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Subject: Scotland Yard Basic Strategy rss

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Paul P.
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Waukesha
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Scotland Yard is currently rated a 6.5, which feels low to me. I may be biased (I give it a 9), but my expectation would be an average score between 7 and 8. From scanning many comments left about this game, I speculate that the discrepancy is due in part to a complete failure by many players to grasp the basic strategy required. So, without further ado:

Scotland Yard Basic Strategy

Detectives
I feel that this game really plays best with two players, one controlling five detectives and the other controlling Mr. X. The detectives must work in unison to have any hope of catching the criminal, and the best way to achieve that is to have a commander-in-chief who calls all the shots.

The basic strategy here is to (1) contain Mr. X and then (2) narrow in on his position.

1. Containment
At the beginning of the game, the detectives have no idea where Mr. X is. Therefore, their only goal should be to get to highly-connected locations where they can move quickly to contain him. Mr. X will surface after the detectives each take their second turn, so in the ideal case each detective will land on an underground location at the end of turn #2. This is usually not possible for all detectives, but generally at least three can get to very good locations and the other two can get within one move of a good location.

After Mr. X surfaces for the first time, the detectives need to close in as rapidly as possible. This is a good time to use underground tickets; if you are playing well, undergrounds will be less useful towards the end of the game. The primary goal in this stage of the game is to keep Mr. X contained in about 1/4 of the map. Keep the undergrounds and river routes covered, so he is not able to move away quickly without putting himself in danger of being caught. Once again, on the turn just before Mr. X surfaces, attempt to position your detectives on highly connected locations so you are prepared to close the net as quickly as possible.

2. Capture
Starting when Mr. X surfaces for the second time, the detectives should look for opportunities to narrow in on his position. A detective should be within one move of all underground and river routes at all times, forcing X to use a double move if he wants to escape without danger.

If Mr. X does use a double move or successfully hide his trail with black tickets, give up on narrowing the perimeter and move back into containment mode. Don't try to force a capture and lose Mr. X completely. The use of a double move should really be considered a minor victory on the part of the detectives, as Mr. X will have fewer options available near the end of the game.

General Tips
After every one of Mr. X's turns, it is possible to compute the set of all locations where he might be hiding. Some detectives may find it useful to write this set down in a notebook. Once the set of locations is known, the detectives can be spread out to maximize their coverage of that region. Don't forget the possibility of Mr. X doubling back... a crafty criminal will use every trick in the book! In general, a position may be considered "covered" if a detective is within one move of that position. Be wary, however; if Mr. X is cornered, he may feel it is worthwhile to take the risk and try to slip within one move of a detective.

Throughout the game, keep a close eye on ticket usage. Piles of taxi and bus tickets should usually be similar in size, so look for opportunities to balance out ticket usage when a route offers the choice of taxi or bus transportation. Be careful at the very end of the game; it's easy to get stranded on a taxi station with only bus tickets available, so make an effort to have a taxi or two in reserve.

Remember that turn order is important. Particularly when closing in on Mr. X, it is easy to have one detective block another from a major access route. Map out all the detectives' moves in advance to minimize these problems.

Mr. X
The strategy here is all about concealment. Your goal is to make the detectives believe that you could be in a large number of possible locations, too many for them to guard adequately.

1. Surface in highly connected locations
If Mr. X surfaces on a well-connected location, then there are many places where he could be located on the following turn. As the detectives attempt to narrow in on your position, they will find that it is difficult to close in the perimeter tightly without offering you an escape route.

A location with all three transportation methods is also a great place to use a black ticket, greatly increasing the number of locations where you may be hiding.

2. Avoid undergrounds
Undergrounds should be used only when they offer Mr. X an opportunity to move a significant distance from the detectives. In any other situation, the use of an underground ticket only serves to limit the number of possible locations where Mr. X could lie.

3. Taxis are good
A taxi can be as good as a black ticket in many situations. Taxi routes go everywhere, so using many taxi tickets can greatly increase the number of locations where you could be hiding.

