London Dread Board Game Review (Grey Fox Games)

6

Unravel a plot to destroy the world in London Dread, a story-driven cooperative board game that focuses on time-keeping and programming. In London Dread, players take on the role of an ecclectic cast of Victorian London characters, including both a nun and a stripper (the two things women can be). Players must plan out how they will traverse the city during the time they have, placing their action and movement on their own personal clock. Players then play out the movement patterns they have chosen, hoping that they have the sets of resources necessary to collect allies and items and to clear plot cards and challenges.

London Dread Board Game Details

Players: 2 to 4

Game Time: 90 Minutes

Age: 14+

Genre: Cooperative / Programming

How is London Dread Played?

After the game's substantial setup, players are left with a board that is filled with plot cards, special items, and challenges. Players have a certain amount of time to figure out where they're going to go and when, by talking to each other and looking at the board. Some challenges need only one person to take care of -- others need multiple people. Actions are coded into the game clock, by placing actions into the clock's hour slots. Once everyone has placed their actions, they are played out, hour by hour.

London Dread is a challenging game. Not only will players get confused easily, but finishing the plot (and surviving) means that you need to build up as much power as possible, finish ending challenges, and do it all without going insane or dying. There's a large component of luck in this game as well; players need to roll dice frequently, and each player has a deck of additional resources they can draw, which also has negative effects buried within it.

If players don't reach the same place at exactly the same time, they can't help each other. If they haven't gathered the resources necessary, they may need to roll a damage die, or be unable to do anything at all. If players miss plot cards, it's very unlikely they'll be able to finish the game.

An Exercise in Confusion

London Dread doesn't look like a programming game, but it absolutely is one. The challenge is that it is a cooperative programming game. And to that end, it was more confusing and frustrating when being played than exciting or fun

London Dread lends itself heavily towards quarterbacking, because everyone in the game has the same amount of information. At a glance, every single player knows the optimal moves for everyone else, it's just a matter of time. Thus, it came down to one person "playing" the game.

What people don't tell you about teamwork is that teamwork, when truly democratic, is a morass of confusion. In general, it's better to have a single leader. Otherwise it becomes impossible to meet any sort of consensus.

Any time we tried to make decisions for ourselves, we ended up mired in confusion. The game was made so that it was easier for a single person to play it, and that greatly reduced the amount of interactivity for the other players. You could take your own actions, but why would you? It would never be more optimal for you to strike out on your own than work with the rest of your team.

Once decisions were made regarding where to go and what to do, the rest of the game largely just played those decisions out. Though all of the interactivity with the game had been completed, we had to spend another half an hour slowly playing out the events that had occurred. 

Still, London Dread is an interesting game, when it works, and it works better with fewer players. Players need to determine the optimal route through the city, avoiding traveling too often, and trying to collect allies and resources before they need to use them. At the same time, they need to trigger plot cards that are intended to be revealed at certain times of the day, and they must be constantly considering each other. All of this unfolds around atmospheric flavor text and plot information. 

London Dread Board Game Review
  • PRO: An atmospheric, cooperative game that forces players to plan ahead and work together. 
  • CON: Generally feels very rough; setup is long and interactivity wanes throughout the game.
  • CON: London Dread is optimally played with quarterbacking, with detracts from a lot of the interest in the game.