Tuesday 23 December 2014

Review - Destination London

Destination London

Destination London
Designed by Rachel Lowe
Published by RTL Games
For 2-6 victims with nothing left to live for

For those of you who haven't picked it up from my quaint mannerisms, and my tendency to put the letter "u" in words that clearly don't need it, I am from the UK. To be exact, I am from a small town in Wiltshire, just a stone's throw away from the village of West Kington.

Actually, that's not strictly true. Mainly because, as my old P.E. teacher would tell you, I can't throw for toffee.

But if you had a trebuchet, and a relatively small stone, then West Kington is probably almost close to being about two stone throws away from where I live. Which doesn't sound as snappy, which is why I didn't say it in the first place.

But why all this chatter about West Kington?

Well, that little village, which is just a short distance from Chippenham (a place that deserves to have stones thrown at it), is where the Canadian new wave band Men Without Hats filmed the video for their classic hit The Safety Dance.

Some people think "The Safety Dance" is about safe sex, but the truth is, the song was written as a protest against bouncers in the 1980s who wanted to stop clubbers from pogoing. I guess they wanted to stop people hurting themselves.

And looking like tits.

Anyway, I am not really big on protests. I mean, I have a lot of respect for people who strongly disagree with something and decide to hold a march, or stand on a fountain, or shout into a loud hailer. Or whatever. It takes great courage to stand up for your convictions. But for me... I'm just a bit too lazy and laid back.

My idea of a protest is getting off the sofa to change the television channel by hand when I can't find the remote and Alan Carr Chatty Man comes on.

But if I was ever to hold a protest march, it would be against games like Destination London.

Destination London SMASH

Every year I host an evening of games to celebrate the festive season, an event I laughingly refer to as the alternative Christmas party. I put away all the "designer" titles, and roll out the silly shit I never play at any other time. Stuff like The Logo Game and Family Fortunes.

I thought Destination London would be a suitable fit: Something mindless and stupid that would give my guests the chance to roll dice, move pieces, and chat, without paying too much attention to strategy.

All I can do is apologise to those guests, and hope they come back next time; because Destination London is a game that makes people hate games. It is an amalgam of every bad thing that people ever say about games. It is a... non-game. It makes Monopoly look good.

Destination London STAB

In fact, if you were to chuck Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, and Ludo into a cement mixer, leave it for 15 minutes, pour out the result, sift through it and stamp on anything that looks fun, remove anything that looks attractive or artistic, and then repackage it in a gaudy red box, you would have a game that is about twice as good as Destination London.

So, what is this game? Why is it so bad?

The premise is simple. You are a taxi driver. At the start of the game you have a certain amount of money, a certain amount of fuel, and several destinations you need to reach. You roll a dice to move to a destination. When you reach that destination, you hand in the matching destination card and a fuel card, and then you take the fare listed for that destination and a new destination card. This continues until every destination has been visited, someone flips the table, or someone starts waving a knife around in a wild-eyed frenzy.

There really isn't anything more going on.

It is a game that is clearly aiming at the Monopoly market. There are even traffic light spaces that allow you to draw special cards that may be nice (have some money) or may be nasty (miss a turn), which is very similar to Monopoly's Chance cards. However, this is Monopoly without the trading and haggling... Without the fun bit.

And the game is full of the most ridiculous design choices.

For a start, each destination card states the location you need to reach, but there is no graphic or miniature map to indicate where on the board that location is, so you end up spending a long time simply looking at every location trying to figure out where you need to go next. When you do find your location, it is invariably in the middle of a one-way system that forces you to take a mind-numbingly long detour to get there.

Movement is achieved by rolling one dice and then moving that number of spaces. However, everyone has the option to pay to supercharge their car so they roll two dice each turn. This seems a reasonable rule until you realise that everyone starts the game with more than enough money to instantly pay for the upgrade, which is exactly what everyone did the first (and only) time I played. Why not just have every player roll two dice from the start, and give them a lower amount of starting cash?

And the game mechanisms are really clunky. For example, every time you reach a destination, you have to hand in the card, then hand in a fuel card, then take your fare, then drew a new destination card. You spend more time swapping and exchanging money and cards than doing almost anything else.

But then that's probably because there isn't really anything to do.

Roll. Move. Shuffle money and cards around. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Weep quietly.

Pray for forgiveness.

Destination London BURN

Okay, I'm overegging the Christmas pudding here, but this is really just a nasty mix of everything that is wrong with mainstream games:

Roll and move mechanic. Check.

Random chance you cannot do anything about. Check.

Paper money. Check.

"Miss a go" moments. Check.

Ugly artwork and design. Check.

Agonisingly long game time. Check.

No actual choices. Check.

This is the kind of game that hurts the hobby. This is the kind of game that people see, and then think "God, board games are dull." This is the kind of game that stops people trying Lords of Waterdeep or Castle Panic.

But what really upsets me... What really sticks in my throat... This is an award-winning game. It says so right there on the box: "The award-winning souvenir game." It is bad enough that such a banal and pointless collection of cardboard and paper got any kind of award, but the fact it got that award based on its worthiness as a souvenir is almost criminal.

Destination London STOMP

It makes me shudder to think that foreign tourists have visited London, and then purchased this game as a fond memento. Is this really the best that we, as a country, have to offer our visitors? Is this all the thanks travellers deserve for choosing to visit our fair isle?

I once visited Scotland and got punched in the head, and returned home with severe concussion. I can only imagine coming home with a copy of Destination London is somewhat similar.

If you have spent any time on my blog, you know I don't tend to pull my punches. If I love a game, I wear that love on my sleeve. If I hate a game, you will know about it. However, I still try to see the good in every game, and I pride myself on being as balanced as possible when I review something. But here, with this game... Frankly, I don't want to waste my precious time trying to come up with any kind of positive comments.

Just like you don't want to waste any of your time playing something this bad.

Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to take Destination London into the back yard to try a little safety dance all over the box.*

Down with this sort of thing!

Destination London FLUSH

Oh, and Merry Christmas to all of my readers. You all deserve the very best the season has to offer, you bloody lovely people.

* Okay, I'll be honest. No games were harmed in the making of this review. No matter how much I dislike a game, I could not bring myself to destroy something someone else created. It is the ultimate insult, and not something I condone. However, I can't keep a game this bad, and I haven't got the heart to take someone's money for it; so, this one's going to the charity shop. I am sure someone will enjoy it. Maybe...


  1. Fantastic review; I laughed continuously whilst reading it. Can't believe this is still available and costs *£20* on Amazon! And someone's rated it *4 stars*! You should post a summary of your review above as an Amazon review, and see how many people find it useful...

    1. Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it. I am not sure Amazon buyers are ready for this level of vehemence, though.

  2. I was just given this by my well meaning non-gamer sister...oh dear. It looks awful...and this doesn't inspire hope for any surprise...

    1. I'm sorry. I wish my review could have brightened up your Christmas day. If you have to play the game, I recommend splitting the destination deck in half. It makes the pain go away sooner.

  3. I believe there are several regional versions of this title as well? I am sure I recall seeing a copy of Destination Portsmouth some years ago with the same mechanics.

  4. I just checked and there are regional varients, including Destination Scotland - so you can re-live your being punched experience on the gaming table! I am hoping for Destination Milton Keynes...

    1. Is there a Destination Seventh Ring of Hell? That's all of them, I guess.

      The regional variants makes it seem like this game really is trying to be the new Monopoly. That's something we really didn't need.


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