NY Chase / Scotland Yard
3-6 players (officially) – but best for 2 players
Reviewed by Dale Yu
This review is for both Scotland Yard and its sequel, NY Chase. The initial section describes Scotland Yard. It is followed by a section that describe the
differences between Scotland Yard and NY Chase.
NY Chase is a new release (Essen 1999) that is a “sequel” to the classic Ravensburger title “Scotland Yard”. In short, the premise of both games is that a criminal, Mr. X, is on the loose and is trying to escape from the grasp of the 5 detectives that chase him around the city for 24 turns. Much in the game is similar to its predecessor. In Scotland Yard – the detectives and Mr X get around the city using public transportation, namely taxis, buses and subway trains. The board represents the city as 199 spaces, each of which allow transportation by taxi, bus, subway, or combinations of the above. See below for an example of this arrangement.
The detectives have an assortment of tickets which allow them to travel along the stated type of transportation. Each detective gets 10 taxi tickets, 8 bus tickets and 4 subway tickets. If the detective should run out of a type of transportation ticket, then he may not use that type of transportation any longer. Thus, it is possible for the detectives to become stranded on a particular space as they chase Mr. X. Of note, a detective may not remain in one place, they must move on each and every turn unless they are stranded. Mr. X uses the same transportation tickets, however, he is not limited in his choice of transportation. He is able to use the discarded tickets of the detectives, so he basically has an unlimited supply of taxi, bus and subway tickets.
Starting positions for both the detectives and Mr. X are determined by drawing cards which give starting positions (there are 18 different starting position cards in the game). As in Scotland Yard, each turn starts with Mr. X. He makes his move secretly by writing down on a sheet of paper. This paper is covered by a plastic template which allows the detectives to see what type of transportation Mr. X used. Click here to see the illustration from the old Scotland Yard rules showing this mechanism.
However, these ticket clues are not all the the detectives have to work with. They also get a glimpse of Mr. X at appointed times (turns 3, 8, 13, 18 and 24). On these turns, Mr. X has to tell the detectives where he is at the end of that movement. While this may not be fair, Mr X has some tricks up his sleeve to help him escape from the detectives. First, he has two “2X” tokens which allow him to take two consecutive turns without the detectives being able to move in between. These tickets can certainly help Mr. X get out of a tight squeeze. They are also very useful to be used around the turns where Mr. X has to show himself. For example, Mr. X can move once, reveal his location to the detectives but then use the “2X” to allow him to take another turn and hide himself again. The “2X” ticket can also be used to put a lot of ground between Mr X and a tightening dragnet of detectives.
Mr. X also has 5 Black Tickets which allow him to disguise his movements. Mr. X can place a black ticket on his movement register in place of a taxi, bus, or subway ticket. This is most useful when Mr. X is on a space which allows him to use any of the three types of transportation. However, the Black Tickets also allow Mr. X to use a type of transportation available only to him. The River Thames, which runs thru the middle on London, can be used by Mr. X for the cost of one Black Ticket. These extra escape routes help keep Mr. X one step ahead of the detectives.
The detectives win the game if they can land one of the detectives on the space where Mr. X is. The games is very cooperative, so the winner is not whichever player controls the detective that “captures” Mr. X but rather the side of the detectives is victorious. On the other hand, Mr. X wins the game if he is able to elude the detectives thru the 24 turns provided on his transportation template.
Overall, this is still one of my favorite games. However, I truly believe that this game is best played by 2 players and is passable with 3 players. However, any more than 3 players tends to provide a dull game. The reason for this is that there are really two sides in the game: Mr. X vs. the detectives. In a two player game, one person is Mr. X and the other acts as all the detectives. Sometimes, it is better to have two players act as the detectives to help come up with ideas where Mr. X is. I have found, however, that with more than 2 players as detectives that there is either too much competition as each person has his own idea where Mr. X is. When this happens – the detectives’ movements are not coordinated and Mr. X can escape too easily. The other problem with too many detectives is that one player ends up coordinating the strategy of the five detectives. While this provides a much better game, this leaves the other detectives (those not planning strategy) with very little to do other than push their piece around as directed by the mind in charge.
For two players, this is a great challenge of minds. One of the best facets of the game is that it is handicappable. If the detectives are too good for Mr. X, you can cut their numbers down to three or four, thus making it much harder for them to trap Mr. X. However, if Mr. X is escaping too often, you can take away some or all of his Black tickets or 2X tokens to sway the balance the other way. In my experience, the 5 detectives seem to have an advantage over Mr. X (if you play the rules as written) – when I started playing this game, the detectives would win 65-75% of the games. The game became more balanced when one of the detectives was removed from the game – Mr. X vs. 4 detectives. This combination brings the odds almost even between the two sides. Another advantage of this game is that it is relatively quick – a game can be finished in 30 minutes or so – this gives you plenty of time to reset the board and play it again when you are done.
