Finding old games
Desert Island Games
Letters to the Editor
Queen’s Metro is a rerelease of db Spiele’s Iron Horse, a tile-laying game from the mind of Dirk “ShowManager” Henn. The rule sheet hasn’t changed from the original, but the components received a facelift in the course of its theme-shift to the construction of the Paris metro system— a theme which shouldn’t be taken too seriously, since points are earned for building long, circuitous routes rather than short and direct paths. Somehow I doubt the builders of the real metro had a similar mandate.
Each player owns a bunch of trains housed at different stations around the perimeter of an 8x8 grid and holds a single title in his hand. Tiles depict four track segments, always with one “entry” and one “exit” on each side. An arrowhead disambiguates the tile’s orientation— it must point in the same direction as the arrowheads on the game board (you can allow free tile rotation as a variant to reduce the amount of luck involved, but be prepared for an increase in game length).
A turn consists of playing a tile, either touching a board edge or another tile. A player not wanting to play his tile can hold onto it and draw another, but the new one must be played that turn. This simplicity is essential to the game. The choices available with a single tile are more than sufficient— having a hand of multiple tiles from which to choose would cause information overload.
If a tile completes an uninterrupted route from a train to a station, that train immediately scores for the length of the route. A route scores double for terminating at one of the stations in the center of the board. The holy grail is a long and winding track ending in the center.
Good luck. It’s difficult to engineer a good route for yourself. Opponents spotting the threat will try to divert your track to the nearest station. The longer an opponent’s track gets, the greater the danger it poses should it come near the center. Aggressive tile play is the norm in Metro. While not quite a zero-sum game, only one train can use each track segment. Sending your neighbor away from a juicy network means a greater chance for you to link up with it. Closing off an opponent’s line means fewer points for him, which is just as important as earning more points for yourself.
Such predatory play is often rewarded with the incidental creation of a nice rail network into which a player can hook his own train. In fact, one of my strategies involves turning opponents’ trains around to create a wall of tiles with no routes leading back to the edge. That way, when I take my own trains out, they can’t get turned around. This effort usually goes unnoticed until it’s a fait accompli, and it’s a great way to keep opponents down while building up your own potential.
Which isn’t to suggest this is a game of high strategy. There’s room for long-term planning, but this is a game of opportunity and making the best use of your tile. It’s a game of the now, not the three turns from now.
Metro’s components are attractive, but I prefer Iron Horse’s tiles which have little arrows indicating which tracks are inputs and which are outputs. I can’t tell you how often I plan out a move, only to discover I was using the wrong track. It’s very easy to get wrong, and arrows on the track would have improved the game’s usability dramatically. In their absence, remember this simple rule: stay to the right. Track is always on the right-hand side from the perspective of the train that would be running on it.
Metro is a wonderful game for 2-4 players, and has become one of our 3-player staples. It can handle up to 6, but more players means more downtime and less control, for a less satisfying experience. This is the track-focused game I wanted Streetcar to be, and I recommend it to you.
The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (email@example.com)