Friday F.O.M.O. 7/12/19 – On the Underground

A couple of pieces of information about me, your BoardGameCrockPot. First, I have never left the United States — and I have only left the contiguous 48 one time (woohoo, Maui!). Second, there are indeed some international sites that I would love to visit and at the top of that list is London. I have read many books set in London, from different points in history, and it is a setting that I always enjoy. Third, when I travel to major cities, I love learning the transportation system. I work in the Oklahoma City metro area and public transportation is not a big deal. Most of the population just commutes via car everyday.

There. Now you know a little bit more about me. Is it relevant? Somewhat, since the board game that I want to highlight today for my Friday F.O.M.O. segment is On the Underground: London/Berlin.

On the Underground’s campaign is created by LudiCreations. The game is designed by Sebastian Bleasdale and the illustrations/graphic design by Viktor Csete. This is Sebastian’s first board game to be published (he is an actuary by day). As an accountant, I can get down with that.

The key focus of On the Underground is route building. If you have ever played a Ticket to Ride game, then you would be familiar with the idea of needing to lay tracks down to claim a route — some areas of the map with higher traffic can handle multiple lines running through at once. The outskirts of town, though, may only allow for one line.

This game heads off in its own direction, though, from there. The goal of the game is not to complete specific routes for points. Every turn, the passenger destinations will change — and there generally won’t be any way for you to ‘complete’ the route for that passenger with your own rail systems. The goal, instead, is to use your actions (you get four every turn) to maximize the points you can earn from the passenger’s potential destinations.

If available, the passenger will always try to get to a major (yellow) landmark followed by one minor (gray) landmark. Knowing that, your goal is to use your four actions to persuade the passenger to take a path that utilizes your rail system over your opponents’. Since the passenger will always take the route that requires the least amount of walking, this gives a player the opportunity to lay track that will change the desired destination. A landmark that is geographically further away may become more appealing if you can create a rail that will actually save the passenger’s feet from blisters.

Landmark miniatures for London from the campaign’s Deluxe edition

You may end up using multiple of your colored rails (you will have two to four different rail colors depending on player count) and you can even take advantage of opposing rails if it helps you out.

Every turn in On the Underground is a new puzzle and the balance of short-term gains via obvious routes, versus a long-term plan of building routes that will be useful the whole game, create exciting tension each round.

Not only does the gameplay of On the Underground have me interested and excited about this title, but the aesthetics of this updated version of the game are enticing as well.

To start, the Deluxe edition of the campaign will provide five passenger tokens. One is female, one is male, and then three unique figures: an elderly individual, a person in a wheelchair, and a lady who is pregnant. These are great not only for their inclusivity, but even for reinforcing the theme of the game. Imagine that elderly figure is your grandmother. You’re not going to make her walk all over London just to see her favorite sites are you? No! So get to building some useful routes, pronto!!

I also love the beauty of the colorful track tokens and the score tiles. In a 4-player game, every player will have tracks in two different colors. For a 3-player game, each participant gets 3 track colors and you get 4 track colors if you are in a 2-player game. As a reminder of which color combos go together, the scoring tiles (which track your points during the game) show each player’s color combos — and these are not just boring tiles, but look artistically painted with depth and richness.

One last upgrade to this new version of the game is that the game board will be two-sided. One side will be the traditional London map, while the other side of the board will feature a new Berlin map. Not only does the 2nd map have a different layout, changing up the strategy of how to successfully route passengers, but the Berlin map looks as if it will more heavily feature Landmark tiles.

One final note about this campaign — it has been announced that David Turczi is designing a solo mode for the game that can be added on through BackerKit. The goal in solo play is to prove that you can ‘beat’ the real Underground lines designed by these cities’ engineers. If you can, your route-building bragging rights will level up hard!

preview of cards being designed for the solo mode

On the Underground’s campaign ends tomorrow night (Saturday, July 13th) so back soon if you want to get in on this raucous route-building bonanza!

For more board game reviews and discussions, please follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1

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