That concludes the description of Scotland Yard. Below is a description of its sequel, NY Chase.
For those of you who have played Scotland Yard, much of the game is similar (or see above). Much of the game is similar. The theme and premise is unchanged – detectives chase around a city to catch Mr. X. Also unchanged is the basic mechanism of movement. Players must spend tickets in order to travel around in taxis, buses and subways. Mr. X still gets his two “2X” tokens and his 5 Black Tickets. Mr. X is still obligated to show himself to the detectives on turns 3, 8, 13, 18 and 24. The game still ends in the same way as the original Scotland Yard. However, there are some additions to the game which make it different (and better) from the original.
The main differences are as follows:
1) The map – the game is now set in NYC rather than London. The most obvious difference in layout is that the water routes (usable by Mr. X via black tickets) now are on the periphery of the board (around Manhattan Island) instead of thru the middle of the board (on the River Thames). Additionally, these water routes are broken up. There are three different water routes that Mr X can use (two of them have 3 stops each, one with 4 stops) unlike the contiguous Thames River in Scotland Yard. This tends to limit how far Mr. X can escape from the detectives while using the waterways. While obviously the paths on the board are different, I do not think that there is any more or less chance of players becoming stranded or Mr. X becoming trapped in segments of the board. If anything, it does seem that the underground stations do not allow the detectives to get around as much of the board as they do in Scotland Yard. Furthermore, careful examination of the board is necessary as there are some routes which are usable but may not be evident as tall buildings obscure the lines showing connections between stations. Also, there are a few areas where no connection between stations is made. If you do not know where these tricky spots are, it can really trap you.
2) The ticket distribution – the detectives get the same allotment of tickets (10 taxi, 8 bus, 4 subway) as they did in Scotland Yard. However, in this game, they pool their tickets together to be used as a group. Thus, it is much harder for a detective to become stranded in the end game. Furthermore, Mr X is now also limited in his movements. No longer is he able to use the detectives’ discarded tickets, but rather he must use his allotment of 11 taxi, 7 bus, 4 subway, 5 black and 2 “2X” tokens. This huge change causes a large change in strategy for Mr. X as he tries to elude the detectives because he is now also limited in his transportation choice. Now, Mr X is often forced to move further than he wishes to (i.e. take a bus instead of a taxi) because of his limit. Furthermore, having to use more buses helps the detectives in pinpointing where Mr. X is. The end result of this ticket restriction is that Mr. X usually needs to conserve two or three of his black tickets to allow himself an escape from being stranded late in the game. If Mr. X ever becomes stranded, he must expose his position to the detectives and then hope the detectives run out of turns before they are able to land on the space he is on.
3) Road Blocks – The detectives have a new mechanism to help catch Mr. X. With 4 or 5 detectives, there are 2 roadblocks. With 3 detectives there are 3 roadblocks. The roadblocks may be placed at the end of any detective’s movement. The roadblock is placed on whatever space the detective just left on that turn. The roadblock prevents Mr. X from stopping of that space as long as it is there. However, Mr X may pass over this space (while on a bus or subway) as long as he does not end a turn on the roadblocked space (even if in the middle of a 2X turn). The roadblocks can be moved at any time. These new pieces add a great boon to the detectives in catching Mr. X because they allow the detectives to block off main escape routes from a portion of the board that they know they have Mr. X trapped in. In addition, the roadblocks have an advantage in that they don’t have to move if the detectives don’t want them to.
4) The Helicopter – the detectives have a further advantage in catching Mr. X because they can use a helicopter to catch the fugitive Mr. X. The helicopter allows the detectives to airlift one of their colleagues from any space on the board to any other. This maneuver takes two turns to complete and costs two transportation tokens of any type. To use the helicopter, the detective spends one ticket of any type to board the helicopter and fly it to any other space on the board. (The helicopter token as well as the detective’s token are placed next to the space where the detective would like to fly to). However, that detective’s turn ends with the detective still on the helicopter (thus, not on any space of the board). On the next turn, the detective on the helicopter pays another ticket of any type to allow him to get off of the helicopter onto the space chosen on the previous turn. The detectives have three helicopter tokens, so they can use this method three times during the game.
