Scotland Yard (board game)

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Scotland Yard
The Scotland Yard board
Players 3–6
Age range 10+
Setup time 5–15 minutes
Playing time 1 hour (player dependent)
Random chance initial set-up
Skill(s) required Tactics, Strategy, and Bluffing
Taxi, bus and underground 'tickets'

Scotland Yard is a board game in which a team of players, as police, cooperate to track down a player controlling a criminal around a board representing the streets of London. It is named after Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police Service. Scotland Yard is an asymmetric board game, with the detective players cooperatively solving a variant of the pursuit-evasion problem. The game is published by Ravensburger in most of Europe and Canada and by Milton Bradley in the United States. It received the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 1983. A sequel to Scotland Yard was released called "Mister X".


One player controls "Mr. X", a criminal whose location is only revealed periodically, and the other players each control a detective, which is always present on the board.

All players start with a number of tokens allowing them to use the following methods of transport:

  • Taxis allow the player to move only one space for each token used. They can be used to reach any point in London, most of which are not accessible in this game by other means.
  • Buses are available throughout most of the map, allowing longer-distance travel more quickly if the player is located at a bus-stop.
  • The London Underground allows quick travel between distant points of London. Because the stations are far apart, the use of an underground ticket can narrow down the possibilities of Mr. X's location.
  • Water routes are available, which only Mr. X can use, following the water buses' routes along the Thames between Greenwich and Whitehall.

Each player (Mr. X and the detectives) draws one of 18 possible cards which show where a player has to start, with Mr. X always drawing first. The locations on these cards are spaced far enough apart to ensure that Mr. X cannot be caught in the first round of play. There are a total of 199 locations on the board.[1]

Each detective begins with a total of 22 tokens. Once each transport token is used by a detective, it is turned over to Mr. X, effectively giving him unlimited transport. As he makes his moves, he writes them in a log book or any book and covers them with the tokens he uses, so that the detectives have clues as to his whereabouts. Mr. X also has a number of 'valid on any transport' black tokens equal to the number of detectives in play (in the Milton Bradley version this is always five), and two 'move twice this turn' cards. The water routes require a black token; when one of these is played, the detectives must consider whether or not it is being used to hide a river trip. The detectives must move in the same order each turn so their moves have to be well thought out.

At five specific times during the game, Mr. X has to reveal his current position. Detectives will take this opportunity to refine their search and, if possible, plan ways to encircle him. From each known position, the types of transport used by Mr. X limit the number of possible locations he may be standing in, which provides useful information to detectives (as well as preventing some types of cheating by the fugitive player).

The game is won by the detectives if any of them catches Mr. X by landing on the same square as his current location (or if Mr. X so happens to go into the square a player is in) , or it may be won by Mr. X if he remains out of the grasp of detectives until they all are unable to move (which happens after 22 moves at the latest, since all detectives will have run out of usable tokens by this point).

Although the game says it is for 3-6 players many play this game with only 2 players. The police, when controlled by 1 person, are far more coordinated and have a better chance of catching Mr. X. When 3-5 people are playing as the police they have to work as a team and coordinate their moves which can be difficult, especially when one player wants to play a hunch.

The contents of the game contain:

  • 1 gameboard map of Central London
  • 6 pawns
  • 125 fare tickets
  • 1 label sheet
  • 18 start cards
  • 2 double move cards
  • 1 logbook and pad
  • 1 storage tray to be used to store tickets, start cards and pawns

Alternative Versions[edit]

The game has been adapted to take place on maps of different cities.

Scotland Yard Tokyo, also distributed by Ravensburger, takes place on the streets of Tokyo, with the major difference being game aesthetics.

Scotland Yard:Swiss Edition once again uses the same gameplay, but set in Switzerland, with the addition of more boat routes and ski areas available only to Mr. X.[2]

NY Chase is a version based on New York City. In this version, detectives do not hand their used tokens over, and they have access to roadblocks and a helicopter, tilting the game more in favour of those playing as detectives.[3]

A faster travel version called Die Jagd Nach Mister X exists that functions quite differently. In this version, Mr. X's location is only hidden when a black travel token is used, and the game is essentially an open chase around London. Evasion is accomplished with black tokens and using the fastest travel to distant locations. In this version, each player takes turns as Mr. X, and points collected(in the form of detectives used travel tokens) determine the overall winner.[4]


There are two main board editions, one typically associated with Milton Bradley, and another typically associated with Ravensburger. The primary difference between these is in the numbering of the stations: five stations are numbered differently, with 108 missing from the Milton Bradley boards, and 200 missing from the Ravensburger boards.[5] There are also minor differences in the routes, such as a bus line between stations 198 and 199 that is changed to a taxi line in later editions, and the removal of a taxi line between stations 13 and 14 sometime after the renumbering.

Alternative Rules[edit]

Taken from an article in Jeux & Stratégie by Alain Munoz and Serge Laget (pages 76-78, unknown magazine number, dated "three years after the game's first European publication") Translation by Daniel U. Thibault, April 1998[6]

Improved Balance[edit]

The authors weren't satisfied with the normal balancing rules and propose this instead:

  • Against three detectives, Mister X receives one Black Ticket and no Double Move.
  • Against four detectives, Mister X receives three Black Tickets and one Double Move.
  • Against five detectives, Mister X receives five Black Ticket and two Double Moves.

The Epsom Derby[edit]

Just before Mister X reveals his location during the game (voluntarily or not), each detective may place a bet (each detective must bet on a different location). If he is right, the detective gets a ticket of his choice (Taxi, Bus, or Underground) from Mister X.

