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 WINNER of the Peoples Choice for Best Strategic Board Game at UKGE 2022

GET ON BOARD: LONDON/NEW YORK
Design:Saashi. Illustrations: Monsieur Z.  Publisher: iello.  Available in UK via Coiledspring Games.  £19.00-£25.00.  Players 2-5.   8+

I always think it is worth mentioning the components in a game because players often decide on buying a game based on its price. Many games on Kickstarter, for example, sell at $hundreds, not because they are great games - you really cannot tell how good a game is until you have played it - but because they have amazing components, mainly miniature models. The fact that so many of these models are used as nothing more than dobbers to mark places on a map or move on the board doesn't matter, they are fun to paint and look good and that's what you pay your money for, the game play itself is often secondary.

GET ON BOARD isn't, to my knowledge, a Kickstarted game, but it does have a reasonably inexpensive retail price that would suggest its components aren't going to be particularly pretty. This is actually fact. The Route Markers are basically coloured short lengths of wood - like mini matchsticks but far better quality wood - and the Departure Pawns (the pieces the players move on the map) look unusual to begin with (or they did to me) because I was expecting them to be Bus Shaped (seeing as the game is about making Bus Routes). Instead they are artistic replications of 'Traffic Lights'. I imagine that if you wanted to you could paint the Red, Amber and Green 'lights' on each end.

The game looks simple to play, and to a point the mechanics are just that, easy-peasy. However, and there is a big 'however', just a quick look at the player sheet (one sheet per player from the 50 double-sided sheet pad) and simplicity takes a long step backwards - it looks complicated and perplexing at first glance - lots of coloured charts along with numbers that are either positively and negatively marked. It does look daunting at first, but the rules cover every aspect of it clearly and concisely. Make sure you know the rules, especially the creation of your routes.

Over the 12 rounds of play every player has a different number of markers and the shape they must conform to. Each player has the same number and shapes on their boards but they get them at different times to each other - therefore one player may get three Route Markers that have to be laid in a straight line, while another player may get three Route Markers that have to be laid with two right-angles (like a 'U' or an 'S').

What looks like a jolly family romp can actually be the stuff of nightmares ('evil' in the nicest possible way) for players expecting a game in the genre of happy families. Despite what it looks like from the comedic box art, this is a perfect hybrid (family/gamer) that involves using the luck you get each round to the best of its possibilities. Twelve rounds of play equates to twelve rounds of luck plus proficient and skillful use of it.

Along the top of each players score sheet you will see six pairs of Bus Tickets marked 1/7. 2/8. 3/9. 4/10. 5/11. 6/12. Under each pair is one or two shapes created by using the Bus Line pieces (Route Markers). Each sheet has exactly the same order of shapes/pieces on each side, but the order on sheet one (and its reverse) is not the same order as the next player; the pattern repeats every sixth sheet in the pad, so all players should always have different sheets to each other. Each Round, one of the shuffled Bus Tickets is flipped face up from the stack and the number of the Ticket relates to the Tickets on each player's sheet. Thus a #6 Bus Ticket relates to the Ticket marked 6 on the top of each sheet. The Route Marker/s shown underneath the drawn ticket (on the sheets) is the Route Marker/s and shape the player has to place as a Bus Route.
Example: on one sheet there is a single Route Marker and on another sheet there are three Route Markers in a straight line. Route Markers are always placed on the board from the end of the same coloured Route - turning corners is allowed by where you place the first of the Rounds Route Markers or by the shape the Route Markers have to be placed in.

All sheets have the same Route Markers and Shapes, only under different Ticket Numbers. As there are Twelve Rounds and Twelve Tickets ALL Route Markers and shapes will be used. It should be noted that the shapes do not have to be strictly adhered to, as mentioned earlier the shape may look like a squared 'U' but that only means it has two right angles, your choice on how the shape is positioned as long as it replicates the two right angles. Note that the rules say 'Each player crosses off one of the two boxes of the matching colour' (to the Ticket drawn). This sounds like you have an option when in fact you can only cross off the box that relates to the Ticket number - the colour is just for quick identification.

All players have two Common Objectives which they can attempt to create. Players who complete one (or the other or both) in a Round gain the 10 VPs. Once the Round is over, any Common Objective that has been made is flipped over to its 6 point value side and then remains as such for the rest f the game. Players cannot gain both the 10 points and the 6 points from the same card, though they can gain 6 or 10 points from the other card - each card can give points to each player only once.

Apart from Common Objectives each player also has a Personal Objective (run your Bus Route past each of the intersections noted on your secret Personal Objective card). 

The first player (Inspector) changes after each Round so no one gets the (dis)advantage of going first every Round. When laying Route Markers there are often consequences from going through various intersections. This generally means you mark off a Building or Passenger on your sheet; most of the time you need to collect some passengers at least before you pass through the Buildings associated to the different Passenger types, as the Buildings may act as a points multiplier per associated Passenger. Basically, collect Passengers (drive your Bus along a Route to where the Passenger/s are standing), Mark off on your sheet which type of Passenger you have picked up, and then manoeuvre to an intersection with a Building associated to the Passenger/s to score good additional points.

Collecting Buildings before Passengers is not for the best, but it can be useful in other scoring manners, but really it is best to get Passengers On Board your Bus before taking them sight-seeing.

  

You always have to lay your given Route Markers for the Round, and in the shape determined. If you end up meeting your own track at an intersection then your game is over, you score zero points and are out of the game (very harsh!). Of course you could do what I did on my first game (some of the photos on here are of that game) and that is concentrate so hard on placing my Route Markers cleverly that I created a line down the middle of the board which I then couldn't cross, so I was stuck only able to place Markers on one side of the board - that was a really bad error on my behalf.

Each intersection is an integral part of the journey. There are special places marked as Sightseeing Spots which score points according to the number of Passengers you have on board at the time. There are 4 of these spaces in each City: Times Square, Guggenheim, Columbia & Wall Street for New York and Picadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, King's College and City of London for the reverse side.

When you land on or cross an intersection with a Passenger or Passengers you cross it/them off on your sheet. If your journey stops on a Green Traffic Light then you can add one extra Route Marker in any direction. Each type of Passenger offers something different, though all have the opportunity to score VPs for you. It's not easy to plan your route due to not knowing what your next Route Markers or Shape will be, so do your level best to ensure you leave yourself options at the end of each Round.

Some intersections have Buildings on them. These look like a Hi-rise, an Archway or a Capital building. You really need to pick up some Passengers before reaching any of these if you want to gain the associated VPs, but know that not every building type affects every Passenger type. There is a lot to remember in a game with only 12 Rounds and fixed Route plotting. You may enter and exit each intersection only once.

You can run your route alongside other player's Route Markers at a cost - in Buses. At the bottom of the sheet there is a block of Buses that you tick, one for each other Route Marker in the Traffic Jam. The block of buses are values at alternating 'zero' and 'minus one' which accumulate towards your score at the end of the game.

The box states that players aged 8+ can play, but I think unless you have a particularly astute 8 year old they will probably struggle to understand the nuances presented. Even though you are restricted each Round to what you can place and how they must be placed there is still more to understanding GET on BOARD than the average 8+ year old will comprehend. I would think 10+ is closer to the lower age for players to interpret, unless there is an adult who can help younger players realise that it's not as fast-paced as it may, at first, seem. It is a good game for players of all ages to use their brains and power of thought.

As I said, this is a good hybrid game for playing as a family friendly or gamer specific entertainment. I think the overall appearance gives the wrong impression. It is colourful, cartoonish, simple and quite jolly so it may take a little persuasion for gamers to take it to the table, but once there, the truth will be told.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021