Flippin’ eck it’s another flip and write! That may be what it feels like, when you hear about another pen and paper game being released. Yet, I haven’t got bored of exploring the genre yet. There are so many different ways of using the roll and flip mechanic to make games that all feel surprisingly different. Next Station – London turned up and I was a little worried that it was a rehash of Metro X, Railroad Ink, Trails of Tucana and others similar. The comparisons were irresistible. The burning question therefore is: does Next Station – London earn a place in someone’s board game collection when others that appear similar already exist? I could tell you now, or I could make you read the rest of this review to find out. Guess which I’m going to choose…
All players need to take one of the coloured pencils provided and a sheet of paper from the pad. If there are more pencils than players, place any spare pencils between players. Assuming your pencil doesn’t need sharpening and you don’t need something to lean on, you are set up and ready to go! To put it simply, set up is a synch!
Can you build a better underground system than your opponents? Because that is what you are expected to do in Next Station – London.
One coloured pencil at a time you will be drawing a route across London. The map is divided into thirteen districts, including cheeky single square districts in each corner. You will be balancing getting your route into as many of these districts as possible while getting as many stations in each district too. Each round scores how many districts your route visits multiplied by the most stations you have in the busiest district. An additional two points are scored for crossing the river. Extra points are also scored by having multiple lines going through the same station.
There are five stations with compass points around them, these are tourist sites and score points depending how many times your route connects to them as indicated by the scoring track at the bottom of the sheet. One station, the so-called ‘Central Station’ (that is not actually in the middle of the map) is a wild symbol, so any card can be used to traverse there.
Players will draw lines from their coloured station along dotted lines to another symbol based on the flip of the card. Routes travel on a single path and must not cross other train lines, except at stations, which is encouraged for scoring opportunities. There is a single card that does allow you to branch off, potentially allowing you to sprawl more.
There are two cards showing each shape and two wild cards in the deck, plus the branch line card. The cards are pink and blue. The round ends when the fifth pink card is revealed. Your pencil then get passed to the next player and you take the next one. The deck is shuffled ready for the next round of networking and you go again. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of four rounds, i.e. when all four coloured pencils have been used.
That’s the basic game, but including in the box are two mini expansions or advanced modules that allow for more scoring objectives and opportunities. These are worth adding in as soon as you have the basic concepts grasped. These provide shared objectives and special powers to each coloured pencil.
What it’s like
With many flip or roll and writes, luck sometimes feels like too big a factor. Getting in a position where you are reliant on a flip of the card to reveal something you so desperately need can be common. Next Station – London doesn’t give me that same feeling. I am making decisions, as the map is cleverly laid out. There will be a few occasions where you can’t go, but this is much more likely to be because of your own actions than because of the flip of the card. By this, I mean that previously drawn lines or decisions as to which direction to take your route, or even how to use a wild card, are much more likely to be the cause of an impasse than the map itself.
Knowing which cards have come out already, helps you work out which direction you should be following. It also allows you to keep track of the pink cards and when the round might end abruptly.
Next Station – London, is a quick and light flip and write but that isn’t to say there is no strategy or decision making to be done. There is still plenty to consider, especially when adding in the advanced module cards. The shared objective cards mix up the play and stop you formulating a similar plan each time and I like the way these mix up the strategy. The pencil bonuses don’t spice things up quite as much but are still a welcome addition.
The simultaneous play means that regardless of how many people are at the table the game is swift. Although the box caters for one to four players, you can easily combine two games to make it up to an eight player game and it takes no longer to play. Or, if you don’t want to buy two copies, you can find a blue, green, pink and purple pencil and scale it up on the cheap! I actually really like it at as an option for higher player counts.
The other aspect of Next Station – London that I appreciate is that you can simplify the game play to accommodate younger players and allow for them to be competitive. When playing with my seven year old Max, we tend to leave out scoring the connections so there is less complexity. This scaling of difficulty is a nice way to introduce new players too.
