Gamewright always knocks it out of the park when it comes to puzzle-y games (in my opinion), so it’s not a surprise that I really enjoy their new “rail and write” game Metro X by Hisashi Hayashi. Now when I say “puzzle-y” I mean the games that you can often play solo because you’re not really playing against someone as much as dealing with your previous decisions and the luck of the cards or dice. It’s really about making the most of what trends to devolve to a very challenging situation by the end of the game, like Rolling America (also from game designer Hisashi Hayashi). Metro X is very similar in that at the end of the game you often regret a decision you made very early on in the game — but hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it? Ha! Gamewright’s site says it reinforces “probability and strategic thinking” — I’d also say self-forgiveness for some terrible early moves. HA!
How to Play
I very much enjoyed Metro X, and so did my family! Unlike Rolling America and Bloom, it’s in a larger box and has fancy 2-sided dry erase boards so there are 2 different subway maps to master. The directions suggested you start on the Metro City side, which we did, but after several plays we flipped the boards. I have to say I like the Tube Town side better (can you tell I killed it on that one?) Regardless of which side you start with, everyone will be taking their turns at the same time. There’s a very small 15 card draw deck that needs to be shuffled. Each round consists of one card played by the whole group.
On your board you’ll see several train lines and each line starts with a train with little windows. When a card is flipped you’ll choose a train line to play on, you’ll mark the card number in one of those windows, and then you’ll cross off that number of bubbles on that line starting with the closest open bubble to the train. You can’t jump over bubbles that have been crossed off already unless the card is a “skip” card, but you can cross off fewer bubbles than the number on the card. And this right here is the crux of the game, you have to plan but you’re at the whim of the cards! Also the regular cards are numbered 3-6 and the skips are numbered 2 and 3 BUT some of the 2 window train lines are 13 and 14 bubbles long! That means you’re expected to somehow finish those lines using only 2 cards — which seems nuts, but it’s all about planning. Some of the bubbles are shared with other train lines so that helps, but you’ll likely never complete ALL of the train lines. But if you do, and you’re the first to complete a line you’ll get the higher point bonus and everyone after you will get the lower point bonus. (The bonuses are different for each line and they’re marked on the board.)
Beyond scoring the train lines, there are also Transfer cards that will give you points. It costs you a train car window, but you can put double the number of lines going through a bubble directly into that bubble and you’ll score that as the transfer bonus at the end of the game. Only catch is that you can’t choose just any bubble for your transfer, it has to be the next one in line for one of your trains that still has a window available to use. There’s also a free space card which allows you to fill in any bubble and it doesn’t cost you a train car window — and because of that, it’s by far my favorite card! ha!
When every train car window is filled (which should happen to everyone at the same time), the game is over. Players total up the bonus points from all of the train lines they’ve finished and add them to the transfer bonus points. Then count up all of the bubbles that you didn’t fill and look a the yellow score card and subtract that number of points to get your total score. For example, 5 empty bubbles will have you subtracting 1 point but 12 empty bubbles will have you losing 6 points. Whoever has the highest score wins!
Like I said a the beginning of this post, I really enjoyed Metro X. It makes you think, you want to play it again right away to see if you can do better, and it’s challenging. Even my husband who isn’t super keen on Rolling America, really enjoyed Metro X. There’s also a nice solo variant, so if you’re the only one in your family or circle of friends who likes this kind of game you can still easily and enjoyably play. I also love that there are 2 sides to the board. It’s almost automatic to play one and then immediately flip and play the other. The one thing I don’t like about Metro X (and this is being picky) is the dry erase boards. I cannot tell you how many times someone has accidentally wiped something off their board and we have to pause while they fix it. Could they do this as paper? Yes, but then I’d be complaining about how quickly I’m burning through the paper and how terrible it is for the environment. So really, it’s fine and I’m just whining (and maybe warning you to be careful when you play!) Overall, I definitely recommend Metro X if you dig these types of thinking games — and if you’ve never tried them, Metro X is a great one to start with!
Metro X Stats:
~$15 on Amazon or your local game store
1-6 players (special solo rules)
Game was provided free of charge from the manufacturer with no guarantee of review (I’ve got to like it).