Full disclosure: A review copy of MetroX was provided by Gamewright.
I will say that I do occasionally enjoy getting to come back and revisit some game reviews, especially if it’s been a while. How has my opinion on a game changed? What’s new? What’s happening? So you can imagine my delight when I found out that MetroX was coming from Gamewright for a localized version! As you know (or might not know; I don’t know how long you’ve been here), I’m a huge fan of the original Okazu Brand title, and I’m stoked to see it getting a wider stateside release! Let’s see what’s different in the latest version of MetroX!
In MetroX, players work to create subway networks by moving down the line every round. Be careful, though! You can’t move through a spot where you’ve already marked, and attempting to do so will end your move early. Certain cards will let you skip spaces, but others will force you to consider how many rail lines run through the available spot. You’re going to have to manage it all if you want to become a metro master; are you up to the challenge?
For Setup and Gameplay, please see my review of the original version. Not much has changed beyond star cards now becoming Transfer Cards, with the same functionality. Also, the player sheets are now dry-erase player boards.
Player Count Differences
Only one major one; if you’re playing solo you get the full amount for completed stations (since no player can beat you to them). As a result, generally, your score will be higher than if you had the exact same card output in a multiplayer game (since other players can outpace you for stations and you can’t beat everyone to every station). Beyond that, though, your average score does decrease as your player count increases. It’s sort of the same thing as Welcome To: if there are enough players then the Pidgeonhole Principle kicks in. If there are more players than rail lines, then there will always be contention for a few rail lines since nobody can have a particular line to themselves to be first at. As a result, while you work on line A, another player is trying to get E, and another still is trying to get I. Since you’ll all likely complete yours before other players, the average score drops a bit. Thankfully, unlike Welcome To, this won’t end the game. Beyond that, though, there’s really no difference in the game itself at higher player counts; players can’t directly impact each other beyond scoring, so you don’t have to worry too much. It plays nicely as player count scales, so I don’t have a huge preference on what player count to play it at.
- You really do want to know how many cards of each type are in the deck and how many have already been used. It’s worth keeping that in mind so that you know what you can plan for. If you know there are only 3s coming, you probably should optimize your placement such that you’re leaving a three-spot blank, not a four-spot. If both Transfers are still in the deck, maybe don’t cover up the major crossing spot.
- I generally start with the red route. It depends on the numbers, of course, but it’s a relatively low-value spot that double-advances the orange spot, so, I think it’s a nice place for me to get started.
- Try not to cross over other routes too often. It’s very hard to continue those routes productively without a skip, and you really don’t want to waste a 5 so that you can only fill in one spot. That’s going to mess up your entire game (since it’ll rapidly make that line worthless).
- Also don’t get to the point where you’re relying on Free Spaces or Skips. That usually means you’re in a bit too deep for your own good. It’s totally possible that you will never see a Free Space or a Skip in the entire game, so, don’t plan your Entire Strategy around having multiple. Even two Free Spaces in a game is a massive blessing, for context.
- Leave space open for Transfers, or you’ll sorely regret it. Transfers will happily eat up an entire spot on your line and only advance it by one. If you only get 2 points from a Transfer, you may have gotten an extremely bad deal and blocked off a more lucrative line.
- That said, Transfers may be worth more than the line itself, in the right space. If you’re getting 8+ points off of a line, that’s worth tanking a line for since the line itself isn’t worth more than 7, generally speaking. If you can get 10, you should try to keep the 10. Just keep in mind that your opponents are probably also getting a good deal.
- Try to time when you use certain lines so that you can advance more than one line with a move. I call these double-lines generally, and like Red and Orange, they share a line for a bit before eventually branching. Playing the right cards at the right time will allow you to advance both lines cheaply, which can be really helpful for finishing them. That said, those lines also tend to be relatively low-value, in terms of points.
- If you can advance more than one line with a move frequently, you’ll have “dump spots”, or effectively train lines that are already complete but still have available space. Use those to your advantage. You can use these to dump bummer cards that won’t help you, or you can use them to tank a Transfer that would have otherwise really screwed you over. You may be able to get at least one of these kinds of spots each game, so use them wisely.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The graphic design on the cards is very readable. They spruced everything up! It’s now very readable. I think part of that is also that they made everything larger, which was the right move.
