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Subject: London on Board reviews: London! rss

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Martin G
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London on Board meets at a pub within a stone's throw of St Paul’s Cathedral so you’d think we’d be predisposed to like London. We also have several big Martin Wallace fans at the group. But London has met with a decidedly mixed reaction.

Henrik Havighorst
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First up, here’s Henrik - would there be enough theme for his tastes?


Despite the theme being more or less generic and could have been about any city (fictional or non-fictional) really, I did enjoy the "London" theme. The board looks good, so do the cards and there is something about being able to build the bricks of the great city by playing the Buckingham Palace, Victoria Dock and so forth. I feared this would be another multi-solitaire game but the necessity to play (pay) cards into the rows from which the other players can draw the very same cards make it more interactive than it looks at first sight. There are also multiple paths to victory. London uses enough "luck" elements (card drawing) to make it dynamic and not too stale in my opinion and this is why I prefer this over other "efficiency" engine games. A few more "nastier cards" and maybe some random events would have done the game good.

Will Mellor
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Will is a big fan of Wallace’s complex games, but would the streamlined London do it for him?

London probably qualifies as the game I was most looking forward to from Essen; it’s set in London, it’s by Wallace, it’s a "gateway" game I (theoretically) can get my family to play. It’s described as Wallace's Dominion (I like Dominion)... I even bought sleeves for it (I never normally do).

Unfortunately the first play revealed it to be lacklustre for me. I found it very solitaire and quite boring messing about with all the cards to select the best short term alignment to my long term strategy. My review is London = Wallace + Agricola's cards - Interaction

I don't like all the cards in Agricola (though I suffer them) because everyone spends an age working out what to do, they can be somewhat unbalanced and random, this makes it a -1 there. I guess 8 - 1 - 1 = 6 is about right. I might sell my unopenned copy.

BUT... I have given it a lot of thought and do want to try this a few more times. There are probably 3 strategies (at least)... VPs on the board with Tube, VPs through cards, VPs though money (through cards) but I wonder if the first is the best or not so does demand some more attention, the 6 / 10 then is very much provisional. If it was anyone elses game we wouldn't all be buying it. Prefer to play any card game (say Dominon / 7 Wonders) or a bigger strategy game (say Age of Industry / Steam).... Do like that its quick so will play more and see if it can grow.

Looks like things went downhill from there though...

Rating of 5 based on three games. I never want to play this again. Its sooooo bad.

Paul Lister
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Paul the BoardGameGuru gave many of our first glimpse of the mechanics in this game when he wrote a glowing preview for Board Game News. But what did he make of the finished product?

Like Will this was my most anticipated Essen game, also like Will I was a little underwhelmed by my first play - there did not seem to be enough interaction. Towards the end of my first game we started negative drafting the cards and I hope that with more experience of the game this will play a more prominent part of game play.

I do love the theme and cards though - I live 100 yards from Brixton Prison and one of the livery companies educated me so I feel I have a connection with the game. One of the problems 'London' has is not its own fault, '7 Wonders' has just become the acme of card games and plays in a fraction of the time.

My second play was even more underwhelming than my first. I had hoped there was some serious negative drafting potential - but there was not. Everyone cultivates their own city, the only competition being for spaces on the map. There just don't seem to be enough tough choices in what to pick up and put back down again. In the both games i have gone economic with a clean up towards the end and both times I have agonised over what cards to put on the display; only to find they were waiting for me on the next round.

There are some cool combos and there are some nice questions of timing. It’s just not as engaging as most Wallace games. Whilst this has disapointed this Wallace junkie it has been a phenomenal seller - and its accessibility, I hope, will lead a new generation of gamers towards the Maestro's other work.

Martin G
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This was also a highly anticipated game for me (it’s the first game I’ve seen to feature my home neighbourhood of Deptford!), but would I end up disappointed like Paul and Will?


I was a bit underwhelmed. Seems to have the same ratio of solitaire optimisation to interaction and luck of card draw to strategy as games like Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome, but three times the play time. Reminds me most of Innovation, because of the building of card-stacks and activation of them, but without as many factors to consider. And the map is only a minor element. I'd like to play again, but it's off my must-buy list.

And after a couple more plays, I decided I definitely don't like it. It feels very samey to me from game to game (buy borough to get cards, play as many as you can to empty hand, run city to get money, buy another borough etc.), there's basically no interaction, other people's turns (especially when they're running a big city) are intensely boring, I have no idea who's winning until the end and I don't feel like the cards allow focused strategies. Don't think I'll be playing again.

W M
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Someone had to love it though, right? Here’s Walt, a Race for the Galaxy fiend if ever I met one.

