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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Thursday 27 May 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Maglev Metro

Game: Maglev Metro

Publisher: Bezier Games

Designer:  Ted Alspach

Year: 2021

Maglev Metro is a game from the same designer and publisher as Suburbia and The Castles of Mad King Ludwig - two games that share quite a bit of DNA. Maglev Metro is something completely different, combining pick up and deliver with engine building, in a pretty familiar setting of a railway or metro network. The setting does try to stand out from the crowd by injecting a futuristic theme, but aside from the components, we certainly didn't feel any thematic elements brought about by the setting. Your train is a striking plastic piece with metal trim, to denote a train capable of magnetic levitation, and it's robots (bronze, silver and gold meeples) who are key to the early phase of the game before your network starts to attract actual people. 

Maglev Metro uses a triple (!) layer player board to invite you to build a metro system in either New York or Berlin, and players use transparent hexagon tiles to build tracks around the city. The transparent tiles can be layered to create a pretty accurate representation of how many city metros have lots of interlinking and overlapping routes. The game certainly has a striking look on the table and its mix of mechanics are two favourites of ours, so Maglev Metro holds a lot of promise.

In Maglev Metro, each players starts the game able to play two actions per turn. Most actions are very simple and so turns pass quickly around the table. You can lay tracks, move your train, reverse your train, pick up passengers, drop them off at the correct colour of metro station, or build a new metro station. Your ultimate purpose is to drop off passengers, ideally as many as possible in the colours you need to achieve your strategy for the game. When passengers are dropped off, they are added to your personal player board, either boosting your efficiency at certain actions, or example making it so that you can move three times for a single action rather than once, or otherwise unlocking different actions. At the start of the game, you have two actions per turn and you can't build any metro stations besides the basic bronze, silver and gold, but, by adding passengers to your board, you can unlock up to three extra actions and the ability to add stations and pick up passengers in any or all of the four different advanced colours.

But how do you actually score points? Well, that's done on your personal player board too. You'll get a small number of points from the pink, red, lilac or purple passengers you collect, a point per connection made on the board and you can score one of your four end game scoring cards. But, if you want to score more highly in certain areas then you'll need to add passengers to your personal player board that boost your ability to score. For example, you can score 2, 3 or 4 points per connection made on the board if you put all of your energy into boosting those tracks. There's only so many passengers to go around though so you need to really balance your desire to boost your in-game action taking with how you choose to boost end game scoring, and try and find some synergies between the two.

The game initially seemed quite overwhelming at the beginning of our first play. The rules are very simple, but with an almost empty player board, it seems like there are just so many options of what you can do and the path forward was quite unclear to me. However the end game objective cards help to provide a little direction and once you get into the swing of things, it's quite easy to carve out a strategy. Initially I was excited to try and focus my strategy - the game seems to guide you to either selecting a pink/red strategy or a lilac/purple strategy, but in every game I have ended up pursuing all four colours, which rather takes the fun out of strategising. I think this is perhaps a two-player game issue. You tend to want to build all of the buildings as that gives you easy access to the robots that are seeded on the board at the start of the game, and with two players, no-ones going to do that for you - you have to put in the work!

Once you have access to all four of the pastel colours, it's also awfully tempting to try and upgrade your number of available actions per game. I've had the most fun in the game when I've upgraded to the level of four or five actions per turn. I've also had the lest fun with the game when Amy has upgraded to four or five actions per turn and I've been left having really short, boring turns while she races around the board and picks up all of the best opportunities. The power of having more actions feels like it should be offset with the power of upgrading the effectiveness of your actions, but that's just not true. For example, having boosted your ability to drop-off means your great at dropping people of the same colour at the right station, but the game doesn't often magically give you three people of the same colour, you need to zoom around the board and pick up people from different locations, which really favours having more actions, rather than better actions.

Maglev Metro doesn't fail to deliver on either the engine building or pick-up and deliver aspect of the game - both are very well implemented and seemingly satisfying, and they gel really well to create a cohesive whole. However, at two-players, I never see myself playing a different strategy, I'll always try to get more actions as fast as I can, because I fear that the alternative is a pretty miserable game, where my opponent gets to do more, thus boosting their actions further and creating a runaway leader. I hope I get the chance to play Maglev Metro with more players, but as a two-player experience, for the Yellow Meeple, it's a 5/10.

Maglev Metro was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk 

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