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OnTheUnderground is a BoardGame designed by Angoel and published by RioGrandeGames?.  It has a website at http://www.on-the-underground.com/.



We played this at GamesEvening yesterday... the official published version :) Very nice game. I like the tension between long-term and short-term play. People took a few tries to understand the rules for needing two branch markers. Going first does seem to be a big advantage, even with the later players starting on more points; also it seems to be quite a penalty if the cards available on your turn include no express stations, as you only get direct influence over one passenger journey rather than two. But it seems play choices would have plenty of opportunity to outstrip either of these factors. I really enjoyed the feeling of frantically building the Underground network while the passenger was using it :) Thanks to Ray for bringing it, and I very much want to play it again! --AlexChurchill

Angoel is still getting slight cognitive dissonence with people getting copies and playing it without him having browbeaten them into playtesting.  But I'm glad you enjoyed it ;).  So ... what else should I change if I was redesigning it? --Angoel
Well, I've only played it once. It was a lot of fun and I want to give it several more plays; ask me after that :) But I suppose possible things to look at might include:
I have never found this to be an issue, but I can see that some would.  A suggestion someone made to me is to split the deck into the express and non-express and use them as separate draw piles, replenishing to two of each.  The express pile will run out before the non-express pile, so the last six-odd turns won't have an express card, but that's not inappropriate ramping down.  I suspect that I may turn that into an official variant.  --Angoel
Possible other ways of dealing with it:
    • Discard all four cards and redraw if they're the same colour; though it would make the game shorter, and more random, and I could see why you wouldn't want to borrow game mechanics from TTR.
    • Mark the national rail station cards, and make them a third type with lower priority than normal non-express stations; so he'd go to an express then non-express, or express then NR, or non-express then NR.  Could be combined with the above.
    • Oh, or the simplest one: If all the cards are the same colour, he moves to two stations of the same colour --SGB
I grant the point, but everyone comments that a different colour is the problematic one ;).  Note that there are actually eleven colours, to ensure that the numbers work out - although brown and purple are never used at the same time (and this is just as well, because they're pretty much indestinguishable). --Angoel
...That's all I can think of at the moment; ask me again once we've got our own copy and played it a few more times :) --AC

Grand.  I look forward to it. --Angoel

I agree with AC above - and I was particularly impressed with the mid-to-late game; it had looked like the leader was way ahead, but by the end of the game it had narrowed considerably (we finished within 6 points, and if it had gone around again we'd have all been within 3).  I'm looking forward to JKLM delivering my copy!  My thanks as well to Ray for bringing it. --SGB
Oh, and "Bank!" :-)
try [here] on BoardGameGeek - there aren't any variant or strategy articles there, but that is the place people would put them if there were. --SGB
I sadly don't have the time to safely admin something like that, and suspect that the time cost in creating it would be greater than the content it received.  Boardgamegeek is therefore probably the most likely place to put or find these. --Angoel



My current wondering about this game is: why is it that the bottom four cards of the deck don't get used? I ask for the following reason. We played the game on New Year's Day with ChrisHowlett, and we had a deliciously close four-player game in which we were all within 3 points of each other. The player in last place was faintly vexed to see that the bottom four cards contained both Greenwich and Tottenham Court Road, two express stations which his line was the only one to run to, and which he'd deliberately connected on the understanding that they were quite likely to come up. If they had come up, it's pretty likely they'd have scored at least 3 points between them to him, which was the entire difference between his score and the winner's.

There are a number of reasons for this, which can be catagorised as follows. --Angoel

Interesting answers. The first I don't quite see, as surely that's still going to be a good strategy because the Passenger is almost certain to travel there anyway. I'm not sure either way about the second - seems like it'd be straightforward enough to keep going through the final four cards until they expire. But the third is an /excellent/ reason, so my objection is withdrawn. --AC
The first - building a spur in the knowledge that the Passenger will go there eventually even if you don't actually finish building the spur is weakened by not forcing the Passenger to go to all stations, which is good because I'm not keen on that - people should be encouraged to actually build to the destination stations.  It also makes blocking off an area and thus forcing the Passenger to travel through you to get there less strong, again something I wasn't keen on encouraging too much. --Angoel
I see. Okay, I think I mostly agree, then, although we do still reasonably often have games in which only one segment of track heads up in the Mornington Crescent direction (and no further), and its owner picks up the three or four stations up there. The point remains that the non-express stations left over at the end are very likely to not be on the tube, because they'll have been sitting there for some time while the stations that are on the tube get visited. Fair enough. --AC

