Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cable Car

Long time no write!  While I have had a number of ideas for blog posts, to date none of them ever got past the draft stage, as they either ended up not being as interesting as I first thought they would be, or they were related to a current event and I didn't write them in time to matter to the conversation.  The good thing about reviewing board games is that they're always just there, waiting for you to play them.  And that was the situation with Cable Car, it was just waiting for me to actually get it back on the table so I could write about it.  I wasn't able to do that until yesterday, but now that I've done it let's look at this enjoyable tile laying game.

Cable Car is a re-implementation of the game Metro.  There are two differences between the games.  The first is that Metro has the theme of rails in Paris, where Cable Car has the theme of rails in San Francisco.  The second is that Cable Car comes with an expansion called "Cable Car Company" that changes the way the game is played.  I have never played with this expansion, so I will only briefly touch on it at the end.

The game is played on an 8x8 grid, which is entirely open except for a 2x2 section in the middle of the board.  Around the edge of the board are 32 rail houses.  Depending on the number of players (the game handles from 2 to 6 players), each player will have a number of cable cars starting around the board, along with 32 rail terminus stations.  Each turn the players will place a tile on an open space on the board, with each tile representing a variety of rail layouts.  As more and more tiles are laid, cable cars get connected to rail terminii.  When that happens, you look and see how long the route is, and the longer the route, the more points the player scores.  If you happen to connect a route to the power station in the 2x2 section in the middle of the board, you score double the points.  Thus, competition to get to the power station can be fierce.

The real trick to this game is in the way that you have to focus on your own routes as well as the routes of the other players.  To win the game you will have to play tiles in such a way that your routes are lengthened while giving the other players short routes.  This isn't easy, especially when playing with experienced players.  A good game of Cable Car will have a fair amount of griping and sniping around the table, as each player messes up the other players' plans in turn around the table.  Still, even if you get hosed, a game shouldn't take much more than 30 minutes, so you can always give it another shot.

The "Cable Car Company" expansions changes the game such that each player doesn't control just one color, but all colors are used, each representing a different cable car company.  Players then buy stock shares in each company.  You still lay tiles to complete routes on the board, but you are trying to make sure that the companies you have invested in have the best routes.  I haven't played this version of the game, so I can't speak to how much it changes the base game.

I got this game because while I have a number of heavy games in my collection, I don't have a lot of quick, easy to learn games.  Metro fills that role nicely, and is a quick, enjoyable game of strategy with a "screw your neighbor" mechanic.  The only bad thing I can say about the game is that the box it comes in is almost twice as big as it needs to be, so it takes up more shelf space than it should.  If that is a game's only problem, I'll happily take it.