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Subject: Session Report rss

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J C Lawrence
United States
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In some ways the less said about this one the better. It doesn't
deserve the time or effort. Metro manages to combine the worst
qualities of a pure counting game with eye twisting graphics and an
obvious victory path of screw your neighbors first and worry about
yourself second.

On the surface Metro made me think of TransAmerica with the logical
map/building patterns of the Carcassonne series, crossed with a mutant
Fresh Fish. I had hopes that the unholy union would do well. It
didn't. Like Carcassonne there are rules dictating legal and illegal
placements, and (un)like Fresh Fish the goal is the maximise the rail
distance between you stations and their points of terminus (which can
be arbitrary). The TransAmerica link is purely on the train theme and
the defined station points.

I should explain how Metro combines the worst qualities of counting
games. On each turn in Metro you pull a tile which pictures an
arrangement of railway track joining the edges in some pattern (two
per edge). Your goal is to have the length of track from the
stations you own (assigned as a starting condition) to their
terminus (another station) be as long as it possibly can, while also
trying to make your opponent's tracks from their stations be as
short as possible before they hit their terminus. A fairly simple
and obvious best-for-me/worst-for-him model.

The problems primarily lie in how that decision point is reached.
To determine the effect of a possible placement you have to trace
the tracks backward to see what leads where from your tile as the
railway lines twist and turn and snarl across the board, and thus
calculate what effect that placement will have on your, and your
opponent's lines. So, you cross your eyes and count, and then you
repeat that for the next possible location or tile orientation, and
so forth, counting and counting and counting.

And you can't skip this analysis paralysis without also abandoning
all direct control over the game. The only way to determine what a
possible time placement does is to count the impact of its
intersections by tieing your eyes in knots tracing tracks for each
possibility. Worse, as the decisions become more significant in the
mid-game, the number of possible placements becomes larger at that
time and thus the counting more manifold (a single placement then
commonly affect multiple players), and the visual knots longer and
more Gordian...something of a vicious cycle develops.

Which is not to say that I hate Gordian knot games. I don't. I
rather like Steam Tunnels for instance. But in Metro you end up
constantly reworking what seems like the entire knot on every tile
placement, and counting and counting and counting and counting --
and its not like you can avoid the counting, perhaps by making it
elective. Without counting and tracing the knot, even partially,
you have no idea what your move did or was worth. And of course
once you count one placement the obvious and instant temptation is
to compare that with the placements at another location, and another
location, and so forth, and Lo! the counting disease has taken
infectious root! So you count, and count, and count, and
count...and then repeat on your next turn. This tile there gives
Blue this many, Red so many, and Yellow far too many, but over there
it gives..., and over here it gives..., and then again right there
it gives...

I probably wouldn't mind this all so much if Metro were mostly a
simple race game (who gets the longest tracks) and if the complexity
of the Gordian knot didn't make screwage the obvious and most
attractive victory path. But its not that way. Without continual
attention paid to screwage it is far too easy for tracks to head out
into the board and get lost wandering about endlessly accumulating
points before finally finishing. So instead you're not only counting
endlessly, you are running a race game of who can cripple the other
players fastest and best using randomly pulled tile draws.

No thanks. I never thought kneecapping hostages was much fun either.
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Randy Cox
United States
South Carolina
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1024x768 works just fine - Don't Wide the Site!
Missing old BGG
Re:Session Report
Interesting how your group plays (or how you analyze) this game. We love it in all the different groups I play with, mostly because it's such a quick-playing game--45 minutes for a 4-6 player game. No analysis paralysis here.

One thing puzzled me about your description: you said that you draw a tile and then go about determining how to play it. That's only one of the two options. You can always play the tile in your hand (which you've had since your last turn and been analyzing all that time). Optionally, you can flip up some other tile (from the box) and play it to the board.

As to figuring out the paths, I've never thought about analyzing every potential available slot. If you're playing the screw-your-buddy tactic, then by knowing which player is doing well, you know who needs to be reined in, so you go after their potentially long routes (which you can determine during other players' turns). You can also compute only from the rail head of each person's line, since you can't do anything at all about existing routes ("blue already has 12 and I can't do anything about that, so, I can let him keep circling and gain more points, or put turn his train left for a total of 3 more or turn him right into the center for at least 12 more, ...". If you're playing the "help myself" mode, you simply move your tracks towards the open board, away from potential terminals. Neither of these take excessive thought.

But the biggest flaw I see in your recounting is the statement (made twice) that screw-your-buddy is the "obvious" best tactic. I have discussed this with many gamers. Some go for all out hosing. Others never hose unless they have to. Others are in between. And all of these have led to victory many times. I don't think that negative play is the only way to win.

But mostly, it's just an enjoyable way to spend 3/4 of an hour in our gaming groups.
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J C Lawrence
United States
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Re:Session Report
It appears we missed the rule about having a second possible tile to play. <sigh> As for length our game lasted a little over an hour.

The problem with playing simple screw your buddy is the tendency for tracks to head out for mid-field and wander seemingly endlessly. You can't just rely on where the score marker is: that's realised score. The interesting stuff is stull on the table and unterminated -- and because it is unterminated and not-utterly-obvious (if it was obvious it would have been terminated), you need to go looking for it, to countit, and see if it really does need shutting down.

On the choice between screw/help-myself mode: It is a choice. You can elect not to make the choice, which simply means that you shose anyway but won't admit or support it.
To my mind if you ware going to choose one side or the other, you might as well understand the context in which you're making the choice, and that means evaluating the board and you're right back in a tight loop to the endless counting game.

Obvious best tactic? That's largely dictated by two factors:

1) Ignored tracks can easily get "lost" in the midfield and accumulate large values, or suddenly gain large values thru one tile placement. This makes easrly capping and limiting an attractive preventative.

2) In general the screw play generates a larger point differential or future-potential reduction than the help-your-self play. (This is exacerbated by the central city scoring model).

3) In calculating the value differential of all the potential placements, of necessity you are also evaluating the screw value of each possible move. This has an attitudinal effect and is contrasted to other games where the value or necessity of the screw plays really only becomes interesting or attractive for leader stomping/slowing.

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