More generally, it seems like the game mechanics encourage you to build lines to parts of the board that aren't yet well connected. Four out of 55 is a small enough amount that it's still worth building connections to something like Greenwich etc, so it's still worth speculatively getting Greenwich and Tottenham Court Road onto the tube, while somebody else gets Acton and Rayners Lane, etc. But then, at the end of the game, one of the players who'd made some reasonably sound plays randomly doesn't get the payoff for them, while others do.

It's funny, but the randomness inherent in those four cards is starting to bug me more than the random turns when the Passenger only travels once. (I've started seeing the potential in those, and they tend to be balanced out by the way they happen for several people in a row.) I'd be interested in Angoel and/or other players' thoughts on this new issue. --AlexChurchill

In a previous iteration the express stations were truly express. If they came up the passenger went straight there, and I rather liked that. I think Angoel removed this from the published version to keep a build - travel - redraw turn order.

I would like to try house rules with a turn order: go to expresses (multiple if necessary) - build - travel to non-express - redraw. Probably would need to only have three cards drawn next to the board, not four.

I suspect that the version closest to the 'previous' version would be:  build - travel to non-express - [redraw, and if express drawn travel there and repeat]. --Angoel
Ooh, I don't think I like either of those. I like having four stations visible by the side, express and non, because it lets you connect a station whose card has come up, knowing that even if it doesn't get visited on your turn, it's very likely to get visited sometime in the next two or three turns. I do like having a bit of information about what's about to happen. Imagine a version of the game where no cards were visible, and after each turn a card or two were turned up and the Passenger travelled there immediately. Not as appealing, is it? --AC

This gives a more rewarding incentive to build to the express stations before they come up. It doesn't give the current player the chance to take as much advantage of them by building. I've found so far that when an express comes up, the current player can build with it in mind, which encourages short termism rather than the creation of a network. Even if three expresses came up, it would only be three, so it couldn't get too silly. This would also give back choice about which non-express stations to go to. We've had a few games with three expresses and one non-express, giving the current player no option on where to leave the passenger at the end of their go. --Nat

Wow, that sounds like an interesting variant. I'd like to try it out. (I could see it emphasising the randomness of the draw deck in a potentially frustrating way, though: express stations coming up in your turn which you could have built connections to under the published rules, but now don't get the chance to.)
I don't understand "This would also give back choice about which non-express stations to go to", though. How, if there's still sometimes only one non-express in a given draw? Do you keep on discarding and replacing the express stations, before the build phase, until there are only non-express stations displayed? If so, couldn't you potentially get through dozens of express stations in one turn? --Rachael

Ah. You're quite right. I did only envisage one redraw phase in a turn, so you could easily end up with only one non-express (or none at all - has this happened to anyone in the normal game yet?) Maybe it is ok to be forced into a non-express final move. I think you should have to go to all the drawn expresses in a turn (max. three in my suggested variant), it emphasises the express nature of the destinations. The main problem is that it could get through the deck faster, cutting down build turns and might break Angoel's very fine balance. I'm not so concerned about being frustrated by expresses coming up as it will benefit those with good networks, even if the passenger walks a bit more. --Nat
I've seen four gold stations come up precisely once in ~10 games with the published version. --AC




[Alan R. Moon likes it].
Ooh.  That's amusing ;). --Angoel



We have painted one end of the station-markers orange, and we put them orange side up or white side up depending on whether it's an express station. This means that, as well as seeing at a glance where the current stations are, you can also see at a glance which one(s) are express.
I don't know how much control Angoel has over such details, but I think it'd be good to supply pre-painted cylinders in the next edition (or, more realistically, supply four circular gold stickers, like the existing stickers). --Rachael


Several people have bought this game directly from [JKLM games]Angoel himself also has some copies he can sell. It has also been sighted in Guildford Comics & Games and Leisure Games.



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