Metro X is a flip and write game originally published by Japanese publisher OKAZU. This year (2020) Gamewright released a more geographically neutral English language version. Gamewrights version retains the duel sided map but replaces ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Osaka’ with Tube Town and Metro City. It also limits players to 5 because it replaces paper and pencil with dry erase markers and wipeable sheets.
MetroX- The Rail and Write Game
In Metro X players are creating underground networks by completing stations along metro lines. As each card is flipped, players simultaneously follow the instructions filling stations along their chosen route with the required amount of crosses and marking the number in the train window. Each train has 2,3 or 4 windows meaning everyone has a finite number of actions to complete each route. First to finish a route takes the higher score, everyone else to finish it scores the lower amount.
Some cards give you a free move, useful, and some let you skip over crossed stations that would otherwise block your progress. Some cards are called ‘Transfers’ and these give powerful bonus points. With a transfer you mark a train window with an X, possibly sacrificing some further travel, but in the next free station along that route you count how many tracks intersect there, double that number and write it in the station space to score at games end. When every train window on your board is filled the game’s over.
Players score their finished routes, bonus transfer points and minus points for any empty stations left on their map. Each game board is reversible with the Tube Town side being slightly harder with less stations sharing lines.
Metro X is a very simple and quick game. It plays in 20-25 minutes regardless of player count which is really cool. The artwork is cheap and cheerful, functional if a little confusing. Following a single train line is not easy at a glance and although each line has a pattern as well as a colour, I think colourblind players could find it really tricky. Having said that, it doesn’t ruin gameplay at all for me and turns take typically no more than 20 seconds.
The simultaneous play means that there is zero downtime, which for a snappy filler game like Metro X is a real boon. The flip a card nature of the turns make it even quicker and cleaner than most roll and write games. Strictly speaking, with everyone using exactly the same cards and maps it’s possible for two players to have an identical game.
In reality this never happens because the puzzle is that versatile. There are so many opportunities for player choices to diverge and once taken those different paths will never merge again. No two players have the same game and no two games are the same. What’s more, trying to solve this efficiency puzzle is genuinely fun every time.
Ticket to Ride
There’s so many different lines to keep an eye on and focusing too closely on one or two will lead to blocking others later down the tracks. Completing every route is all but impossible and yet still you spend half of each game convinced this could be the time. You think you’ve used the cards so cleverly as you cross off stations that count on multiple tracks. The skip cards that allow you to jump previously crossed off stations have come up just at the right time and your transfer bonus points are higher than anyone else’s!
Then as the game progresses and your options decrease, Lady Luck abandons you once again! Your fellow metro builders start taking those coveted first finisher bonuses and you have to sacrifice some lines to finish others. But it was fun, only took 20 minutes and with a swift swipe of your eraser the game’s set up ready to play again!
Talking about the dry erase system, I have really mixed feelings about it. In its favour there isn’t a finite number of game sheets, which means that unlike many roll and writes there isn’t a date looming over you when you’ll run out of sheets and either have to order more or never play again. I like that future proofing mindset and how easy it is to wipe away the old and start a new game. On the downside it immediately limits players to 6 where mechanically there needn’t be a limit.
Also you have to take extra care not to smudge out marks you made the previous turn with your hand. Rather wonderfully Gamewright are currently offering the sheets to print from their website for free. This means you can choose which medium you prefer, providing you’ve already bought the actual game with the deck of cards. I don’t know if they plan on continuing to offer this service but it’s a lovely touch if they do.
Metro X ticks all the right boxes for its genre. Like a good sorbet it can be a great palate cleanser between heavier games on gamenight. Equally the no mess low component profile of Metro X makes it instantly appealing for a quick dose of gaming, a cheeky solo effort or even a remote game over Skype or similar. Not so easy that it’s dull, but not so hard it taxes the brain.
While not doing anything too groundbreaking with the mechanism, Metro X is a fun and quick offering of crossing lines and good planning. It’s got a really pleasant puzzley feel and plenty of meaningful decisions as you’ll need to be efficient and clever to finish the most routes. You can’t go far wrong with this train themed flip’n’write, we’ll certainly be choo choo choosing a return ticket on this one!