Game review: London Dread is a story-driven investigation requiring careful planning
Posted February 1
This reviewer loves games that tell a story. A powerful theme can make a good game even better. The game London Dread is one such game. Two to four players cooperate together in Victorian England to investigate and resolve subplots around the city that eventually lead to a story-driven conclusion.
What sets this game apart from others on the market is a game mechanism that requires careful planning. A board with a map of the city of London is placed on the table featuring four areas containing locations where trouble is brewing.
Each player receives a player board featuring a large clock that shows several time points over the next 24 hours. At these 12 points in time, a player decides at what location they will be at in the city trying to gain clues and resolve problems in order to bring the story to a successful conclusion. Sound easy? Oh, no, it's not.
Some locations around the city can only be visited at certain times of the day and one must travel to each revealed location which takes time and careful coordination with other players.
An awesome aspect of London Dread is that each playable character in the game has unique abilities and is suited for overcoming specific challenges around the city. So it is important to send the right person to accomplish the right task. This element figures into proper planning to beat the game.
And that's the first phase of the game, proper planning. A total of 24 locations are located in the city. Each location has a random face down card that can be revealed. Players must decide which cards to uncover and in what order a revealed card must be dealt with. Revealed cards will cause problems for the player's ID not dealt with so not all cards must be revealed.
Some of the 24 location cards contain plot cards that are the core of the story. These cards must be uncovered and resolved in order to beat the game. They must be dealt with in a specific order. Players are trying to find these cards among the 24 total cards without revealing too many.
The final thing to note about planning during the game is that it's all timed. That's right, players have a certain amount of time, 12 minutes to be exact, to plan out everyone's actions for the next 24 hours and one mistake in the planning can cause a chain reaction that destroys everything. This makes for a tense 12 minutes.
Once the planning phase is done, players move onto the story phase. In this phase, each player resolves all of their actions at the same time to see how well they did. When a card is encountered, it will indicate a problem to overcome and the player at that location must overcome it.
A card challenge has a set of symbols on it that must be matched with cards, tokens and character abilities from a player. If the symbols can be matched the problem is overcome, and if it is a plot card, it will propel the story forward and reward the players with additional resources.
If all of the plot cards are dealt with unsuccessfully, the game goes to an end game where the final protagonist of the story is dealt with. If the players are successful beating the protagonist, that part of the story is complete and additional chapters can be accessed. There are future stories planned for the game to help keep its longevity.
The game has a downloadable app that provides a timer and some voiceover narration that adds to the theme. The app isn't necessary to play but it adds a lot to the theme. The story is well done and the voiceovers sound professional.
It's important to note that the theme of this game might not be for everyone. The events that take place along the storyline are dark, bloody and deal with the supernatural. As the play manual states, "This is London Dread, not London Picnic." Despite that, there is a deep and compelling game here with some exciting and different mechanics from other games. Find out more about the game, download the app and look at the London Dread rulebook at Grey Fox Games website.