Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- MetroX

Game: MetroX

Publisher: Gamewright Games

Designer: Hisashi Hayashi

Year: 2018

Metro X was originally published by Okazu Brand, from Japan, and was not widely available in other regions. We were very lucky to have friend spend a year in Japan last year and we were able to play the original version. Having a copy of a much coveted game felt special, but it's even better that Gamewright have managed to add it to their roll and write line and bring it to the masses. The design itself has not changed from the original, but the production is quite different.


Metro X made it to number three on my top ten roll and writes list, based on the original, Japanese version of the game. How does the new edition compare and could it go even higher for me?

Gameplay

MetroX is not technically a Roll and Write, but instead a Flip and Fill. At the start of the game each player has a dry erase boards flipped onto one of two maps. This board shows a number of different train lines each of which have differing numbers of winders on the train, numbers of stops on the route and point values for completing them. Each turn one card is flipped over and everyone uses the results of that card to fill in their board before the next card gets revealed.



Most cards are simply a number. When a number is drawn you write the number in a train window and then start drawing Xs along that train's line. You must always start from the first empty space on that train's line and keep going until you have drawn Xs equal to the drawn number, or you reach a space that has already been filled in. A large number of lines share stations, which can be convenient if used right (letting you skip along the route) and a nightmare if done wrong as you waste high numbers on little movement. If you are in this situation, you can wait for a 'skip' card to come up. These are numbered 2-3 and work identically to number cards except that you don't have to stop when you reach a filled in space. Instead you jump that space and carry on on the other side.

There are two rarer cards than can be drawn. The ever elusive 'free' space does exactly what you would expect, you can cross off any one space on the board without having to fill in a train's window. Finally the 'transfer' card also only lets you fill in one space, but instead of filling it in with a cross you fill it in with a number. This number is equal to the number of train lines going into and out of the space and is also the of points you will gain at the end of the game for that space. This one does use up a train window though! Whenever a player filling in a space completes a line they must announce it, the first player to complete a line gets the higher reward for that line, while anyone who completes it later gets the lower value.

Cards are drawn repeatedly until everyone has filled in all f their train windows. At this point the game ends and players will add up the number of points from completed lines to the numbers drawn in any transfer spaces. They will then deduct a number of points depending on the number of empty spaces still on their board.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

MetroX is one of those games which is unscrupulously fair by giving everyone the exact same input. It's also a game where luck can be a huge factor. As soon as I have started to deviate from the way you are playing my needs become different from yours. A 2-skip might come up at a perfect time to get you out of a jam, while for me it's just another low-number card getting in the way of my glorious locomotive progress! This creates a wonderful experience where the game can be fair, and yet also dynamic, it's worked well in games like Nmbr9 and it works fantastically here too.

Like many games in the genre, MetroX is easy to learn, but it's also difficult to master. Creating efficient routes is a matter of using route A's crossover to reduce the distance you have to travel along route B. Do it well and you can use the crossover spaces to travel faster and further and rack up points. However, when you do badly those spaces become blocks along your path. This creates a fascinating puzzle and makes the end results of each player very different. The worst sin of all is utilizing the big numbers in the wrong place, completing a line with only two of three windows filled in means you played inefficiently and you effectively get one less turn in the game!


Gamewright have done a fantastic job with the transition from the original game. The change to larger dry erase boards solved the issue of the original game's maps being too small. They also provide incredibly pointy dry erase pens. Yes that's a good thing. It's the goddamn best thing. Ask yourself, have you ever used a dry erase pen and felt satisfaction before? Buy MetroX and you will know dry-erase nirvana!

Overall MetroX is a fantastic flip and fill. For some time it's been the obscure Japan-only gem in our collection that no-one recognized. Now that it's readily available for the English-language speaking world, it's far more likely to come off our shelf and that's fantastic news. Gamewright have managed to not only bring across a tremendously good game, but improve any flaws that they saw in the original production. On top of it all it makes for a fantastic game to play over Skype which makes it a great game for the current times. What are you waiting for, go buy it!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

MetroX is a great flip and fill game. It's an optimisation puzzle that really gets your brain working on a deeper level than many roll and write games. Planning the best way to fill out your routes so that each of them have great synergies with each other is challenging and full of clever little choices, plus there might come a point in the game where you need to make sacrifices and focus on higher value lines or lines that no-one has claimed the high score for yet.

Whilst the box says 1-6 players, that's only the limited imposed by the number of dry erase boards in the box. The player count is limitless if friends have a copy of the player boards too - perfect for gaming by Skype or other big groups. We've had some really successful games with friends an it's one they keep wanting to come back to because it has a very addictive feel to it, where you have plenty of chances to do better than last time.


There's no doubt for me that every production change in the Gamewright edition is an improvement, expect for the box size, which is 4 times the volume of the original!
  • The dry erase boards mean that you're never going to run out of score pads, and although it seems trivial, the dry erase markers in this box are the bet I've ever had in a game - I really hope they last! 
  • The player sheets are bigger which makes it easier to see the intersecting metro lines, plus they are clearly labelled with simple letters, which definitely makes it easier to call out when you complete a line. 
  • The cards that you flip, having a little bit of added explanation on the special cards in particular, which helps with everyone's recollection of the rules.
The downside is that the theme is now generic. You're no longer using the real metro lines of Tokyo or Osaka - you're in 'Tube Town' or 'Metro City' which is bland to say the least. I loved that the original version had an expansion which used different Japanese cities. Sure, this version could get an expansion too - in fact it could be any made up map at all, but that's just a bit less interesting.

This version of MetroX has to be a must have roll and write - it's an absolute joy to play and the new production does add to my enjoyment of the game.

You Might Like...
  • This new edition really improves upon the usability of the original printing, with dry erase board and easy to understand cards.
  • There are lots of tough decisions to make to optimise your play.
  • This is a great choice for Skype gaming and big groups.
You Might Not Like...
  • The Gamewright edition loses a little bit of the original versions charm. There are no difficult to pronounce Japanese subway names any longer!

The Verdict
9/10 Metro X is fast becoming one our favourite roll and write games. This new edition just makes it more playable and more enjoyable to play, which will make it hit the table more and more often as that filler game that still challenges your logical brain. It's so great that everyone now has a chance to try it!



MetroX was a review copy kindly provided to us by Coiledspring Games.

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