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Subject: My review after two plays rss

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Jeremiah Lee
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Alameda
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At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
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I played On the Underground yesterday, twice. After playing several of the "hot" Essen 2006 games, this is the only one that's a sure buy for me (I'm on the fence about Yspahan).

Game theme
The board is a map of the London Underground, stations only. There are multiple connections between some stations, single connections between others (yes, much like that "other" "train game"). You have a passenger who wants to travel around London, using the Tube. He wants to travel to two places per player turn, if possible. You will build rail lines, and then the passenger will move to different stops. You will collect points if he travels over your lines.

This theme works quite nicely, and by the end of the game, you have a map of the London Underground, with new rail lines. But if you don't know the real London Underground map, this one will look like a tube map. It's really quite charming.

Components (I don't own the game, so this is a little fuzzy)
• One board, quite large.
• Rule book, 4 pages each of rules in both German and English.
• Wooden rail lines, 10 colors. Different colors have different numbers of pieces, so that you will have long and short rail lines. The copy that I played was missing some pieces, and some colors had the wrong count (ie, green was supposed to have 20 but had 15; blue was supposed to have 15 but had 20).
• Four destination pegs.
• One passenger.
• Various chits for branch tokens and for tourist attractions.

This is a very nicely produced game. The board folds out rather weirdly, but lays flat without bending it back.

The destination pegs are white and blend in with the board a little bit; some color on that would have been nice, but this is really, really minor.

Game mechanics
You will be in charge of a number of subway lines, that number depending on the number of players (with 2—4 lines, 3—3 lines, 4 and 5—2 lines). The subway lines are represented by painted wooden "sticks" which are similar in size (though may be a little shorter) to TransAmerica pieces.

At the start of your turn, there will be four cards, face up, which show the four stations the passenger desires to travel to on your turn. If there are both gold and silver destinations, he will travel to a gold destination first, and then a silver destination. If the cards are monochromatic, he will only travel to one destination. For each of the cards on the display, there is a white peg that you put on the station so that it is clear where the passenger will travel.

On your turn, you essentially get four actions. An action can be:

•Take a line branch chit.
•Place a rail line piece of any of your colors.

When you place your rail lines, you may place them anywhere on the map, but you must add on to that color's line if it is already on the map, and if you want to fork the line, you must turn in two of the branch chits to be able to do so. My read of the rules is that forking itself does not take an action, only playing the rail piece takes an action (ie, you don't have to forgo a build to turn in the two branch chits).

You collect points for laying certain tracks:
•1 point for connecting a line to the national rail lines (blue symbols).
•2 points and a fork chit for connecting a line to an end terminal.
•3 points for connecting—using one line—"tourist spot" chits which are randomly distributed on the board (the places are fixed; which chit goes where is random) at the start of the game.

After you have taken your two actions, the passenger will move, first to a gold station, and then to a silver. How the passenger moves can be summed up thusly (I'll use "he" but it may be a female):
•If he can, he will travel entirely by subway.
•He will travel on as few subway lines as possible. (ie, fewest transfers possible)
•If he must walk, he will walk the fewest stops possible, even if he must take 4 lines to get to the place where he must walk.
•In case of a tie of the fewest lines and fewest walking stops, the active player chooses how the passenger travels.

For each line that the passenger travels over, the player who owns the line gets one point. Those points are given out for both the gold and the silver destination. Thus if he travels over the blue and green line to get to the gold station, and travels over the green, grey, and black lines to get to the silver station, five points will be given out.

When the card draw pile is depleted, the passenger is removed from the board. The turn is finished out; the last player to play in the first round will be the last player to play in the last round. Thus, the remaining player may build track and get points that way.

My overall feelings
This is a great relatively light game. The passenger's movement isn't entirely intuitive at first, but after a play, anyone should have mastery of the movement.

The last turn doesn't seem quite right, in that the rest of the players, with the cards available, may have been able to transport the passenger to the destinations (especially in a 2 or 3 player game). So there is somewhat of a first-player advantage, since that player will always transport the passenger at least as many times as the other players. It's hasn't proven to be a game-winning advantage, though, as the first player did not win in either of the two games that I played.

I've played it with 3 and with 4 players; it was good with 4, but with only 2 rail lines, it felt a little restricting. With 3 players, it was really great. I think that this is a perfect 2-3 player game, and an OK 4 player game. If you're looking for a one-hour game with interesting decisions and a logistics feel, this is a great choice.

8/10, may increase if my g/f likes it.
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Simon
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Just a quick correctioon: on your turn you get to place 4 wooden rails; each of which you can forego to take a branch line counter (or underpants as we called 'em, thanks to the picture).
Unless I was playing it wrong you could skip two of your 4 goes to get two underpants; then spend 2 to branch a line and still have one rail left over to play.
It's a great game
 
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Jeremiah Lee
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At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
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Thanks for the comment. I will check the rules tomorrow night and edit the review to correct any mistakes. We played by the rules my friend had been taught at the stand in Essen.
 
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Jeremiah Lee
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At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
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I read the rules; indeed, you may take up to four branch tokens per turn. However, I don't believe that it takes an action to turn in two tokens in order to branch. Under my reading of the rules, you may take two tokens, lay two track, and utilize branch tokens during either or both track placements to fork one or two lines.

Please correct me if this read of the rules is wrong; I have updated the review above to reflect the rules correction noted in comment 1.
 
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Sebastian Bleasdale
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I have a fear that I'm just going to make it more confusing, but for what it's worth...


You have four actions every turn. These action may be one of the following:

1. Start a new line by placing a track length.

2. Extend one of your existing lines - playing a length of track connected to one of its ends.

3. Pay two branch tokens, and extend one of your existing lines by branching - playing a length of track connected to the line but not at one of its ends.

4. Take a branch token.
 
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Jeremiah Lee
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But please don't call me Jerry.
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At one time, I didn't really like Power Grid so Ted made my piece a Power Grid piece.
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Thank you Sebastian for the clarification. I had arrived at these rules, but after playing incorrectly this weekend, I'm glad to have affirmation that I now know the rules.

Great game!
 
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David Brain
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texasjdl wrote:
This theme works quite nicely, and by the end of the game, you have a map of the London Underground, with new rail lines. But if you don't know the real London Underground map, this one will look like a tube map. It's really quite charming.
This feature earns it a whole extra point of rating for me. For anyone conversant with the "traditional" London Underground map, the end result of each game of OTU results in a wonderfully plausible "alternate universe" map but with all sorts of odd quirks (just like the real one.) And that makes it stand out from the usual "rail game" crowd.
 
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