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Subject: First time riding the T rss

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Ryan Hackel
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I came upon the Boston Game through the game collection of the father of a friend of a friend. It looked old and rare, so I had to give it a try.

The Boston Game is a game designed by Cynthia & Jerome Rubin, and self-published in 1973 under their Emporium Publications company. Their only other work was a similar game covering the famous New York subway, published a few years later. As of this writing, only five BGG users report owning a copy of The Boston Game, so I assume the print run was also quite small.

One Wednesday evening, I sat down with two others and played this. What follows is a smattering of facts, opinions, and musings that struck me at the time. Perhaps they'll prove useful to future game historians.

The box itself is not unusual, being about the same shape as Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers boxes for Clue, Risk, or Stratego. The graphics are spartan but bold, quite the departure from those of other games, and the Boston Game stood out on the shelf, drawing my attention to it.

I opened the box, and the board greeted me first, labeled on the backside, very unusual. The bifolded board lays flat on the table, its heft and thickness being par for common American board games. The map of the Boston T is presented, mimicking the official 1970s MBTA route map as much as I imagine it can. The board crease passes right through the names of stations on the west end of the Red Line, making them hard to read. Six station names are in red, the rest in black.

On the top left corner of the map, there is a legend, showing the names of each subway line (Red Line, Green Line, and so on) with their corresponding color. I didn't need to be told this. I know that red is red. Any player over the age of two could do without this legend. No effort is made to assist the colorblind; the lines are not differentiated by shape or icon.

There is a six-sided die, six typical pawns, two decks of large-sized cards and some scraps of paper. One deck of cards, the larger sized one, is the Places of Interest Deck, containing the stations that each player must visit. The smaller deck is the Jeopardy deck, the cards which create obstacles to be overcome. The pieces of paper are actually game pieces too. They are "Closed Station for Repairs" chits. Along with the loose ones in the box, there is still a strip of unpunched ones left, made of perforated heavy paper. The font is tiny and looks typewritten. The rulesheet is a bifolded 8.5x11 sheet of yellowed paper.

The Places of Interest cards are about the size of index cards. Each card prominently depicts the site's associated transit line color. There is a generously large image taking up most of the card, which ranges from an accurate sketch of a historic building, to a simple shopping bag or hospital cross. The station name itself is near the bottom of the card, along with historical information about the site. The most important data on the card, the station name, is easy to overlook.

The Jeopardy cards are smaller than the Places of Interest cards, but still larger than poker cards. They are dark red like wine, with a stark black legend on the back. The paper is stiff and rough; it feels like construction paper. The text on the back is typewritten and only takes up a small region in the center of the card, leaving most of the space unused. There are no pictures. The most obvious thing about taking these cards out of the box was how poorly cut they were. The width of a few Jeopardy cards was more than a few millimeters wider than the rest, and they stuck out from the side of the deck. I've never seen such poor cut quality in a published game before, and could have done better myself (which is how I would fix the problem).

I quickly read the rules and set up the game, dealing each player six Places of Interest and three Station Closed chits. Each player chooses a red-text station to start on. I can see no reason why the chits are assigned three to a player, as their usage during the game could be done just as easily from a common pool. There is nothing about these chits that's specific to a player, nor do the rules indicate a limited supply of them, so there's no good reason to hand them to each player.

Gameplay is simple: roll the die, and move that many spaces along the line. If you are at a transfer station, you can choose not to move and instead announce a line change. If you do, draw a Jeopardy card, and follow its directions on your next turn. Most of the Jeopardy cards send you to another station, close or open a station, or sometimes do nothing at all. When you reach a station matching a Place of Interest Card in your hand, play it face up. Be the first player to reach all six destinations first, and return to where to started, and you win.

That's when the rules questions started.

I held three "State Street" Places of Interest. Could I play all three when I reached State? I checked the rules and found no answer, so in spirit with the theme as a Boston tourist, I assumed I could only play one Place of Interest each turn.

It also bothered me that the card referred to "State Street", but the station was labeled simply "State" on the board. I searched the map looking for "State Street" thinking it was different. This is just one example of several such instances we noticed.

What exactly is the effect of closing a station? The rulesheet explains when and how they close and re-open, but did not explain the effect of a closed station! I assumed that any player could not move onto or pass through a closed station.

The rules say I can re-open a station on a roll of six. Is this done instead of moving? Can I still move after re-opening a station? I assumed that you could open a station then continue moving.

I also found the Jeopardy cards to be poorly worded. When a card sends me to a particular station, am I supposed to travel there as if it were an additional destination, or am I just teleported there? If the latter is the case and I'm sent to a transfer station, which line am I on? If I want to change lines, do I need to draw another Jeopardy card? I assumed that I was teleported, and if at a transfer station, could use any line at that station without needing to transfer. (Are the phrases "go to", "go directly to", and "descend to" supposed to mean different things?)

We all had fun, and might try it again sometime. I found myself learning about the history and geography of Boston, a city which I've never been to, demonstrating the game's educational value. Still, I feel that a better ruleset could be written for these components. Maybe I'll work on that, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll make a Washington DC version instead.
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Christopher Hill
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"Wicked pissah!"
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Lexingtonian
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We had this when I was a kid, but I can't say it was among my favorite games. Wish we'd kept it, though.
 
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Brian Beaucher
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kinga1965 wrote:
"Wicked pissah!"


What?
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