Finnish Company TACTIC Games Oy has been publishing games, outdoor toys and various fun products since 1967. They may not be the first name to come to mind when you think of games companies, but they are actually a major player in the (all fun) games industry, with branches not only in Finland, but also the UK, USA, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Poland. They publish excellent productions with no expense spared quality materials.
Their board game METRO DOMINO: London Edition is a prime example of the meritorious effort and lengths TACTIC go to ensure the end product received by the player is indeed the finest possible quality, at a price that doesn't reflect that (£19.69 - Zatu) virtue.
The components include a box shaped like two carriages from a London Underground Train to hold the Dominoes and keep them from being damaged while in the game box, especially when it is being transported. To fit the train into the box it has to be placed diagonally, leaving a triangular shaped space either side for the Station tile, the Station boards and the Metro and Player tokens.
The 55 tiles are one tile short of the number of tiles in two sets of regular Dominoes and include numbers not found in the normal 26 tile Dominoes set. To help players who like to know the composition of the components, players such as card counters etc who play in a way that allows them to have some idea of what the next tile drawn will be. I have compiled a list as best as I can.
1's: 1 x Blank/Blank 1 x 1/Blank 1 x 1/1 1 x 1/2 1 x 1/3 1x 1/4 1 x 1/5 1x 1/6 1x 1/7 1x 1/8 1 x 1/9
2's: 1 x 2/Blank 1 x 2/2 1 x 2/3 1 x 2/4 1 x 2/5 1 x 2/6 1 x 2/7 1 x 2/8 1 x 2/9
3's: 1 x 3/Blank 1 x 3/3 1 x 3/4 1 x 3/5 1 x 3/6 1 x 3/7 1 x 3/8 1 x 3/9
4's: 1 x 4/Blank 1 x 4/4 1 x 4/5 1 x 4/6 1 x 4/7 1 x 4/8 1 x 4/9
5's: 1 x 5/Blank 1 x 5/5 1 x 5/6 1 x 5/7 1 x 5/8 1 x 5/9
6's: 1 x 6/Blank 1 x 6/6 1 x 6/7 1 x 6/8 1 x 6/9
7's: 1 x 7/Blank 1 x 7/7 1 x 7/8 1 x 7/9
8's: 1 x 8/Blank 1 x 8/8 1 x 8/9
9's: 1 x 9/Blank 1 x 9/9
Some of the Domino tiles have different coloured numbers at each end. Most are Black/Black but others have Blue, Green and Yellow numbers; there doesn't appear to be an in-game reason for them, except that they look pretty when laid out in (train) lines and each colour is devoted to a number, such as all 1s are Blue, all 3s are Red and all 6s are Yellow, which, once you realise this, makes for immediate recognisation instead of pip counting. This is a good idea, though I think they maybe should have used the brighter colours on the 7, 8 & 9 tiles which are the tiles that probably require pip counting more than the 1-6 tiles.
The game is easy to play - it is basically Dominoes with a few tweaks. One tweak is that the starting position is the circular 'Start Station Tile. This tile has a domino shaped gap in the centre with arrows linking to two exit spaces. A random domino is placed in the centre space and the numbers (or blanks) on it are the opening beginings of the rail tracks (domino tiles) that the players will lay. The number on the Central Station (5), and subsequent Stations, is the length required to complete the lines, ending them with a randomly selected Station tile which will also have exit spaces and a numerical track length value.
Once a track has been started a green hexagonal tile is placed on the first domino to show that it is an open line. An open line is one that dominoes can be played on. There are three green Active Line tokens which indicates that there can only be three active lines open at any one time. When the line is complete the Active token is removed ready for when the next line is started.
When a player completes an open line by laying a Station tile they place one of their personal tokens onto that station. Any player can play off from that station but only one player may 'own' it. Players must take a careful look at the station tile they lay as some of them have either an illustration of a domino within a red 'Stop' sign (no doubles may be laid on this line) or green 'Express' text (which means a player can, if they wish, play two tiles onto this line instead of just one.
Like Dominoes, players place a tile from their hand (each has a beginning hand of 9 dominoes) with at least one number/blank the same as on the previous domino. If they play a 'double' (a domino with the same value on both ends) they get to lay another tile, plus they also take a Metro token. If a player cannot play a domino they take one from the supply (aka the Boneyard) and may play it if it goes. Discarding a Metro token allows the player to remove a single domino from any active line.
It is not clarified that this must be a domino at the current end of the line, thus if a domino was removed from the centre of a line then it is most likely ALL dominoes after it would have to be removed also. As the rules states 'remove a single tile from any active line' we have played it the way we think was intended and only remove a tile from the end of an active line. If you play so that you remove 'any' tile from an active line then, as mentioned above, it could mean that several tiles are removed from the line. The rules do not specify which is the correct way.
The game ends in either of 2 ways; one player plays their last domino from their hand, or the fifth new Station is completed. Then it's off to the scoring, and from our games to date this is never particularly high. Players score negative one point for every domino left in their hand and one positive point for every Station they have a Token on. Games take anything from 10-20 minutes.
There are equal amounts of luck and skill required to play METRO DOMINO. Luck begins with the 9 tiles you are dealt. It's possible that you could end a game in less than 9 turns if you are dealt Doubles and tiles with numbers that flow. Skill comes into it by seeing the possibilities open to you according to the tiles you are holding and knowing which tiles to play and when and where to play them.
Value versus playability is high. The tiles are great quality (as already noted) and the game idea of using the Dominoes as railway tracks is cleverly devised. Playable by anyone of any age as long as they can read and understand numbers, this is a game of a genre families, true domino aficionados, and board games players, can relish and appreciate.