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Subject: What happened to North Acton? rss

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John Bandettini
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Maps, lots of games have maps. Nearly all war games have maps and loads of euro games have maps, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride, Thurn and Taxis and many more. So as a gamer it’s not unusual to look at a map and think ‘that could make a good game’.

Now if you have ever looked at a map of the London Underground and thought ‘that could make a good game’, I have news for you, someone already did it. On the Underground is a train game, where you build an underground system using a map based on the London Underground.

Now if you are at all familiar with the Underground, the first thing you will notice is that some of it is missing. Although it looks like a map of the Underground, it is a cut down version, some stations have been combined and some have just been removed. My own nearest station North Acton has been combined with East Acton and West Acton to become, just Acton. I was initially disappointed to find missing stations, but after playing the game I realised that if all the correct stations were included the game would take a lot longer and possibly outstay it’s welcome.

 


So a warning for those of you who have never been to London, the Underground is bigger than you think.

How about the game? The game is about scoring points. You score points in two different ways, by laying pieces of track or by having passengers use your track. Most points at the end of the game wins.

It has quite a neat little rule to counteract the player going first potentially having an extra turn. The first player starts the game with 0 points, second player starts with 1, third player gets 2 etc. This helps to even up starting positions.

Depending on the number of players, each player gets either 2, 3 or 4 sets of different coloured track. Each colour represents a different line that you control. There are links between stations on the map where track can be built, but at the beginning of the game no track is in place. In some links between stations only one piece of track can be placed , in some it can be multiple pieces. On your turn you can place up to 4 pieces of track. These can be of one or more colours. You can start a line anywhere on the board, but once started you can only add track to either end of the existing line.

When laying track you can score points in a number of ways. Some of the stations are also mainline rail stations, you score one point every time you connect a line to one. At the end of each line is a terminus, when you build into a terminus, you score two points and get a branch line token (more on them in a minute). There are eight stations, all fairly central to the map, which randomly get eight tokens assigned to them at the beginning of the game. These tokens are in four pairs. When you lay track that links any of these four connections, you get three points. (Due to multiple ways of linking station, these points can be scored more than once for each set.) Finally if you managed to link back to the other end of your track creating a kind of loop, any stations that you do not have a connection too within your loop score a point each.

As an alternative to laying a piece of track you can take a branch line token. Normally you can only lay track at either end of your line, but if you trade in two branch line tokens you can add to your track anywhere along it’s length. This is usually very helpful in getting extra points.



After laying your track, you get to move the passenger. The passenger always starts at Euston. The stations that are not rail stations, terminuses or connection station are divided between express stations and normal stations. There is a deck of cards, one card for each express and normal station. At the beginning of the game, the cards are shuffled and four cards are turned over. These are the initial potential destinations for the passenger. Every turn the passenger will move either once or twice. If there is an express station he will attempt to go there first and then go to a normal station. There are more normal stations, so some turns there may not be an express station available. You could potentially have only express stations, but I have never seen that happen.

The passenger hates to walk. Where no one has yet built any track over a link, the passenger has to walk if he goes that way. The passenger will always take the route that has the least walking, even if that means ignoring a station just a couple of links away to travel over to the other side of the board. If when working out the destination for the passenger there is more than one destination with the same amount of walking, he will choose the one that uses the least lines (He does not like changing trains). If still equal he will go to the closest destination. If still equal the player who’s turn it is gets to decide. When the passenger moves each player who’s line he uses get 1 point.

The cards matching the stations he visited are replaced and the next player takes his turn. The game continues until the last station card is drawn. At that point everyone has one last turn to lay track, to score a few last points. The passenger does not move for this last round.

That’s the game, as the points are totalled as you go, just check the points track and you can see how you did.

I like this game a lot. While quite a light game I see it as a step up from Ticket to Ride or Carcassone and other gateway games. It’s a very good next step game. You have multiple choices every turn, many ways to score points and yet it’s not a very complicated game. For those that like it there are opportunities for a bit of screwage, as some key lines only have room for one line in a link. The rules actually warn against starting your lines too far from the centre of the board as your lines can get trapped.

It proved very popular when I took it into my games club and I think it will see regular play there.
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David Norman
United Kingdom
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JohnBandettini wrote:
Now if you are at all familiar with the Underground, the first thing you will notice is that some of it is missing. Although it looks like a map of the Underground, it is a cut down version, some stations have been combined and some have just been removed. My own nearest station North Acton has been combined with East Acton and West Acton to become, just Acton. I was initially disappointed to find missing stations, but after playing the game I realised that if all the correct stations were included the game would take a lot longer and possibly outstay it’s welcome.


This is part of the reason it's done. The other part is that most of the missing stations are on the sections of line near the edge of the board, and are just a string of stations with no junctions, etc, so pretty boring to play - and you could get a whole lot of points by just building the first link, and then repeatedly watching the passenger use your track for the first link, then walk, and then walk back and use your link again.

To give you an idea of the amount of cutting down that has occured, the board contains about 90 stations. The real London Underground contains almost 300.

JohnBandettini wrote:
The game continues until the last station card is drawn. At that point everyone has one last turn to lay track, to score a few last points. The passenger does not move for this last round.


Just to clarify, when the passenger stops moving, you play to the end of the round - so that everybody has had an equal number of turns. This may mean that nobody has an extra turn (if the last card is drawn just before the start-player's turn), that everybody but the start-player has an extra turn (if the last card is drawn at the end of the start-player's turn), or somewhere inbetween.

David.
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Christian Liljeberg
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Lerum
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DavidNorman99 wrote:

JohnBandettini wrote:
The game continues until the last station card is drawn. At that point everyone has one last turn to lay track, to score a few last points. The passenger does not move for this last round.


Just to clarify, when the passenger stops moving, you play to the end of the round - so that everybody has had an equal number of turns. This may mean that nobody has an extra turn (if the last card is drawn just before the start-player's turn), that everybody but the start-player has an extra turn (if the last card is drawn at the end of the start-player's turn), or somewhere inbetween.


I like Sebastian Bleasdale's endgame variant:
Quote:
When the draw pile has no cards, then the Passenger is not removed from the board, and play continues with players building track and moving the Passenger. If there are no destinations for the Passenger to move to, then the Passenger does not move. When the next to play is the start player, the game ends.

From: http://www.on-the-underground.com/variants.html
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Jack K
United States
Shorewood
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Liljeberg wrote:


That link is no longer available. Is this available anywhere else?
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Justin V

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anglotiger wrote:
Liljeberg wrote:


That link is no longer available. Is this available anywhere else?


His site is now found here.

http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sbleas/games/ontheundergr...
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