The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

On the Underground Initial Thoughts

I got in another play of On the Underground today. Another “pick up and deliver” rail game, but fast and fresh.

Players get a few lines on the London Tube. One line has 20 connections, the others have 15 each. On your turn, you get four actions. The most basic action is laying a rail link. Fairly standard rules, there are 1-5 connections between each adjacent station, each color of your rail line must be contiguous (although your colors don’t have to touch). Apart from laying a track, you can also get a ‘branch token.’ You spend two branch tokens (when laying track) to branch, instead of place at an endpoint. Branching is unlimited, apart from the time.

There are several ways to score. Some stations are worth one point when you connect. The ‘end of line’ stations are worth two points (and a branch token). Some stations get a ‘district’ token (the electronics district, dining district, etc). If a single line connects them, that’s three points. Finally, if you make a loop around 1 or more stations, then you get one point for each station you enclose.

And then there is the passenger.

After each player moves, the passenger (or mob) will move. There are four destinations shown at the start of the term. (The destination deck includes all the stations that aren’t dead ends or 1 point connectors). The passenger will go to the ‘nearest’ main station (gold), and then go from there to the ‘nearest’ substation (white).

Nearest is defined lazy passenger style — The least walking. Why walk a block when you can take a 15 minute ride? Anyway, if there’s a tie on walking, then the passenger will choose by “least number of lines used.” If it’s still tied, the active player decides. Each line used (whether for one link, or a dozen) gets a point for the owner.

That’s basically it.

Right now the big sell of “On the Underground” is speed. This seems to be a 45 minute game, maybe 60 minutes. You balance short and long term scoring … getting an extra point on the passenger now versus trying to close a loop, make a connection, or grab a link that will get used to run back and forth. The ‘fewest links’ rules mean that lines that were initially cooperating (so that the passenger won’t have to walk) naturally compete to cut each other out.

As I mentioned before, I’m not quite ready to buy, but it’s nice. So far the winner has always made a big central loop, but I suspect that will change as competition for the loop grows and people get the hang of this.

I’d avoid this with anyone who tended towards slow play. There’s plenty to ponder, but lots of randomness in the destination deck. I’m sure good play helps, maybe quite a bit, but I’d rather not spend 90 minutes or two hours on this.

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Written by taogaming

September 8, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Reviews

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5 Responses

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  1. Oddly enough, I’ve never seen a central loop player win in seven games so far. For some reason, those who have tried it have failed. Just one person’s additional data to add to the pile.

    I suspect that the placement of the green chips affects this, but it’s possible that we just haven’t gone about it right in our games.

    Eric Brosius

    September 8, 2007 at 10:21 pm

  2. Well, in both cases the “loop” player was also the owner of the game, and had more experience, so that may not be the only issue. But it does seem that the central loop gets 5+ bonus points, and usually manages to sneak a point on the passenger a fair amount of the time. With winning scores of 60-ish, that’s pretty big.

    Brian

    September 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

  3. Well, in both cases the “loop” player was also the owner of the game, and had more experience, so that may not be the only issue. But it does seem that the central loop gets 5+ bonus points, and usually manages to sneak a point on the passenger a fair amount of the time. With winning scores of 60-ish, that’s pretty big.

    Brian

    September 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

  4. My biggets loop was worth 8 points, and I came in 2nd.

    ekted

    September 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm

  5. I can’t get the time down on this one. We thought it would work as a lunch game, but it’s running 75 minutes at a minimum. I bet your central loop suspicion is correct. Lots to like here, though, so maybe worth a “real” (i.e., non-lunch) game slot. It just looks smaller than it is.

    Jon Waddington

    September 10, 2007 at 9:40 am


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