Genre: Route-building delivery game
Player Count: 1 – 4
Play Count as of Review: 7
- Maglev Metro will wow you once the box lid has been removed. There are metal train pieces that hold up to four uniquely colored meeples, there are thick cardboard hexagon tiles that slot into place in various instances on the board, there is the heavy metal first player token and the dual-sided puzzle board that provides players with two distinctly different maps to try their hand out. Last but not least, there are the transparent player tiles for building their own routes that allow other players to build above and below them. Maglev Metro, off presentation and component quality alone, sets an incredibly high bar.
- I do want to point out two issues I have with the component quality. While it hasn’t happened yet, I do think it’s a matter of when and not if regarding the puzzle connectors deteriorating. I also am confused about this decision because (at least at the time of this review), this connecting system does not create a modular or dynamic experience with each set-up. Besides the board, the other issue is the copper robots. As far as I know, I am not colorblind but from an angle, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish between the gold and copper meeples. Players can order a different copper robot stash from the Bezier games website (for just the price of shipping) but it’s a shame that this even went to production with an error like this.
- While Maglev Metro fancies itself as a route-building pick-up-and-deliver game, it really is an engine building game at heart. Players are using these routes and deliveries to better their actions on their individual player boards, which may mean that they are able to move further, carry more passengers or perform more base actions each turn. The actions move swimmingly along as players are able to play Maglev Metro the way they want to as opposed to being forced to stick with a player power only available to them. Want to make a small loop and try to monopolize on a certain color of meeple? Go right ahead. Want to make a train that can move the maximum distance and cover the most ground each turn? Why not! There are viable strategies depending on how the game plays out that will differ from your last game and your next one.
- What this game does and does well is give players the opportunity to not only build their routes wherever they want (for the most part) but also destroy those same routes and go somewhere else. Too many times in games like this are players stuck because the route they built is no longer viable due to another player building something valuable on their route; Maglev Metro lets players deconstruct AND build on top of other players routes (as long as the route itself doesn’t directly cover the original player(s) route(s). In fact, I will go a step further and say that undoing actions (route building and the rearranging of your player boards) are less losing a turn to housekeeping and more a valuable option on a turn that can easily swing open the game for a player. So many board games make you think that your action is set in stone and it is so interesting to have a game reward players with an opportunity for a “do-over” that it can honestly be difficult to take that action at first as players will worry that it will put them further behind. I assure you, it will not.
- At the same time, Maglev Metro seems to have a dissonance with its theme because games typically revolve around visiting the exact same stations over and over again. In a game where each player is their own railway line but the same stops exist, it just feels out of place. I think the tightness of the map is a blessing and a curse in this regard. The river/Central Park help break the map apart but there have been games where players just rush building a station to whatever they cannot get to and that proves to be more valuable than just crossing the river/going around Central Park while saving on actions.
- While I haven’t played this game at four players yet, I have to imagine a fourth player is going to be at a severe disadvantage going last. While they do get an additional robot worker for their player board, they will be clearly getting the worst location to start from on the board and will be routinely playing catch-up to those that go before them. Even at two-players, there are usually two (and maybe three) optimal starting locations and my partner and I have wondered where a third or fourth player would want to start when we seed a map. A bid for turn order or a snake-draft of starting locations may mitigate these issues but it does appear that there is a distinct disadvantage at first glance from going last in a four-player game.
- Maglev Metro offers a heaping pile of replayability with the dual boards and the stacks of end game scoring cards and while the different maps do give players a different feel compared to one another, I think the end game scoring cards are a detriment to the game. It absolutely pains me to say that as public/secret end-game scoring cards are one of my favorite inclusions in any game (as they create some unpredictability around who is actually going to win and they help steer players towards an objective if the main objective is unclear) but the cards in Maglev Metro just seem incredibly unbalanced and it can make the whole experience frustrating. Some cards are easy to create combos off of which allows players the opportunity to score points fairly easily (as long as they unlock that ability on their player boards) but some are such a detriment to a player that they are immediately placed face-down and never glanced at again. The game does try to balance the victory cards by making each worth a maximum of fifteen points when scored but I feel like that is almost too much depending on what the player is scoring. A draft of scoring cards actually makes things worse (in my opinion) as players can then combine these combos and if one player has that option and another doesn’t, it will be hard for the player left on the outside looking in to remain competitive when the scores are calculated.
- As with most games of this nature, the big question will be what is the interaction between players, particularly since routes can mostly be built on existing routes? The answer to that comes in the rush for building stations which in turn creates the rush for commuters which in turn creates the rush for refilling stations with passengers which in turn creates the rush for the end of the game. I want to emphasis the word ‘rush’ here because that is what is important. A player may build a studio, unlocking a potential color of passenger meeple to the draw bag. While other players could (and may) draw those meeples to refill their stations, they may not be attached with a route to the strategically placed studio. That in turn leaves them either stuck with a train full of passengers they cannot deliver, allowing the other player(s) the ability to scoop up the remaining passengers on the board with ease or they leave those valuable passengers behind and let the player who placed the studio grab them. The interaction isn’t as direct as blocking someone from a location but that indirect interaction will ramp up the urgency with which players need to do something to restore the balance to the board.
- I have been critical of Maglev Metro but I do find it to be a very solid game. It has a light rules overview and actions are quick and succinct. The game can be utterly brutal for some as their potential passengers are picked up by another player an action before there own while at the other time it can be an opportunity to min/max a players board to best suit their own needs, regardless of what the other players are doing at the table. I personally really like these types of games but burn out on them rather quickly as you try to best strategize the route building. The two maps helps extend the longevity of Maglev Metro but I also know this will land on my shelf for three or four months before finding the table again for another five or six quick plays before being jettisoned yet again.
- Maglev Metro sits in a weird space where it feels too overproduced for heavier gamers (with the production being used as a distraction away from ‘depth’) but also has enough moving parts (namely the nine available actions on the player board) that may deter more lightweight players from the game. Coupled with playing time clocking in at typically around an hour, it is hard for me to say who this game is for while at the exact same time saying this game could be for everyone. This would be a great next step for players that want more of Ticket to Ride without playing the Ticket to Ride expansions or for players that want that pick-up-and-deliver mechanic without worrying about the economics associated with it like Railways of the World or Brass: Birmingham.