I love route making games. I love roll and write and flip and write games. I basically love games. But, when two of my particular gaming go-tos come together, it feels extra special indeed!
Tickets Please! GET ON BOARD PARIS & ROMA follows hot on the heels of the 2022 game Get on Board London & New York. Both are based on an older Japanese game called Let’s Make a Bus Route (which I haven’t played) but each bring their own style and scoring specialties to the gaming table.
Essentially this is flip and write where we are travelling around Paris (1-3 players) and Roma (4-5 players), trying to create the most point-tastic route possible. But, as well as the pencil and paper used to check off your moves, record your scores, and collect bonuses, there’s a traditional board game element in the form of path markers which you place on the map on your turn.
And turns, whilst straightforward, present prickly placement puzzles from the get-go. Starting with which shape route to use on your very first turn. You see, at the beginning of each of those 12 rounds a ticket card gets flipped showing a number. On your sheet, each number has 2 possible marker configurations associated, and you can only use each one once. So having chosen your starting spot from a random choice, noted your personal scoring objective (which will be a route taking in 3 specific locations on the board), and looked at the public scoring goals (which will be collecting multiples of a specific passenger type) in play for the duration of the game (and which have a first-player points bonus attached), the pressure is on to start your route right!
From collecting diners for a romantic date, to making sure old grannies get to their knitting natter sessions safely, you’ll be crossing off people and locations as you make your way around the city. But, timing is crucial because you’ll only score your passengers if you deliver them to their destinations. So you need to make sure you move through the faces before the connected places! Heading to the tourist hot spots in Paris will be for nought if you haven’t got any tourists on your bus by the time you get there. Same for students and businessmen. And the more passengers you can cram in before reaching a stop, the more points each will be worth (and some even reward bonuses to!).
If all that sizzling synaptic spatial action wasn’t enough, you’ve then got to consider where other players are heading, and avoid creating a closed loop in your own route. Because if one of your route markers circles round and touches another part of your existing route, its au revoir Paris, arrivederci Roma; you will be eliminated from the game! And if it happens on the final round then….merde! Unlike London & New York where traffic was a nightmare of negative marking, however, sharing routes in Paris or Roma can actually help you. So, not that I advocate tail-gating, but if you see an opponent cruising down a route not too far from yours, you might want to get on board with their plan for a bit!
To help, you can modify your route marker shape by adding in bends should you need to. But the penalty in points can be big, and increases the more times you use it. To counter the hits, there are also special spots that let you extend your route by one piece for free….but again those are worth points at end game if you don’t partake.
We really enjoy this game and the artwork. Set collection, route making, push your luck, flip and write, and a solo mode all wrapped up in a lovely stylised puzzly package. It’s placement optimisation from start to finish, and we really like that. The two player mode also includes a bonus for using routes of a randomly selected colour which is another delightful decision dilemma inducing aspect. GET ON BOARD is without doubt multiplayer solitaire as there’s no way to mess with someone else’s route, although you can deny them full bonus marks if you’re first to grab a public scoring objective. But again, that doesn’t bother us as we are each invested in making our own route the best it can be. Brain v board rather than each other!
And with plenty of objectives and personal goals, as well as the randomness of the ticket flip, you’ll be making new routes and hunting down different passengers for those extra points each game. The double passenger spots and the bonus markers definitely help with combo scoring too.
Personally, I like to achieve my personal scoring route. Often at the expense of the general scoring possibilities and public objectives, admittedly. But I get hung up on it and have to do it, and when I do it feels super satisfying!
The only thing that is a slight disappointment is that, as a predominantly solo and two/three player gaming family, we don’t get to enjoy the Roma side of the board unless we can take it to a game night with others. And I’d love to whizz around Roma picking up passengers and dropping them off for la dolce vita! But I guess we can always each play two routes – double the chance of winning……or loop the looping into a route marking mare!