On the other hand, using too many taxis will restrict you to a relatively small area of the board. So don't rely on them completely.

4. Plausible alternate routes
Bluff whenever possible. Make the detectives believe you are taking the "obvious" route, when in reality you are going by the back door. In practice, this means selecting your tickets carefully. While your "back door" route may let you move with a bus, the "obvious" route may not... so move using tickets that are consistent with the "obvious" route.

5. Double move across surfacing locations
Every time your location is revealed, your set of possible locations reduces to a single point, and the detectives are given an opportunity to narrow their containment circle. You can mitigate this effect by double-moving across the surfacing locations: take the first half of the move, surface, then take the second half of the move. If it would serve to further confuse the detectives, consider adding a black ticket for the second leg of the journey.

6. Keep your distance
You are safe when you move to locations that are at least two jumps away from each of the detectives. Stick to the safe locations unless you have a good reason to do otherwise.

7. Take a risk
If the detectives play well, they will usually close in tightly on Mr. X about three times during the course of a game. You have two double move tickets that can help you to escape twice. How do you escape the third time? Take a risk. In my experience, a successful Mr. X makes exactly one very risky move through the course of a game. Look for an opportunity to slip within one move of a detective if it will set you up to escape to open territory. If you get lucky and are not captured, the detectives will be clustered together in a poor position to regroup.

8. Count tickets
In the last eight or so turns of the game, the detectives may begin running low on some tickets. Use this to your advantage. A detective who runs out of taxi tickets can only move on bus stops, and that may leave a big fat hole for you to escape through.

9. Psychology is important
Be unpredictable. Use a double move to double back on your original location. Use a black ticket to conceal something as innocuous as a taxi trip. Bluff an escape down the river, and instead head into more dangerous territory. Even if you get caught, you earn a reputation as a gutsy criminal... and might have an easier game next time.

10. Learn the map
There are some spots on the map that are simply bad news. Most notorious must be the area around the Regent's Park in the top left, which has some really poorly connected locations. The lower left can be troublesome as well, because the Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park area can make it difficult for Mr. X to escape the area. It's okay to pass through these regions, but try to avoid getting cornered there or you could have a tough game.

Final Word
Using the detective and Mr. X strategies outlined above, I find that Mr. X can win about 30% of the time. Playing with only four detectives will swing the balance strongly in X's favor.

Did I miss anything? I'd love to hear other strategies that players have used.
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Ender Wiggins
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Great tips! Here's the Strategy Hints offered by MB:

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Andrew H
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Good article. I was going to write a strategy guide but you have it well covered.
I play this as a two player game. It works very well and is very tense since you are both trying to read each others minds he whole time...Mr X can't listen to the cops "radio chatter" either.
I also play that the cops can be moved in any order to prevent the little loophole you mention.
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Oliver Obagi
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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I have a few questions that nobody seems to be considering?

Can the detectives or MR. X for that matter decide to stay put? (i.e. not use any transportation for a turn).

Can the detectives occupy the same spot?

Thanks for the response!

Oliver.

 
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Dan
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becomeanolive wrote:


Can the detectives or MR. X for that matter decide to stay put? (i.e. not use any transportation for a turn).



No, everyone must move on their turn

becomeanolive wrote:


Can the detectives occupy the same spot?



If you mean can two detectives ever be at the same location, no. This can be problematic in later rule versions where detectives move in a set sequence. In the 1983 edition no turn sequence was dictated and most players allowed the detectives to take their turn in any order.
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Robert Stewart
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Playing 2 player removes an advantage from each side - in a 6 player game, the detectives have 5 pairs of eyes, with 5 brains behind them, looking at the board and making sure not to miss any possibilities, and making their collective moves less predictable - usually there will be some consensus on most detective moves, but once in a while someone will go rogue and catch Mr X off-balance. Mr X, on the other hand, loses the ability to listen in on the detectives' planning. On the whole, I think Mr X gains more from this variation - canny detectives won't discuss more than a turn or two ahead anyway.
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