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  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

Discovering London - The Board Game

As a tour guide in London I have traded as Discovering London for over a decade. When I came across this board game last year I had to buy a copy.

Discovering London the Board Game box

Discovering London was produced in 1987 by Gosling Games Ltd of Browning Avenue, Hanwell, London W7.

“Discovering London” says it is “The Travel Game that captures the fun and excitement of touring London.”

It has a self-published feel with some typos and irregularly sized text but it does have some excellent quality components.

Discovering London Game open box with contents on show - rules, cards and playing pieces

It offers a game that is similar to many others. Players are issued a number of destination cards, the first person to visit all their destinations wins.

From the box: “The throw of a dice dictates your pace and the blue chance cards can send you anywhere from Camden Lock to The Tower of London, always helping or hindering your progress. Just when you think you have them all beaten … oops … you run into an opponent’s road block or you get free tickets to Lords and you must go, or you get lost on the Piccadilly Underground and end up on the tube to Hounslow or even worse.”

This is not what a typical guided tour of London is meant to look like. Most guides, myself included, try to remove all doubt and any element of chance, we aim to always start and finish precisely when and where we have agreed with our guests. I have not and would never take anyone to Hounslow.

I did run a few intentionally “Random Tours” of London, a real life game. Guests took it in turn to draw a card from a specially produced pack I had made to determine the direction I should take and whether a loo or pub break was needed and so forth.

I thoroughly enjoyed them but was never brave enough to advertise them very widely. Too much can go wrong and even a positive review on Trip Advisor might be off putting to anyone considering whether to book me for a regular tour.

“The guide didn’t know where we were going, so we had to tell him. I needed the loo but he said we had played all the loo cards and said we would have to play a pub card instead. We finished two miles from our hotel and one hour late for our dinner reservation. It was a great day, thanks!”

Back to Discovering London - The Board Game.

There are 44 Destination Cards and 12 Start/Finish Cards:

Destination Cards
Destination Cards

There are 50 Chance Cards.

Chance Cards
Chance Cards

Cards, Die, Rules and Roadblocks (12) together:

Cards, Die, Rules and Roadblocks
Cards, Die, Rules and Roadblocks

The board covers an area from Camden Lock to Battersea Park, north/south and the former Earls Court Exhibition Centre to Tower Bridge, west/east. Many of the destinations were potential stockists of the game, Hamleys even have their Logo on a Destination Card, perhaps this was all coincidental.

Discovering London Board Game board
The Board

Discovering London board game in play
The game in play

It is rare to find a map, even a highly stylised map, of Central London that I don’t learn something from, if I look carefully enough. In this board’s map the most interesting thing I learned about was the existence of the London Toy and Model Museum. I had never heard of it and didn’t visit it when it was open. It sounds wonderfully eccentric. There is a good blog post on it here.

Good to see the pre-fire Cuming Museum and Pollocks Toy Museum as destinations, they don’t feature at all in many similar games. If by playing the game people were encouraged to visit places they hadn’t heard of before then I think that is a little legacy the makers can be proud of.

But the best feature of this game for me are the hand-painted lead playing pieces. The “Magnificent Six”.

Playing pieces "The Magnificent Six"
Playing pieces "The Magnificent Six"

They may not be an absolutely precise and representative cross section of “typical” Londoners (even as it was back in 1987) but they are beautifully made and painted. They are certainly the smartest and best produced playing pieces of any modern board game that I have seen.

And they are poisonous! The rules specifically advise that they are kept out of the reach of young children on account of their lead content. Maybe this is why they are so well preserved?

The Magnificent Six playing pieces: a Life Guard of the Household Cavalry, a Chelsea Pensioner, a Businessman, a Hotel Doorman, a Guard of The Household Division and a Policeman.
The Magnificent Six on parade

From left to right, a Life Guard of the Household Cavalry, a Chelsea Pensioner, a Businessman, a Hotel Doorman, a Guard of The Household Division and a Policeman.


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