- The colors pop more than they did in the original version. Higher contrast works! Makes everything look super good and the colors look great, as well! I’m a big fan of how it all turned out.
- Dry-erase boards are a great move. Absolutely perfect idea, and they’re double-sided! I love it. It does mildly invalidate all the work I did laminating the double-sided player sheets (I put two on top of each other and then laminated), but I’m okay with other folks recognizing that that was a good idea. I can be comfortable with that outcome.
- Also, the boards being significantly larger helps a lot too. Ugh it’s huge and it’s perfect. The boards have a nice weight to them, also, which helps. I’m just a big fan of them moving to dry-erase boards, I think.
- The markers are also fairly nice? They’re very fine point markers, which rules. They’re not quite “buy this game for the markers”, like Silver & Gold, but the markers are pretty good.
- Still one of my favorite flip-and-write games. In my opinion, it’s a classic. It’s relatively straightforward, it’s got a (for me) satisfying mix of luck and strategy, and I really like how clean of a style it’s got (I have a soft spot for metro lines). I was a bit surprised that Gamewright picked it up, as I think it’s a bit heavier than most of the Gamewright titles that I’ve tried from them, but honestly, I love what they’ve done with it.
- I’m stoked it’s much easier to get than the original version. I had to pay a pretty penny to get the original shipped to the states and now you can get it pretty easily! What a treat, you lucky ducks. Gatekeepers everywhere are probably furious, but let’s just let them be mad about it. I’m stoked more people will have the opportunity to play this title.
- It’s a bit less of a travel game than it used to be. Yeah it’s … chonkier, now, but that’s because the boards are significantly bigger, which I love. And it comes with the markers I mentioned previously, also a big win. I will say that the nice thing about this one is that I can tuck in my old sheets below the insert and still have plenty of space for them, so I also threw in the MetroX expansion sheets in there. Maybe I’ll add some of those fan sheets, also! Normally super-big boxes get a Con, but given that I actually am using the space and I can’t go anywhere, anyways, I’m downgrading this to a Meh.
- While the randomness will definitely affect how many points you get, if you’re having a bad game, everyone’s likely having a bad game. Some people have no tolerance for randomness, which, makes the flip and write genre challenging, but generally speaking if you’re getting pretty consistently clowned on by the RNG, usually multiple people are, as well. Late-game Transfers can be like this a lot, since you don’t want to waste one of your remaining stations on that.
- I’m a bit bummed they renamed the cities and the lines. It makes it feel a bit more generic than the original, which is a shame since it’s based on existing metro lines. Having the game be an authentic import title was a cool feature, and I think stripping it down a bit, even if it’s to broaden the audience appeal, makes me a bit sad. I think it’s possible to do both!
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I think Gamewright’s new MetroX is an improvement on the original in many ways! The major downside, for me, is that I think it lost some of its distinctness and flavor since it’s still based on major Japanese city metros, but it doesn’t communicate that to the player so these are just rail lines from somewhere. It washes out a major part of the game’s character in a way that I’m disappointed about. I’d like to think there’s room for a game’s original authenticity and a straightforward presentation for today’s audiences. That said, there’s no denying that this is, in many ways, a very good version of a classic flip and write game. Subtle (and more overt) graphical improvements make the whole game stand out on the shelf and on the table, and the high-contrast nature of the cards and board make it easier to see where you’ve been and where you’re going (and the same for your opponents, in case you’re worried about someone beating you to the end of the line). Plus, for the long-term MetroX fans, there’s a lot of space in the box to store your old player sheets that you definitely laminated. It’s a specific niche, but it’s a niche I’m in, so I’m going to suggest that that’s a positive quality to have so that I can use this review to make myself feel better about laminating all my player sheets. I have that right as a writer, I’m pretty sure. I digress, a bit, but all this is to say that I’m stoked that Gamewright is bringing this to a wider audience, and I hope that people use this as a lever by which to get into the flip and write genre! There’re a lot of good games in that genre, but, as far as I’m concerned, MetroX is one of the greats! Always happy to see it come back around.