There will be some folk who will glance at Maglev Metro and immediately think 'Oh no, not another train game!' However, Maglev Metro is not just another train game...
Assembling and looking at the two-sided board won't dispel your prejudices. The board is divided into hexagonal spaces that will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the multitude of 18XX train games. On one side the board represents a portion of the New York subway and on the other the metro in Berlin. The 1-4 players each have straight and curved line tiles in their colour to place out on the hexes to create routes. But these differ from the norm: the tiles are printed on clear acetate and designed so that they can share hexes. Unlike the majority of other train games, the tracks you lay don't block those of other players: you're building subway routes and metro systems routinely accommodate multiple lines.
At its heart, Maglev Metro is a pick-up-and-deliver game where you'll be building routes and moving your train to collect, initially, robot meeples to deliver to locations that match their colour (steel, copper or gold) and later 'human' passenger meeples. The game is also an engine builder, however. You use the robots you collect to power the choices you make on your individual dual-layer player board. And the game offers a huge range of options. Do you place the robots out so that you increase the number of actions you can take on your turn or do you use them to upgrade specific actions so that they have greater impact? The robot meeples are also deployed to unlock otherwise restricted actions, including to be able to score for more than one of the four objective cards with which you start the game, and to build stations to slot into locations on the board. The stations in turn add passenger meeples to the bag from which you've previously only drawn robots, and the game end is only triggered when all the passenger meeples are in play and have been drawn from the bag.
There's a lot going on in Maglev Metro but it doesn't impose a heavy rules overhead, so the game is quick to learn. The array of choices over where to place out your meeples might seem bewildering at first glance but in our Board's Eye View plays we've been very pleasantly surprised to find that they don't give rise to AP (Analysis Paralysis). You'll choose an approach that's likely to direct your choice of actions and/or upgrades, and one of the beauties of this game is that it doesn't lock you irrevocably into sticking with an approach if you no longer think it's working for you: you can always take an 'adjust' action to reallocate robots.
Your engine building takes place entirely on your own player board, and players' routes don't block each other, so the only 'take that' element is another player picking up the meeples you'd hoped to collect. It's a game where you'll be able to focus on solving your own optimisation puzzle as you build your engine without having to look over your shoulder worrying about opponents throwing a spanner in the works.
Maglev Metro is quite unlike any other Ted Alspach game, and in our view it's his best yet. We have to give a shout out to the art from Alanna Kelsey and Ollin Timm but special praise has to go to publishers Bézier Games for this game's amazing production quality, from the transparent plastic track hexes to the metal trains which into which the meeples can be fitted for transport. All the boards are dual layered and the card components are triple thick. When the game first appeared, there was some criticism that it was hard to distinguish the copper and gold meeples, but Bézier have gone above and beyond to address this by offering a free set of darker (bronze) meeples for just the cost of postage.
The Manhattan and Berlin maps offer slightly different levels of challenge, and Bézier have announced a series of planned expansion maps for the game, including Mechs (a robot city) & Monorails (an amusement park), London & Paris, and Moonbases & Mars. They are all due to appear this year. We'll show them off on Board's Eye View as soon as we can get hold of them.