How quintessentially British! Mention these three words and everyone will know that you are referring to the London Underground. No other phrase epitomises “The Tube” as much as “Mind the Gap”.
Other countries have emulated this warning.
“Attention à la marche en descendant du train” (Be careful of the step while getting off the train, translation from Paris’ metro) – but somehow the succinctness of English just doesn’t cut it.
Short, to the point, clear cut and understandable. In fact, this is just what this box of fun from Gibson Games has to offer. With that in mind let us enter the Gibson Games ticket hall, swipe our Oyster card and descend to the platforms where the fun begins.
Stand Clear of the Doors
Do not worry. No prior experience of travel with Transport for London is required. However, a little knowledge would be helpful otherwise you could end up like a hapless European exchange student clutching a phrasebook at the end of the Piccadilly line in Cockfosters. This is a card game for two to six players. Each person starts with a hand of eight cards and each card represents an Underground station with its relevant lines. Some of the larger stations are intersections so have many lines listed; Kings Cross St Pancras is an interchange of six underground lines and National Rail Services.
One player lays a card and in turn, players must play a card that matches one of the lines. This would be akin to travelling along that Underground route. The first player to clear their cards is the winner.
Planned Engineering Works
Anyone familiar with travelling on the London Underground will experience planned engineering works or a closed line. These cause a collective groan to the weary commuter trying to get home. Mind the Gap has a number of cards that can be played to hinder your opponent. However, in blocking others there is the danger you could be stuck holding Kew Gardens with no way back up the District Line. This card will prevent all players from laying a card of that colour until play comes back around to that player.
Stand on the Right
Not every announcement on the Tube is bad news. Some cards can be played to pass unwanted cards to another player. Alternatively, play and “All Change Please” and everyone must surrender all of their cards to the dealer. These are shuffled and then re-dealt back to each player. This is the equivalent of getting to Kennington on the Northern line only to be told your train is going via Bank, not via Waterloo.
Any card that assists a player in clearing their hand is a bonus. Sometimes it is good to keep the “Step-free access” cards until the latter part of the game. Although there is some etiquette on the Tube, during rush-hour it does seem to be “everyone for themselves”. Playing these cards are the equivalent of pushing in front of someone to grab the lift at Covent Garden and making them walk up the 179 steps to get to the Theatre. Sometimes you are in a rush (and they probably needed the exercise anyway).
Stand Clear of the Doors
At the end of a round players count up the numbers of cards remaining. Each card also has a point value. This reflects how easy it might be to place this card. Station cards with numerous intersections will act as a larger penalty. Small stations on a single line are more difficult to place, but will not penalise a player as much.
Each game usually takes about five to ten minutes so it is usual to play a number of rounds. The player with the fewest penalty points would be declared the winner.
Thoughts on Mind the Gap
There is something so reassuring about travelling on the underground. Perhaps it is just me, but I like the easy to read font, the familiar colours of the lines and the names of the stations indicating well-known landmarks that are many metres above you. Millions travel day by day, cheek by jowl (in a pre-Covid state) in a warm, overcrowded carriage. Playing Mind the Gap brings back all of these thoughts.
This is not a difficult game. It is basically Uno, with a twist. We have been playing this game for years. We buy games for many reasons, predominantly for fun, but also if there can be an educational element, then that is a bonus. For our children, this has meant they became as familiar with the underground as they are with the streets of our home town. All useful training for years to come when they go to University in London.
Tänk på avståndet mellan vagn och plattform när Du stiger av (Mind the distance between carriage and platform when you exit, translation from Stockholm’s tunnelbana)
The cards themselves are simple playing cards. The colours are identical to those used by Transport for London. The reverse shows the central portion of the Underground map. The font is clean and easy to read and all of the lines are clearly labelled to avoid any confusion should there be any colour issues.
The end of the round scoring is simple. Any primary school-aged child should be able to add up the point values of the cards in the hand. They are all multiples of five. The concept is simple and very engaging.
이 역은 타는 곳과 전동차 사이가 넓습니다 (There is a big gap between the station platform and the train, please be careful when getting off, translation from Seoul’s metro)
As a family, we have enjoyed Mind the Gap for years. This simple card game might be considered a little bit of a gimmick by some. However, there is an element of thought and tactics required. After a few games, it becomes clear that players need to get rid of the Bakerloo line stations quite quickly. In real life, I also try to avoid the Bakerloo. The trains are older and far less frequent. I prefer the Victoria line. These trains are quicker, cleaner and seem to have stations that are more convenient. It is the same in Mind the Gap. Some cards are much more difficult to play. There may be fewer stations and certainly fewer intersections so these need to be discarded early.
Careful use of special cards is the key to doing well. It is good to hold onto some of these until the final part of the game. However, there is the possibility that others will call “All change please” and then your precious “Step-free Access” card gets re-dealt to another player and you end up in Regent’s Park (on the Bakerloo) with no possibility of escape!
The tin box in a shape of the Transport for London Symbol could be considered a gimmick by some. It shows the theme clearly, but does make stacking of the game on a shelf slightly problematic and is too large for the cards. That said, the box is robust, printed clearly and is made well. This will be able to be posted or transported without any fear of damage to the cords.
Final thoughts on 小心站台空隙 (Mind the Gaps, translation from Beijing subway)
Mind the Gap is another card laying game that relies heavily on the theme. The London Underground is iconic. The lines, stations and roundel symbols are known around the world, and indeed the phrase has been copied by most underground stations (with variable degrees of success). We enjoy the game. It takes seconds to set up and gives younger children a few minutes of enjoyment as a filler game. This game does not and should not see itself as anything more than Uno with a theme, but a great theme to be fair.
Is it better than Uno? It is probably better, as it has slightly more thought about which card to play first. It is pitched for the tourist or as a gift and that is correct. Anything more would be an overstatement. For a few minutes of fun with the family whilst waiting for the District Line train to go to Earl’s Court, it is perfect.