go into more detail about the feeling of the game based on four plays — twice with two players and once each with three and four players — on a review copy from Queen Games:

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