Sometimes older games can teach us a lot. One older game that all gamers should play at some point is Scotland Yard. It’s not the best game in the world, but if you want to see where the “Hide ‘n’ Seek” (Letters from Whitechapel, Fury of Dracula, Specter Ops) paradigm of games come from, you should start with the original.
One of the things about Scotland Yard that instantly works is it’s simplicity. Multiple opposing players are searching for a single player across multiple spaces. Any time the hunted player is seen, that location is marked on the board. Using the knowledge of movement rules for the hunted player, the hunter players have to guess where the hunted player is and move to that location. All of these rules are essentially teachable in 10 minutes or less.
The other concept present are the multiple pathways of varying speeds and connection spots on the board. This encourages the puzzle solving nature of the hunters discussion, as they collectively weigh the logical moves the hunted player could make.
What gamers should take away from Scotland Yard is the one-vs-many style of gameplay similar to a roleplaying game but with a very different theme and more structured play. The alternate gaming experiences of being the hunted player vs being part of a team of hunters is striking and feels like two different games. As you play, watch out for alpha gamers who dominate the conversation amongst the hunters, and see if normally silent gamers do better as the hunted player. Whatever the outcome, it’s always fun to revisit the hunted player’s steps to see if the hunters guessed correctly.
You can’t say you know boardgames unless you’ve experienced this style of gameplay. Playing the lighter original Scotland Yard will tell you a lot about whether other games using this mechanism will be up your alley. And if it’s not your thing, at least your armed with the experience. And gaining that experience through these recommended games is what the Gaming Canon series is all about.