How to Play Get on Board is sort of what would happen if a traditional tabletop game and a flip and fill game got married and had beautiful board game babies. You've got the physical attributes of one and the smarts and speed of the other - this kid is basically the complete package!
That's my opinion anyway. Someone super talented has written a full review for you here, so I am going to take a few moments to guide you through the rules and show you how to play it.
Set Up Is Super Simple
- Set out the board - choosing whether to play New York (2-3 players) or London (4-5 players)
- Shuffle the 5 personal objective cards for the relevant side of the board and deal one to each player.
- Shuffle the bus tickets (1-6 for a 2-3 player and 1-12 for 4-5 players) and deal two face down to each player.
- Randomly select 2 of the 6 common scoring objectives and place them with the yellow side facing up on the allocated spaces on the board.
- Give each player a coloured set of 32 route markers, a traffic light departure token, a sheet and place the first player token nearby.
- When everybody has selected one of their bus tickets to determine their departure point, they place their Departure token on that numbered traffic light intersection space. Then all 12 tickets (whichever side of the board you are playing) get shuffled and stacked on the corresponding space on the board.
- Find some pencils!
Each turn is also super simple to operate:
- First player (the Inspector) flips over a bus ticket showing a number 1-12.
- Everybody locates the same number on the top of their player sheet and uses the shape (some have a choice of two, but most are just one) to place route markers ("plot") onto the board. These essentially represent the number of turns your route can take this round.
Note 1: you must start at your Departure token and you cannot double back during the game on any routes you have already used. You can share routes with other players (although you'll be penalised in traffic - more on that later!), but never go back on yourself!
Note 2: Your personal objective is a three point route around the board. In order to gain the 10 point end-game bonus, you will need to pass through all three letters without breaking any plotting rules during the 12 rounds!
- Everyone then checks to see if they have achieved either common objective - the first player scores 10 points and flips the card over to its blue side so that everybody else who achieves it after them gets 6 points.
- Repeat this 12 times and the game is over!
But it could never be that simple! And nor would you want it to be! For the fun and the crunch in this game is all about the bus journey rather than its destination!
You see, as you plot your route around the City, your bus will collect passengers and visit buildings. These must each be crossed off on your sheet starting from the top/top left most space in the relevant bus sections, working down/along as you go. Grannies, tourists, businessmen, schools, sights… They are all worth points. But some will only score if you visit them in a specific order.
For example, tourists want to go and see the sights. So, you want to have tourists on your bus before you go travelling past a monument. If you visit a monument without having collected any tourists first, you'll have missed an opportunity to score before that particular bus parks up! Doh!
The actual points value per parked bus is shown on your sheet - you look down the column corresponding to your last tourist collected and add that total to the box on the furthest right space e.g., if you collect two tourists and then pass a monument, you'll score 5 points. Once your bus has scored, it is parked and no more tourists can be added to it. Remember to cross off any unused tourist spots along that line as a reminder.
Same with businessmen. Your bus might be on a bustling commuting route, but if you don't have any businessmen on board by the time you pass an office block, your bus will park up and score you zero points. Eesh!
I should mention here that the more businessmen you can deliver to offices, the better. And this is because every time you score a parked bus full of businessmen, you get bonus passengers that you can then cross off - look out for the additional symbols on the bottom of each businessman bus section. Cascading bonuses on board the bus? Yes please!
Grannies are easy - they simply score you points whenever they get collected so you just cross off the next one down the line. Bless them!
And schools are simple maths. You can pass through pupils and schools in any order, crossing them off as you go. But their final score is calculated by multiplying the number of pupils by the number of schools visited. Oh and the last row can only be crossed off using the businessman bonus passengers so keep an eye out for homeward bound workers!
There are also special Sightseeing Spots (4 indicated by stars) that score bonus points if you pass through one. To calculate how much they are worth, you total up how many of the matching passengers you have already collected (e.g., turquoise Times Square relates to turquoise tourists) and write that number in the starred space on your sheet.
Now, so far so nicey! Everything in this game is trying to give you an opportunity to score points (if you rumble along the roads in a smart way, that is!). Even the interchanges are going for the green. If your route stops at a traffic light, you get to place a bonus marker in any direction!
But here comes the congestion crunch! If you need or want to share a route with another player, that is going to cause some traffic on the road. And when this happens, you have to mark off a space on the bottom section of your sheet for each marker placed along a shared route. And as you'll see, these traffic penalties start totting up negative points.
Same with the dark grey printed routes on the New York side of the board - parts of that City always suffer from backed up buses. As such, if you need or choose to use this route on your way, you'll be crossing off traffic jam boxes and collecting negative points for the privilege! Oh, traffic is tense and tight on board today!
As I mentioned earlier, you cannot double back on yourself during the game. If you hit the same intersection twice, that's it! Game over for you (although your network pieces remain on the board)!
But, if the bus route looks like it is going to send you down that dangerous path, you can sacrifice points to increase/decrease turns by crossing off a space in the turning zone. Beware, however, you only have 5 chances to do this, and the cost creeps up quickly!
End Game Scoring
At the end of the game, add up each of the bus sections including the negative ones (no cheating!). Award yourself 10 points if you have achieved your personal objective. You'll also get half points (rounded down) for any bus that was partially filled and unparked at the end game.
And with the tourists, if they went to more than one type of Sightseeing Spot, you'll get the highest star point value added to your total. Whoever has the most points is the winning inspector!
Final thoughts I know a very clever fellow blogger has the honour of reviewing Get on Board. But I will say I think this is a blooming BRILLIANT game! With only 12 rounds and a finite number of buses available for each passenger type, you aren't going to want to miss out on anything!
But of course, you will because there isn't enough time to do everything! And strategies will have to change as the board space changes. This is dynamic driving of the most fun, crunchy sort! Easy rules, a tight board, and so many combo possibilities, each of which is a tense, tricky trade off.
And the artwork is right up my road! I am definitely getting on board with this game and I hope this guide helps your first play - enjoy every moment!