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Played three times 2er with Matt so far, and it far outshines the 1st edition, which was already quite a good game. Replacing the fiddly map and ownership with tokens with borough cards containing special abilities is genius and much improves the flow of the game, and poverty management becomes a more significant factor now that boroughs no longer remove poverty during city runs and unpaid loans add poverty.
GAMEPLAY Players are city planners attempting to reconstruct the city of London in the decades after the devastating fire of 1666. London is primarily a tableau-building, efficiency game that revolves around four considerations: VP, cards, money, and poverty. On a turn, players can take one of four actions: draw three cards; buy a borough; play one or more cards into their tableau; or run their city. This last action is the main way players score VP as this is how you activate most cards’ abilities. The downside, however, to running your city is that you take a poverty cube for every stack in your tableau as well as every card in hand. Thus, played well, the game has a sort of boom-bust cycle wherein players are trying to build up a big hand of cards in order to create their tableau and then have virtually no cards in hand when they run their cities. The game is played over three eras indicated by the three decks of cards. THOUGHTS London is a game that, by all other measures, should not be a good fit for me. It has tableau building, which doesn’t excite me, and it has way less player interaction than I look for. And, yet, the theme, the abilities of the cards, and the elegance of gameplay make this Martin Wallace game shine, in my opinion. The elephant in the room is how does it stack up to the original. I only played the original three times but I was dubious when I heard the new edition would not have a map. Apparently, tweaks were made to the cards that smoothed out some things that people found overpowering in the original, but honestly, I didn’t play it enough to notice what those differences mean. I still miss the map (I’m a sucker for a good map!) but the tradeoff is that the borough cards now come with abilities that you can use until you buy a new borough, adding a new and welcome decision space to the game. And my god the improvement in the art! It’s astounding how beautiful the game looks now. In all other, respects the game plays out exactly the same. Lots of tension in what cards you grab, how soon you run your city, how a full development board gets flushed, how many loans to take, and how much poverty is too much. A neutral point worth considering is that London is great at two, good at three, and not worth playing at four. PROS -Absolutely gorgeous art for the redesign. Card quality and the development board are also good quality. -Borough abilities are a fun tweak on the game. -Teaching this game is an absolute breeze. It’s a testament to just how streamlined and simple a game can be while still providing a lot of depth and interesting decisions. -Card abilities are interesting and fun to execute. Not sure if the tweaks from the original version improved gameplay, but they certainly don’t diminish it. NEUTRAL -This is basically a two or three player game and not worth playing at four due to too many turns elapsing and too many changes in the board state from turn to turn. CONS -I miss the map. Couldn’t there have been a compromise of keeping the map (yes, I know it’s superfluous!) while also adding in the boroughs’ special abilities?