In Next Station: London, you will experience what it is like to be a real policymaker or planner specialising in public transport – specifically London’s metro network. That may not sound extremely sexy, because to the public eye you’re a lawyer or a fireman is more appealing, but public transport planning is extremely important. Driving a car is often bad for the environment, motorways are grey and boring and traffic jams are agonisingly longwinded. A streamlined metro network is therefore of vital importance. As planner you ensure that commuters can travel easily and (hopefully) on time to their jobs, dates, days out and other important things. Ah planner, the dream job of every truly imaginative child. Abandon your toy train and all-aboard, because we’re going to address the importance of the underground map. Do your subways run on time or do you have to compensate stranded passengers?
Next Station: London is a roll-and-write game published by Blue Orange Games in which players scribble on their sheets of paper in four different colours during four different rounds. Each round, a player takes a different coloured pencil and each colour symbolises a different metro line. So you only have one round to arrange this metro line properly by reaching as many stations in different neighbourhoods as possible, visiting tourist spots and giving travellers ample opportunity to transfer to another metro line. By drawing a fine line, you can score a lot of points and victory is the last stop and your opponents have to catch the last train home, because sportsmanship is a ship that has long sailed (train that has long choo-choo-choo’d along?).
Each player receives a sheet. On that sheet 13 districts and several stations (circles with symbols) are located. Each round, different cards are flipped over until five cards in a specific colour have been turned over. So you never know exactly how long or short a round will last. The cards are marked with specific stations. Players may place a straight line on their card from one end of their current line to the corresponding station. Players start each round at the starting station in the colour of the pencil they are playing with that round. Lines may not cross each other, watch your step when drawing so you don’t block your next metro lines too much.
Next Station: London is a very entertaining and, in my opinion, unique roll-and-write. Because you draw four different underground lines in the four rounds, you can plan ahead a bit, but because the duration of the rounds is uncertain, your plans can fail. Players therefore have to take some risk to get the best result, but also keep enough opening for a plan b: unlike the real London underground, don’t mind the gap. However, the structure and format of the rulebook is less structured and clear than you might expect from the theme of the game. Don’t let the structure and length put you off though, because the game is easier than travelling with an Oyster-card.
Furthermore, there are several possibilities to gain points, but especially possibilities to optimise your points. Players mainly gain points by visiting different neighbourhoods and stations. So it is a huge puzzle to put your underground lines on the map. Interaction with other players is almost non-existent in this game. This fits the theme, because also in public transport you try to avoid your fellow travellers as much as possible. Players looking for interaction have boarded the wrong train, but for lovers of a good puzzle, this game is the (sub)way to go.