Great game, I think this may be my new favourite Wallace. Very streamlined, fast play, lots of choices but simple pick up and play rules. Brilliant.

I wonder how this would play with 2? In my opinion that's the only way to play RFTG and I can see there being greater control in denial of cards and blocking connections. I can also definitely see this playing much quicker once you've learnt all the cards - do you remember how long your first game of Race took? With four players (2 of whom hadn't played before) we finished this up in an hour and I bet this could get down to 20 minutes with practice.

Agreed that this is really a card game - with pencil and paper for loans/cash/poverty tracking and a plastic coated wipeable A5 map this could be a good travel game.

Scott Agius
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Scott’s another big Wallace fan who also came away with a more positive impression.


We sped through in around 50 minutes from unpacking to packed away and could probably go a little quicker; I think that’s what will make this game last in that you can play it quickly enough that you don’t need to worry exactly what everyone else is doing.

I’m surprised interaction is the biggest complaint though; what cards you leave for other people and in which order you leave them is fairly important. You can’t mindlessly ignore that other players will be grabbing any good cards that you discard and the end game thrives around what other people are set-up to do and misjudging that will cost you the game.

Soren Vejrum
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Soren is such a big collector that he once registered himself as a retailer to get bulk discount prices! How did London stack up amongst his huge collection?


For new players it is definitely a multi-player solitaire puzzle card game, "simply" trying to fit your cards together in an efficient way with little time left to think about what other players are doing. Experienced players can probably benefit significantly from keeping track of other players' boroughs, poverty and cards.

But there is definitely room, and need, for an expansion with more and direct interaction - for example character cards which can be used to interfere with other players or characters placed/moved around on the map for various benefits/restrictions.

Maybe a simple rules change/addition could add significantly more and direct player interaction. Why are bought boroughs owned for the rest of the game? Why not allow players to "steal" boroughs from other players? For example, simply paying the price for a borough to take it and its victory points from another player - with the "penalty" that you only get the victory points but not any cards for a borough stolen from another player. Possibly with the restriction that you can only "steal" boroughs adjacent to your existing boroughs.

Let’s wrap up with a few more comments.


Karl Bunyan
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Played my first game of London - found it interesting, but a bit dry. And I also have no idea how I lost so badly. I'll probably need to give it another chance, although there are so many other games begging for replay...

Rich P
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Another good game from Martin Wallace. It plays pretty quickly once you get the hang of things; short turns interspersed with some interesting decisions over when to run your city. I love the thematic integration, particularly how one good way of getting rid of the useless Pauper cards is to educate them with a School card!

Graham Charlton
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It is a bad game with 4 but a good game with 3 or 2. I'm exaggerating massively to be fair, but the game is a lot stronger with at least one less player. I still enjoy it with 4 but I'm guessing that some people wouldn't even though they'd like it with less. The big differences are that the luck of the draw is less prevalent and there is less downtime between turns. These combine to make the game flow a lot smoother.

And a late breaking update! John, you get to have the last word again.

John Bandettini
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I have enjoyed my games of London so far. The card driven mechanic is very different for Martin Wallace. (I know Brass and Age of Industry use cards, but in a very different way).

I know some people think it soon gets into a rut of buying a borough, playing cards, activating city then repeat till end. And even if it does to a degree, there are so many cards that it will still take a while to try all the combinations.

Perhaps it's just me but another thing that could be fun with it is to set yourself personal goals. 'This game I will have the least poverty cubes ever', This game I want to have the highest income at the end', This game I want to have the most pure VP scoring buildings' and many more.

It does have a faily low level of interaction, the main interaction being which cards to give up when you are building. You especially need to see if you are discarding something the next player really wants.

I am firmly in the 'I like it' side on this one.
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Ben
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Quite the game group you've got there. wow

Nice review, as well. I agree with the general sentiment that London (first edition) has been a bit disappointing. But I've been thinking about it a bit lately, and I feel like it has more to explore than I've given it credit for. I'm looking forward to mucking about with it a while longer.

I also love this quote:
qwertymartin wrote:
Rating of 5 based on three games. I never want to play this again. Its sooooo bad.

5 = Average Game = "So bad I never want to play it again"?
Sounds like somebody has some pretty high requirements for his table time. laugh
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Martin G
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chally wrote:
Quite the game group you've got there. wow


We usually have around 40 people along, occasionally more than 50, which really stretches the resources of our little pub basement!

Quote:

5 = Average Game = "So bad I never want to play it again"?
Sounds like somebody has some pretty high requirements for his table time. laugh


Hehe, I see your point. But I rated it a 5 too, and likely won't play it again. I don't think it's broken and there are certainly many worse games. But why play 5s when there are so many 7s and higher?
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eryn roston
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Martin is there a master-geek-list for all these reviews that someone could subscribe to?
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chearns
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qwertymartin wrote:
...why play 5s when there are so many 7s and higher?