5) Starting positions – there are the same number of starting positions (18) in NY Chase as in Scotland Yard. However, unlike some of the starting spots in Scotland Yard (#53 comes to mind) – all of the spaces allow the detectives or Mr. X to reach an underground station within the first two turns so they can make the strategic subway ride on turn 3 after Mr. X shows himself. Oftentimes we have found that it speeds up the game to start with a virtual first two turns. As it is virtually impossible for the detectives to catch Mr. X before turn 3 (since they have no idea where he is) – and it seems that the common goal of the detectives is to make it to an subway station for turn 3 so they can cover as much ground as possible to catch up to Mr. X. We find it quicker to allow the detectives to take their first two moves together and for Mr. X to take his three moves (up to the point where he has to show himself) as experience has shown that the moves of the players is basically unchanged for a particular starting point.
The above four areas basically outline the major changes of the game. While they may not seem that significant on paper, they certainly change the complexion of the game. The changes on the board allow veterans of Scotland Yard a chance to explore a new geography and set of pathways. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to be exploited in NYC just as there were in the London of Scotland Yard.
Overall, this game is probably slanted towards the detectives even more than the original game. First, Mr. X is now limited in his choice of transportation. This forces him to make some movements that he may not want to make. It also gives additional clues to the detectives (i.e. if Mr. X uses a Bus ticket on a certain turn, the detectives can automatically rule any spaces which are not bus stations). Additionally, the water pathways do not allow Mr. X to get as far away from the detectives as they did in Scotland Yard. Moreover, without any geographical feature (such as the River Thames) to separate the board into halves, the detectives are more easily able to traverse the board.
The roadblocks are a great addition to the game, although they may give too much power to the detectives. They have the advantage of only moving when the detectives want them to move. So, they can be used to permanently block off major escape routes (either ports for the waterways or the subway stations). Thus, when the detectives start to pin Mr. X down in a portion of the board, they can sometimes prevent his escape by blocking the spaces which would allow him to move long distances. Furthermore, since the roadblocks can be moved throughout the game, their power is increased all the more. They essentially turn a four or five detective game into a six or seven detective game. Furthermore, the addition of the helicopter gives the detectives an even greater advantage in mobility. Though it can only be used three times a game, it allows the detectives to move one detective from anywhere on the board into the area where Mr. X is located. In Scotland Yard, there were usually one or two detectives that would not be able to get close to Mr. X after the first show round (Turn 3) because of where they started the game off. However, in NY Chase, if one detective is far out of the picture, he can be flown in and join the chase in two turns. For the cost of two tickets of any type, this movement is a bargain.
In order to balance this game, I would suggest playing with no more than four detectives. When we tried playing with the full complement of five detectives, Mr. X never survived more than 15 turns (and all of the players were experienced Scotland Yard players). The addition of the roadblocks which act as extra detectives and the addition of the helicopter which ensures that a detective is never out of the thick of the chase. At four detectives and two roadblocks, the game is still slightly in favor of the detectives (but still a challenging game – Mr. X’s position is similar to the position of the Axis powers in the 2nd Ed. rules of Axis and Allies). Although I have only tried it once, 3 detectives and three roadblocks provides a more even game. It is easier for Mr. X to escape in the early rounds of the game, but as the detectives close in towards Mr. X in the later rounds, the roadblocks prove valuable in hemming Mr. X into a quadrant of the board.
As the original Scotland Yard, I still feel that this game is best played as a two player duel. With more than three players, I think that some of the players end up with nothing to do. Though is has not happened in my group, perhaps if the game was played with five players playing five detectives, the chaos of battling strategies would allow Mr. X a slim chance of escaping the detectives. However, I don’t think that this would ever happen because this game requires even more coordination and cooperation among the detectives than Scotland Yard because the detectives share their tickets together in a common pool, they have to agree on the use of the helicopter and have to agree on the placement of the roadblocks. Thus, it seems to me that one person will invariably plan the strategy and the rest of the players will just push their piece around the board.
The new NY Chase takes the best of Scotland Yard but adds more complex strategies into the game with the road blocks and the helicopters. Unfortunately, the game is even more in favor of the detectives than Scotland Yard – thus, in order to have a more balanced game, you will need to tweak the number of detectives, roadblocks and helicopter trips in order to make your games more balanced. If you have neither of the two games, I would recommend that you buy NY Chase. After all, if you want a Scotland Yard experience, just take out the roadblocks and the helicopter. If you have Scotland Yard (as I do) and are just a casual enjoyer of the game, I’m not sure that you really need to spend the money for this one. While it does add some new ideas to the game, you can just substitute some pawns into your Scotland Yard to get the roadblocks and helicopters into your game. But if you are a true fan of Scotland Yard (as I am), I would highly recommend the game – if nothing else to complete your collection of the series. The new board gives you opportunities to develop new strategies, hiding places and secret escape passages. Overall, I highly recommend this game – and it (and Scotland Yard) remain among my top three games all-time for two players.