London is an extremely solidly built game play experience that immerses players in the rebuilding of historical London. Martin Wallace makes great strategy games; and, this is no exception.
Publisher: Osprey Games
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Mike Atkinson, Natalia Borek, Przemyslaw Sobiecki
Game Type: Card Drafting, Hand Management, Tableau Building
Initial Year of Release: 2010 (2nd Edition 2017)
Age Range: 14+
Expected Playtime: 60-90
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
You are an architect in 1666 London and the great fire has left you a daunting task: rebuilding. You will be constructing buildings, buying land, collecting money, and using all of these resources to gain prestige while keeping poverty down.
Your influence will shape the city all the way up to the 20th century. Build up your prestige better than your rival architects and you will become a historic national icon.
Each turn, you will draw a card and then make a choice between 4 options. You will either draw three more cards, add building developments to your city, buy land, or run your city.
As you build developments, a tableau of card stacks will grow in front of you. When you run your city, all of the face up cards on top of your stacks will reward you for your hard work and planning. But running your city will cause poverty to accumulate in London.
Never fear! Many of your land purchases and some of your developments will alleviate some of this poverty.
Opening the box to glance through the rulebook and components was a breath of fresh air. Many modern games have seemingly endless piles of components and long rulebooks. London is blessedly simple. There is a board, a few cardboard tokens, some black cubes, and some cards. It doesn’t bring a lot of flash to the table, but learning and playing is not intimidating at all.
Game Build Quality
The cards shuffle and deal well. They are thick enough that I had to double check my first deal as it felt almost as if I was dealing two cards at a time. There are some black cubes and standard punch out cardboard tokens for money, loans, and large amounts of poverty.
Everything in the box feels very standard or slightly above average for a production board game. The box lid folds out from the base as a single piece and has a satisfying wedge on the front for easy opening with a firm fit.
The borough cards and locations on building cards are detailed and sharp. They feel almost like historical paintings from the era the game is set. Images of people seem less realistic but convey a lot about the occupation or type of person is being pictured. The updated art for the second edition is a great addition to the game.
Just like the components, nothing in London delivers an instant visceral excitement. That said, I had a great time playing it. I enjoyed building up my building tableau while slowly lowering my hand size.
I really enjoyed the risk of putting cards I wanted onto the the development board and picking them back up on my next turn to build later.
Age Range & Weight
14+ seems significantly higher than I expected. Play is simple enough that an 8 year old could handle it. Would they be excited about it though? Probably not. The charm of the game is in the competition between players and the journey through almost a quarter century of London’s history.
London is an extremely solidly built game play experience that immerses players in the rebuilding of historical London. Martin Wallace makes great strategy games; and, this is no exception. Players can explore a variety of different styles to achieve prestige and battle poverty. It doesn’t ultimately matter how much poverty the entire city has, only how much difference there is between players.