#006 MetroX (2018)
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist: Ryo Nyamo
Publisher: OKAZU brand
Player Count: 1-99
Time: 10-20 minutes
Congratulations! You, and up to 99 people, have been hired by the Japanese government to construct the entire Tokyo metro system! MetroX is the newest roll 'n write to come from Japanese publisher OKAZU brand. It's technically a "flip 'n write" as it utilizes cards instead of dice; however it still creates those tough puzzle-game decisions we know and love from other games in this genre.
What's in the box?
One player is designated as the card flipper. At the start of each turn, a card is flipped. Each player has the following choices depending on the card chosen.
- A regular number card is drawn: Choose one metro line. In the first empty indicator space, write down the number on the flipped card. Then start building on that metro line starting from the empty station closet to the indicator spaces. (A five card allows you to build five stations.) As you're building your stations if you run into a station that is already built, you must stop. You may not continue building past that station. Similarly, if you reach the end of that metro line, you stop building stations. You cannot build extra stations on other lines.
- A circled 2 or circled 3 card is drawn: Play continues as usual except this time you MAY skip over a station already built.
- A free station card is drawn: Each play may build one station for free anywhere on the map. Players do NOT fill in the indicator space as usual. This is a free station.
- A star card is drawn: Each player becomes invincible for 10 seconds and may step on as many anthropomorphic turtles as possible in the allotted time. Gameplay continues normally after the 10 seconds. Players choose an indicator space, then draw a star. On an empty station closest to the starting space, write the number equal to twice as many routes that pass through the station. (A station with 3 intersecting metro lines scores 6 points.) These points will be counted at the end of the game. The pile of stepped on turtle shells won't.
- If a player completes a metro line, they score the completion bonus. If they are the first to do so, they score the crowned completion bonus. If multiple players finish building the same metro line on the same turn, they all get the bonus. If they are the first to finish that metro line, they all score the crowned completion bonus.
- A six card is drawn: Play as normal; however, shuffle the discard pile back into the deck at the end of this turn.
Play continues until all indicator spaces are filled. The final score is calculated as: Completion Bonuses + Star Bonus - Empty Station Penalty (See card) = Final Score. If your first game is anything like all the first games I have taught, then each player will then say, "Ooooooooh!" and then demand a second game. Be sure to donate to the Cruelty towards Anthropomorphic Turtle Fund.
Most game groups share this particular saying: Just because a game can play up to five, doesn't mean it should be played up to five. MetroX is one of those unique cases where the opposite is true. Just because it can be played solo, doesn't mean it should. Some of you might like the beat-your-high-score solo game experience. (Do you even Uwe Rosenberg, Bro?) However, in those designs, luck of the draw doesn't play a strong game-determining factor. Opening and mid-game game states are fairly static and how efficient you are on your route to victory is the meat of the game. MetroX's design doesn't really allow for this. An early star card or a late 6 card could undermine your score. You really can't play for your best overall score, but only your best possible score for this particular deck configuration.
One solo variant my group came up with is playing all the cards face up until you flip a 6. Then play as usual using those cards in that particular order. Once you reach the 6 card, reshuffle as usual and flip the cards face up until you reach another 6 card. Log the card order down on another piece of scrap paper somewhere. Play a second game using the same deck configuration and see if you can improve your score. This way the luck of the draw is mostly removed and the only factor is your skill to plan the most efficient metro construction path.
There is also a mild learning curve, and the game play might feel a bit odd to a non-gamer or to the young. Charlie Bucket might have trouble. Grandpa Joe might have trouble. Melody Vasel would most likely rock at this game. However, this is all quickly solved by playing through a single 10-20 minute game. Six pencils should be enough for most games, but be sure to play with some erasers handy. They will be used. Oh yes, they will be used. Trust me.
Someone asked on the forums if the card color matters; it doesn't. Whether this game is color blind friendly depends on your friend and how color weak they are. (Most people aren't so much color blind as they are color weak.) The metro lines are in different colors, and some do have unique patterns along their path. Of course, the only way to know for sure would be to show them a picture of the map.
Don't harm turtles. Especially if they're anthropomorphic turtle ninjas. Be sure to carry enough pocket money to buy pizza just in case.
I'm very forgiving with quick games, but there really is nothing to forgive about this game; it's excellent! This is another one of those 1-99 player games, so not only can it be played with any number of people, it can be played by almost anyone of any age--from Grandpa Joe to Charlie Bucket. The strategies behind the game are a little hard to grasp (especially for the younger players, sorry Charlie); however, that should be quickly remedied by playing through a single game. After our first play through, we immediately wanted to play again--always a great sign when it comes to games! Some roll 'n write purists might pass up on this "flip 'n write". Don't! MetroX is a maddening efficiency puzzle crammed with agonizing tense decisions.
Hisashi Hayashi has done something very clever with the cards here, which are essentially an ever shrinking d20. Yes, there is luck in this game, but as everyone knows the composition of the deck and discard pile, it's calculable and predictable luck. You'll find yourself being torn between going for the safe play or pushing your luck to victory (or failure if you're me). Players will be agonizing over which metro line to extend and finish. Sometimes you won't be extending one line because you'll be waiting for that star card to magically appear. Not only is the puzzle element here in full force, but it's also a race to finish these metro lines before the other players. I would easily say this replaces any of Hisashi Hayashi's Rolling Series. The metro design feels more open and less constricting than Rolling Japan. Usually the last few turns of Rolling Japan are automatic as players have no decisions to make; place an X and move on. MetroX is tense until the very end. An added bonus to MetroX is that it comes with two maps--Tokyo and Osaka. Osaka has lines beginning on the left, right, top, and middle of the map like a bowl of ramen spilled on the floor. And just like Rolling Japan and the rest of the Rolling Series, expect to see more maps for MetroX in the future. It may be a small box game, but there's a wagyu steak of meaty decisions crammed in there--okay, maybe not a steak, but definitely a yakitori or two. I highly recommend MetroX. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat dinner at the yakitori pub down the street. Thanks for reading!
No turtles were harmed during this review.
I really like it. I don't love it--but just barely. It's an excellent quick little filler with some rather tough decisions. There is a slight learning curve, but one game should take care of that. It can be played solo, but luck of the draw prevents you from beating your personal high score. MetroX plays best with multiple players. Expect to see multiple expansion maps in the future. I would almost never turn a game of it down. (4 out of 5 = I really like it!)