is a new set-collection game by Reiner Knizia, published as the seventh game in the Gryphon Games bookshelf series.
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Looting London comes in a typical Gryphon Games bookshelf box, attractively labeled "7" on the side. It contains a deck of 72 cards and a set of thirty cardboard tiles.
The Cards: The cards come in four types, depicting the four potential witnesses in the game: a waif, an organ grinder, a bobby, and a dame. They all feature attractive art by Paul E. Niemeyer, with little icons at the four corners so that it's easy to see what each card is when you fan them. The cards are all printed on sturdy, linen-textured cardstock.
The Tiles: These are 30 large, linen-textured cardboard tiles, printed in full-color. Five of them are circular Loot Tiles, depicting the crimes, such as the "blue" theft of gold from the Bank of England. The other 25 are the Evidence Tiles. Each one is color coded for its crime and shows one of the witnesses as well. These tiles are all attractive and well produced. Each of the 30 tiles also shows a very prominent number, which is its victory point score at the end of the game.
A couple of the pieces of art in this game have been seen in other Gryphon games. For example the dame is the woman from High Society while the theft from the National Gallery is of Van Gogh's Sunflowers, which also appears in Masters Gallery. I find this purposeful crossover charming, since it draws connections between a series of games.
Overall the components for Looting London are the highest quality and generally attractive. I've given them a high "4" out of "5" for Style: very good.
The object of Looting London is to "solve the crimes" by gathering evidence. At the end of the game the player with the most points of evidence and solved crimes wins.
Setup: The five Loot Tiles, describing the crimes, are laid out in a row. The 25 Evidence Tiles are shuffled, then randomly placed in a 5x5 grid under the Loot Tiles.
The witness cards deck is shuffled and each player is given four. An additional four witness cards are placed face up next to the deck.
Order of Play: On his turn a player may take two actions. He may optionally meld cards to gain evidence tiles, then he must draw a card.
Finding Evidence: Each Evidence Tile has three attributes: a witness, a crime, and a value. At the start of his turn, a player can meld the appropriate number of the appropriate witness to take an Evidence Tile (e.g., taking a 3/waif/purple tile, which would help solve the purple crime, requires the play of three waif cards). However, Evidence Tiles can only be taken from the bottom of the grid, furthest from the Loot Tiles.
There are two things you can do to give yourself more control:
Jokers. You can always play a pair of a card as a wild card.
Destroying Evidence. You can always destroy an Evidence Tile at the bottom of the grid by discarding a pair of a card. You can even do this multiple times. However, you must take an Evidence Tile above the ones you destroyed (which means, among other things, that you can never destroy the top evidence in a column).
Solving a Crime: A crime might be solved when a player either destroys evidence or takes an Evidence Tile. This occurs if all of the Evidence Tiles related to a crime have been removed from the board (in whichever fashion). Then, all the players compare their total value of Evidence for that crime. Whoever has the most earns the Loot Tile, which is worth 2-5 points at the end of the game.
Drawing Cards: At the end of his turn, a player draws one card, either from the face-up cards or from the face-down draw deck.
Ending the Game: The game ends after four of the five crimes have been solved. All the players throw away their Evidence Tiles for the fifth crime: they're worthless. They then sum up the value of their remaining Evidence and Loot Tiles, with the highest total winning.
Relationships to Other Games
Looting London is a set-collection game with a majority-control component. The set-collection and the majority-control are both pretty standard; I think the interest in the game comes from figuring out which of the five crimes will not score and/or trying to steer things in that direction.
The Game Design
I find Looting London to be an enjoyable game, though not a particularly deep one.
There is definitely tension in the collection of cards, as you're trying to work toward certain sets that other players may get to before you. There's also some good strategy in figuring out what to destroy and good opportunity to bluff or manipulate as you work toward making sure a crime that doesn't affect you is the one that isn't solved. However, the decisions are pretty simple beyond this.
I have had troubles in two different games with things getting bogged down in the end-game, where everyone was just drawing for the last cards needed to free the last Evidence Tile. I'm not sure how frequent this is, but I do offer it as a caveat.
Overall, Looting London is an enjoyable but not an extraordinary game. I've given it a high "3" out of "5" for Substance: above average.
Reiner Knizia's Looting London is a fun and light game of set-collection and majority-control. It'll work well to start off an evening or end one.