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Subject: Pictorial mock session (all sides played by me) rss

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Tor Gjerde
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Being quite fond of the base game, I have long been intrigued by this expansion that unfortunately never was released, as the publisher perished prematurely. The files used for playtesting uploaded by the designer were functional, but somewhat lacking visually, so I decided to spend some effort in making better-looking versions of these (after getting the designer's permission to post them here for others to use as well).

Having redesigned all components and mounted them on high quality material – mock canvas for the properly folding board, cards on cardstock with rounded corners and wooden disks for the route tokens – I was itching to try the game, but it was almost a week until next game club meeting. As the sun has just returned to these latitudes in an amount that makes flash-free indoor photography possible, I ran through a full session with three of my personalities as players in order to get a better understanding of the rules and to document the look of the game in various stages.



Starting setup for a three player game. Compared to the base game, there are more tokens to distribute on the "green" stations – 40 versus 8, and an extra step (dealing a hand of secret destination stations), but still quick and easy. The starting player advantage is also dealt with differently (the same way as an "official" variant for the base game).



A couple of turns into the game. Already one needs to balance planning for reaching the secret stations, grabbing route tokens and claiming as many passenger scorings as possible.



Red almost became trapped in a corner. Instead of branching to the single remaining exit which had no strategic value, the option of building alongside an existing line at the same cost was a much better solution (can be seen NE of the starting station).



The red-pink-orange player has collected the first complete set of five different tokens. "He" has also used the option to build alongside existing tracks a second time (pink alongside blue).



The endgame approaches – each player is about to run out of track in one colour. The red-pink-orange player is about to complete the second set of five different tokens, the two others are close to their first.



After the final turn but before scoring of secret destinations – all three scores are equal! Chalk this up as an (anecdotal) confirmation that the compensation for the starting player advantage is exactly balanced.



As all players had reached all secret destinations, I expected the final scores to be equal as well. Only then did I remember that these are scored for each colour individually, resulting in a win for the single "player" who had all destinations on a single line (pink).


General observations

The game is as expected sufficiently distinct from the base game to consider it a separate game, not just an alternate board or a variant game. In the original, I feel that decisions on a given turn tend to be motivated either by tactics (getting the passenger on the greatest number of your lines this turn and in the following player's) or strategy (building lines that will tend to be used often, also in other players' turns, as well as connection matching tokens and possibly shooting for a circle). In this game, there are three such levels, and only the tactical is fairly similar. The strategic level is split between the very rigid goal of connecting the secret destinations and a much more opportunistic race for sets of five different route tokens, bridging the gap to the tactical. Neither mode is superior to the other, but the difference in feel is refreshing.

The possibility to build on already "blocked" lines opens up a whole new range of options. It also prevents situations where a player gets blocked off in a way that otherwise would make it impossible to win, at a price that is just expensive enough. This makes branch tokens even more valuable, so much that in this session, there was never scored points for connecting to a terminus. Towards the end I seriously considered this, and I find it a great solution to make this a choice.

At a given number of players, the number of rounds is fixed, unlike in the base game where this varies somewhat depending on how often there are both express (yellow) and normal (white) stations available. If my counting is accurate, the number of rounds, actions per player and pieces of track per player varies with number of players in the following way:

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
| players | rounds | actions | tracks |
|–––––––––|––––––––|–––––––––|––––––––|
| 2 | 17 | 68 | 65 |
| 3 | 11 | 44 | 50 |
| 4 | 9 | 36 | 35 |
| 5 | 7 | 28 | 35 |
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
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