I’ve played Next Station – London a few times solo. Gameplay is identical with a minor tweak to the scoring if playing with the mini expansions. You are competing against the scores printed in the rulebook. I don’t find this as rewarding as say, playing against Euler solo in Seven Bridges. However, it is a very nice puzzle to solve when playing solo and quite quick too.
So you get a pad, a selection of cards and four pencils in the box. There isn’t that much to discuss here!
The box itself is a magnetic clasp clamshell box and as boxes go, that is probably my favourite! I think it is something to do with the satisfying click as the lid folds over and the magnets do their magic. It’s very satisfying!
The rulebook was nice and clear. I understand why thematically they made it a fold-out pamphlet like a tourist guide, but I think I would’ve preferred a booklet. There is an awful lot of rulebooks included, great for different languages but they fill up half the box and do feel a little wasteful perhaps. The four pencils do the job.
The maps are not the most attractive thing you will set your eyes upon, but it’s beauty comes from its functionality and very clever layout. Architect Louis H. Sullivan who is quoted as saying ‘form follows function’ would be pleased with the included sheets. Below the map is a little scoring area that is nicely laid out. Although it is easy to miss that you score the leftmost uncoloured number when scoring your tourist attractions. The sheets are double-sided too so there is plenty of plays in the box.
The artwork may not be for everyone, but I welcome the overall vibe. The bold colours and style feels retro while being modern, a bit like much of the underground artwork. For want of a better way of putting it, they have made it feel very ‘London’.
I have sleeved my cards so that they don’t get accidently marked. Knowing what symbol is coming next would be to a detriment of the game.
What the kids thought
Max (7): I really like this game. I like the colours of the pencils and that I can name my sheet. I also like the art on the cards, they have cool backgrounds of London and a colourful.
George (11): I think it’s a really fun game, I like the artwork because I can imagine the people in London. I really enjoy playing it.
Harrison (14): I’ve literally had a brain fart and cannot think of anything. It’s good, and possibly my favourite flip and write.
Final thoughts on Next Station – London
So the burning question: is Next Station – London too similar to Metro X? Well, it would’ve been very easy to overlook this game and I nearly did myself as it did appear very similar. That’s not a bad thing, I like Metro X a lot, it’s another flip and write game I enjoy. But did I need both? I am very glad I didn’t pass this one by, as Next Station – London is very different in all but theme and general look. It is a different game and I will be keeping both. Here is the bold statement though: if I had to choose between the two, this would stay ahead of Metro X. For the simple reason that I feel like I have more control in Next Station – London and I am not as hindered by the luck of the cards.
To use a very British expression, I thought Next Station – London would be my cup of tea. I do like a roll and flip and write. Yet I was still surprised and impressed with the game inside this little box. I can see this being taken travelling with us a lot and hitting the table as a little warm up or filler game regularly.
Would you look at that, I have finished a review about a train game without derailing it with train puns… gah! Failed in the final paragraph. I was really chuffed with myself too. Oh well, I hope you have enjoyed this whistlestop tour of Next Station – London! Mind the Gap!
Number of players: 1 to 4 (or more with extra copies or more pencils)
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 1 minute
Designers: Matthew Dunstan
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
If you are looking for a new flip and write fix, or are new to the genre Next Station –London could well be the game you are looking for. It is quick to play, but with plenty to think about with the option to scale the difficulty to be inclusive to all. It was my most played game in April 2022. I can already foresee this will be getting a lot more plays from me this year. It is easily transportable and a very good game indeed.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Quick play time
- Scalable for different abilities
- Can sit more players with extra copies (or more pencils)
- You’ll be reaching for a pencil sharpener a lot!
- So many rulebooks in the box
- You may want to sleeve the cards
Need more games?
If you already own Next Station – London and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Seven Bridges
- Railroad Ink
- Trails of Tucana
- Trek 12
Buy Next Station – London
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