I totally understand this. Except, for me it's more like why play a game I rate lower than 8 when there are so many 8s or higher*. There are just so many games I'll play in any period of time, I have trouble imagining myself getting to the point where I am not in the mood for any of my 8s, 9s, or 10s.

* The answer is, of course, because someone I want to play with wants to. In other words, because someone I want to play with rates it an 8 or higher, even though I don't.
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Martin G
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baditude wrote:
Martin is there a master-geek-list for all these reviews that someone could subscribe to?


There is now.
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Soren Vejrum
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qwertymartin wrote:
baditude wrote:
Martin is there a master-geek-list for all these reviews that someone could subscribe to?


There is now.


Still stuck in Heathrow, Martin? I was lucky enough to get out Thursday before all hell (a.k.a. a few centimeters of snow in the UK) broke loose.
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Soren Vejrum
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vejrum wrote:
qwertymartin wrote:
baditude wrote:
Martin is there a master-geek-list for all these reviews that someone could subscribe to?


There is now.


Still stuck in Heathrow, Martin? I was lucky enough to get out Thursday before all hell (a.k.a. a few centimeters of snow in the UK) broke loose.


Maybe a "Snow" card should be added to "London" - rendering all boroughs and most buildings useless for several rounds?
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Paul Lister
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vejrum wrote:


Maybe a "Snow" card should be added to "London" - rendering all boroughs and most buildings useless for several rounds?


Which is countered by the 'London on Board' card - We will be going ahead with today's meetup
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Soren Vejrum
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Sorp222 wrote:
vejrum wrote:


Maybe a "Snow" card should be added to "London" - rendering all boroughs and most buildings useless for several rounds?


Which is countered by the 'London on Board' card - We will be going ahead with today's meetup


I have a posted a Snow Over London (or alternatively zombies) variant:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/597230/london-snow-over-lond...
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Will Mellor
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chally wrote:

I also love this quote:
qwertymartin wrote:
Rating of 5 based on three games. I never want to play this again. Its sooooo bad.

5 = Average Game = "So bad I never want to play it again"?
Sounds like somebody has some pretty high requirements for his table time. laugh


Good point and made me think.

I guess we are a lucky bunch at LoB as at any one time there must be 10-15 games played each of which are rated at 7+ on BGG. Some are played every week (Agricola, BSG, Powergrid...) some are the very latest releases, some relate to the theme (where inevitably the good ones from the theme come out) etc etc.

Given this its pretty rare to play a rubbish game and certainly very rare for all the players to come away feeling that the game is poor.

Of course if people wanted to play it and there was nothing better on offer I would play it and I am open minded enough to change my mind if it improves.
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Adrien Dessemond
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chally wrote:
Nice review, as well. I agree with the general sentiment that has been a bit disappointing.


Several problems literally PLAGUE this game unfortunately (beyond being a multi-player solitaire), the poverty points system is a clever mechanism but just too powerful, it gives me the same kind of impression than "Cleopatra and the society of architects" left some years ago : if you invest you are very likely to shoot yourself in the foot. So if are far away from the leader and have to do something to return in the game, you take a high risk to drown yourself, too bad. shake

Second in my only game (may we have missed something), no one borrowed money except on the last two turns but players have been able to pay their only one loan at the end, at least for those who where lucky enough to get the right cards. 50% interest rate is too much or repayable loans are a mistake (my AoS biased opinion tends for the second option). Loans could be a way to aggressively invest and to take a chance to be back in the game, but once again, doing so, they drown you instead of help you.

So a big 5 for me, not less but not more. London will be given a second chance but I do not expect it to shine. Definitely not a buy for me yuk
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Ben
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An interesting take, Adrien. Your complaints seem to be very nearly the opposite of mine.


IcemanQc wrote:
Several problems literally PLAGUES this game unfortunately (beyond being a multi-player solitaire), the poverty points system is a clever mechanism but just too powerful, it gives me the same kind of impression than "Cleopatra and the society of architects" left some years ago : if you invest you are very likely to shoot yourself in the foot. So if are far away from the leader and have to do something to return in the game, you take a high risk to drown yourself, too bad. shake

One of my central disappointments with the game is that poverty is underpowered and too easy to get rid of. It feels more like a minor nuisance than a strategic consideration. I think too many of the B and C era cards remove poverty (often without flipping), which makes it easy to accumulate a lot of poverty early without the fear that you won't be able to rid yourself of it. I've never had more than 3 more than any other opponent at game end. That equates to a very small point penalty.


