Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mind The Gap

At Critical Mass last night I was happy to see the kid get himself involved in a game of Age of Empires III (which is his kind of game but not mine) so I had time for a proper game of something else. We were about the start a 5 player game of On The Underground but elphiecoyle arrived and we couldn't expand to 6 players, so two players split off to play Ra with Elphie while aaronseeber and Keith and I played OtU.

Regular readers of this blog may remember my rants about train games and wonder why I'm playing this, let alone owning it. It's all Cameron Browne's fault. I read his book on Connection Games and about the same time was offering TransEuropa for $A45. I took a chance and liked that game a lot. When I read that On the Underground was similar but more complicated that interested me too, and I took another chance. So now I have three train games I like (because Scrabblette bought TransAmerica as well) and I think I know what it must feel like to discover you want to be a woman. It's confusing, and...hmm... better not take that analogy too far. Let's just say I'm wondering whether I'd like Ticket to Ride more if I tried it again.

Anyway, with 3 players in OtU you get 3 colours (lines) each. I started building my long blue line (20 pieces) on the central loop as there was a quick 3 points to be gained connecting cameras. Aaron and Keith developed their lines according to the desires of the passenger and took the lead in points. I wanted to develop the blue line - get a loop, connect some symbols - and then make some branch lines out to the suburbs to scores some passenger points.

My plan was working well, in that I had a good solid blue almost-loop but trailed on the scoring track. Then on Keith's turn two passenger cards to the northwest were drawn. Aaron built the line from Earl's Court to Acton Town which I'd wanted for myself. The two more cards to the northwest were drawn, and I had to build a line from Acton Town to Sudbury to make sure I got more than my fair share of those points.

Having been almost too late to score those points I decided I had to start my other line from Woodford to Mile End before the passenger dragged my opponents over there. Meanwhile Keith was building a black line to rival my blue, and Aaron's pink and red lines were sneaking all over the middle of the board sucking up valuable passenger points. I completed the blue loop for a 9 point bonus and caught up with them.

Aaron continued to score well, but Keith seemed to get bogged down with branches. Aaron was leading and Keith fell behind. I could see the pile of passenger cards dwindling and decided I needed to get some good points so in one turn I terminated both ends of my Uxbridge-Ealing Broadway line. On my next turn I branched the blue loop to Hammersmith to connect to the symbol there. Then, the draw pile emptied and the passenger was removed from the board just before my turn. I had the last turn of the game with no possibility of passenger points - but Aaron was only one point ahead of me. I took a branch marker, played to a terminus, took another branch marker and played to a national rail connection, and moved two points ahead of Aaron for a hard-fought come-from-behind victory.

I really do like this game. I could imagine with AP-prone players it would bog down and that would suck, but when it moves along it's very good. It's pretty, you can make and execute plans, and there's plenty to think about.

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