Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Did Someone Call for a Sleuth? A Looting London Review

Looting London
  • Designed by Reiner Knizia
  • Published by Gryphon Games (Bookshelf #7)
  • Plays with 2-5
  • Plays in around 30 minutes

London has been looted! Five of its rarest treasures have been stolen on the same night: one of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, gold reserves from the Bank of England, top secret files from Big Ben, a priceless Incan artifact from the British Museum, and a Van Gogh from the National Gallery.  You are a famous London sleuth; can you interview the four witnesses, gather their clues, apprehend the thieves and recover the loot? - Description from BGG

Looting London has two main components, witness cards and evidence tiles.  The cards are nothing to write home about, but not bad either.  The evidence tiles are high quality, thick, good weight, perfect size.  Overall the components are good, not great.

Insides of the box
In Looting London, players compete to gain evidence. Each evidence tile is worth points at the end of the game, except for the mystery that doesn't get solved.  There are five mysteries in the game, but only enough time to solve four of them.  Any effort put in to the fifth is worthless, but players don't know which one won't score.  
On a turn, a player has 3 options.  They can take an witness card, they can play a set of cards to take an evidence tile, or they may destroy a piece of evidence.  To destroy evidence, a player must play a matching pair of cards, and then claim an evidence tile using additional cards.  When all evidence tiles of a given crime have been claimed, there is a bonus disk given to the player with the most evidence for that crime.  At the end, players add up all points on evidence tiles and bonus disks of the 4 solved crimes, most points wins the game.

Witness cards
There's a bit of interaction in the game.  Players are able to see what evidence has been collected by each of their opponents, so they can try to manipulate the board so that a certain crime won't be solved.  The ability to destroy evidence can also hurt someone in their quest to solve a crime, and it acts as a good defense when you have the lead in a crime.

The theme is pasted on.  It could just as easily be five colors with 4 painters, but the theme works in the game.  I don't really feel like I'm solving a mystery, not like Clue, Mystery Express or Mystery of the Abbey, but I like the theme incorporation.

Learning Curve
Evidence tiles and a sample board setup
Looting London has a short-medium or a medium-short learning curve.  The rules are simple enough, but the strategy takes awhile to come out.  There are some exceptions which make learning the game a bit more of a process.  My group had to consult the rulebook a few times when we first learned, which while not a bad thing, isn't the ideal situation for a small game.

Why I like Looting London
I really like the scoring system.  Having a crime that doesn't score keeps the game interesting.  If all 5 scored, it would be an exercise in random card draws, and a complete math puzzle.  It's also an interesting challenge to decide when to destroy evidence, and which pieces to go after.

Why I don't like Looting London
It's a bit slow for my tastes.  Only drawing one card per turn really does slow things down.  There's a reason games like Ticket to Ride use 2 per turn.  It also has the occasional situation where you know you've lost, there's nothing you can do, yet you're in a situation where you can decide who wins.  I really don't care for the "kingmaker" position.  It can also happen more often than you think.

It all depends on how often you want to play it.  I played it several times in one day, going for their 3 game super sleuth variant, which was fun, but then it kinda burned out.  That was over a year ago and it hasn't been played since.  I'd give it another go though.

I'm going with "meh" here.  Looting London isn't the best in the bookshelf series, but it isn't the worst.  It offers a reasonable game a few times, but it's not something that I'll ever play 50 times.  I'm keeping it for now, but it's own the short list for removal if space becomes an issue.

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