IcemanQc wrote:
Second in my only game (may we have missed something), no one borrowed money except on the last two turns but players have been able to pay their only one loan at the end, at least for those who where lucky enough to get the right cards. 50% interest rate is too much or repayable loans are a mistake (my AoS biased opinion tends for the second option). Loans could be a way to aggressively invest and to take a chance to be back in the game, but once again, doing so, they drown you instead of help you.

Again, I tend to think that the interest on loans is under-powered, although less so than poverty. My typical opening is Buy Land, Buy Land (taking out two loans). Moreover, once you've taken out a loan, there is little incentive to pay it back, since nearly every opportunity to spend money in the game provides a better money:vp ratio than the 15:7 repayment at game end. I'm not saying that loans worth taking in every situation, but I've never had qualms about taking as many as 4-5 in a game.

Funny how our experiences are so different.
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someotherguy wrote:
Sorry for the brief minor highjack, but two OP's mention 7 Wonders as if it is a reliable go-to game, or even a good game at all. I can see 7 Wonders picking up some notoriety, but I think it's a bad game and I predict that most people will agree before long, and it will fall off the radar quickly.


You should probably go post something in the 7 Wonders forums, because I'm interested in why you think it's a "bad game," but don't want to discuss it here.
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John Bandettini
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someotherguy wrote:
Sorry for the brief minor highjack, but two OP's mention 7 Wonders as if it is a reliable go-to game, or even a good game at all. I can see 7 Wonders picking up some notoriety, but I think it's a bad game and I predict that most people will agree before long, and it will fall off the radar quickly.


I'm known as a thumb bomber and I usually thumb anything, but this is just so wrong you don't get one. You get one of these instead.
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Martin G
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someotherguy wrote:
Sorry for the brief minor highjack, but two OP's mention 7 Wonders as if it is a reliable go-to game, or even a good game at all. I can see 7 Wonders picking up some notoriety, but I think it's a bad game and I predict that most people will agree before long, and it will fall off the radar quickly.


That's funny because I predict that it will win the Spiel des Jahres, spawn a series of popular expansions and settle in the BGG top 20 for some time. Let's compare notes in a year (I don't think it's an amazing game, but it's a very good filler)
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Larry Levy
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someotherguy wrote:
Sorry for the brief minor highjack, but two OP's mention 7 Wonders as if it is a reliable go-to game, or even a good game at all. I can see 7 Wonders picking up some notoriety, but I think it's a bad game and I predict that most people will agree before long, and it will fall off the radar quickly.

History has shown that this just doesn't happen. Games that crack the Top 20 (and 7 Wonders is almost there) may eventually get passed by newer titles, but they rarely fall back on their own accord more than a few positions. (BattleLore was the one exception, but that was mostly because DoW didn't support it the way players expected.) So if you're expecting players to suddenly wake up one day and completely change their minds about the game--well, I see no reason for this to be the first game to have this happen.
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Steve Duff
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Larry Levy wrote:
History has shown that this just doesn't happen. Games that crack the Top 20 (and 7 Wonders is almost there) may eventually get passed by newer titles, but they rarely fall back on their own accord more than a few positions.


I think there's a couple reasons for that. One, people rarely go back and change their ratings, especially if it's something they no longer play.

The second factor is highly rated games get replenishing stocks of users. New folks come along, see a game in the top 50 and buy it, then go through the same love-in phase.

Games at lower rankings get all the re-adjustments downwards by those who do re-rate, but few new folks buying to add high ratings to maintain or gain.

I think 7 Wonders will have a high burn out rate, but an equally high new buyer rate, so it will mostly maintain it's ranking.
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
I think 7 Wonders will have a high burn out rate, but an equally high new buyer rate, so it will mostly maintain it's ranking.


I think that's not so, provided people realise what gap 7 Wonders fills, and expect that of it, but not what it isn't of it. It's not the next Agricola/Puerto Rico/whatever. It's a moderate weight game that plays with up to 7 players in a reasonably short time without the downtime that usually means. And it does that job well, without obvious competition.
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Martin G
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qwertymartin wrote:
someotherguy wrote:
Sorry for the brief minor highjack, but two OP's mention 7 Wonders as if it is a reliable go-to game, or even a good game at all. I can see 7 Wonders picking up some notoriety, but I think it's a bad game and I predict that most people will agree before long, and it will fall off the radar quickly.


That's funny because I predict that it will win the Spiel des Jahres, spawn a series of popular expansions and settle in the BGG top 20 for some time. Let's compare notes in a year (I don't think it's an amazing game, but it's a very good filler)


Ooh look, I was right
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For me 7 Wonders has one purpose: support six or seven players without totally sucking. And it's brilliant at that. But I'd still always rather play London if possible.
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