Non-Private Detectives[edit]

This variant alleviates the ticket management problems faced by the Yard agents and makes it a little easier for three or four agents to encircle Mister X. The detectives no longer each play a distinct colour; rather, each player may move any one of the five pawns on the board. First player will rotate between the detectives (Mister X still always goes first). This variant requires more co-operation between detectives and is also more demanding for Mister X.

  • Against three detectives, Mister X gets a Black Ticket and a Double Move.
  • Against four detectives, Mister X gets three Black Tickets and two Double Moves.

Public Enemy Number One[edit]

A simple change to the rules that puts every one right into the thick of the action. Instead of drawing starting locations randomly, every detective chooses where to start. Once this is done, Mister X chooses his starting location and plays his first move. A variant not for the faint-hearted!

The New Avengers[edit]

At game start, the detectives recruit Contacts, pieces that do not move but force Mister X to reveal himself if he goes through their space. Use pennies or any convenient markers. The total number of detectives plus contacts is eight (so three detectives recruit five contacts and vice-versa). Contacts are deployed randomly. To compensate, Mister X gets the White Ticket (the spare ticket). It is used as a Black Ticket but also allows him to cross a city block (a city block is a map area bounded by coloured lines) on foot. The White Ticket does not allow Mister X to cross the Thames nor to move along the board's edges. For example, if Mister X were on location 159 (Elephant and Castle Underground station), he could use the White Ticket to get to either 173, 187, 171 or 158.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Apparently the Ravensburger and Milton-Bradley map location numbering schemes are slightly different!

The Terrorist[edit]

In this variant, Mister X is a dangerous bomb-laying terrorist. In response, Scotland Yard gets to use a helicopter. Mister X has as many bombs as there are detectives after him. He has no Black Tickets. The Black Tickets are held by the detectives, who use them to take helicopter rides. When Mister X wants to lay a bomb, he adds a "B" to his written move. Later, when a detective stops in that location, Mister X can have the bomb go off by revealing the corresponding window of his logbook. The victim starts again next turn from Old Scotland Yard (location 132). Each bomb can only be used once, but Mister X could lay several bombs in the same location by visiting it repeatedly. Mister X cannot avoid capture by blowing himself up.

When a detective takes a helicopter ride, he spends his Black Ticket (which then becomes usable by Mister X) and places his pawn in the middle of a city block (an area of the map bounded by coloured lines). On his next turn, without spending a ticket, the detective moves to any of the locations bounding the city block. Only one detective may use the helicopter on any given turn.

For example, a detective that takes the helicopter to the city block containing the British Museum could end up in any of 49, 50, 66 or 67.


Now that you know London's public transit system like the back of your hand, you are ready for this variant.

Each detective gets only two Underground tickets, three Bus tickets, and four Taxi tickets. Mister X gets everything else. The detectives, however, need turn a ticket in only if switching transportation mode. For example, a detective could use the same Taxi ticket until he decides to take the Bus or Underground.


This is a tournament scoring variant.

Mister X has a list of places to visit. At game start, he draws (secretly, of course), a random location. Once he reaches it, he may either stop and score a point, or draw another one — which will be worth two points (for a total of 1+2 = 3 points). This repeats itself as long as required, each succeeding rendezvous being worth one more point than the preceding one.

If Mister X is caught, he scores no points at all. The game does not necessarily stop on turn 24 in this variant; simply return the tickets accumulated by Mister X to the detectives if needed.


In this variant, each detective moves two pawns, so this is limited to three players unless extra pawns are used.

Mister X is after the detectives! When he reaches one, he captures it and sends it to Old Scotland Yard (132). If a detective pawn makes it to Old Scotland yard, he frees all imprisoned pawns — they can immediately move away.

Mister X wins after 24 turns if at least one pawn of each player is imprisoned. A detective wins if his two pawns are free. Several detectives may thus win simultaneously.

  • Against three detectives, Mister X gets all Black Tickets and two Double Moves.
  • Against two detectives, he gets all Black Tickets and one Double Move.


Mister X can sabotage Bus or Underground lines by placing himself on a Taxi location crossed by a red (Underground) or green (Bus) line. For example, on location 71 (near the Bank of England) he can sabotage the 13/89 Underground line or 55/89 Bus line. He must announce he has done so when he sabotages it, revealing his location. The sabotaged line becomes unusable for the rest of the game. Use some kind of marker to indicate the sabotaged line.

The Invisible Man[edit]

This is actually three sub-variants.

The Invisible Man: The Trail[edit]

Mister X surfaces on the board after the detectives have determined their starting locations. He reveals himself only on turns 1, 8 and 18 (instead of 3, 8, 13, 18, and 24). In return, the detectives may ask him if he has gone through the location they occupy, and on which turn. He must answer truthfully.

The Invisible Man: The Tail[edit]

The starting locations are picked as in the Public Enemy Number One variant (see above). Mister X surfaces only on turn 1. He becomes visible again when he is in a location adjacent to a detective. Adjacency is determined using Taxi lines; if there are no Taxi lines, use Bus lines (but there must not be any intervening Taxi locations). For example, 67 (near the British Museum) is adjacent to 66-51-68-84 by Taxi and 82-102 by Bus. Locations 23, 65, 50 and 52 are not adjacent.

The Invisible Man: The Questioning[edit]

Mister X never surfaces on the board. On each turn, each detective may, before moving, ask him one question about his secret location. Mister X must answer truthfully with either a "Yes" or a "No". If he answers Yes, the detective gets to move. If he answers No, the detective stays put, having forfeited his move. Detectives may forgo the question, in which case they get to move normally. Questions can be anything, as long as they relate to Mister X's location.

Examples: "Is your location number greater than 100?", "Is your location number even?", "Is your location besides the Thames?", "Is your location number prime?", etc. Avoid ambiguous questions such as "Is your location near (some landmark)?".


External links[edit]