What is this game about?
MetroX is a roll and write game about trying to complete the lines on actual subway maps of Tokyo and Osaka. It is also absurdly addictive. Your game components are no more than a blank subway map, a pencil, and a deck of cards—but these simple things have never been more engaging. Each time you flip a card, you choose which subway line to work on, and you fill in empty squares along the line up to the number on the card (e.g. a 3 means you can fill in 3 squares). But there are a few catches. First, you can only use so many cards per rail line, so you have to be careful how you distribute your cards. Second, train lines intersect... and if you bump into a station you've already filled in, you can't skip over it. Instead, you have to stop and waste time and resources. There are a couple of "skip" cards to help mitigate this, but trust me, they will never be enough. You also have the chance to draw "star" cards that allow you to score extra points by placing them in intersections—but when you place them on a line, that takes up space you could have used for another number card.
How does it play solo?
MetroX is multiplayer solitaire at its best. Any number of people can play it as long as there are enough sheets left in the box. All you're doing is filling out your own map based on the deck of cards, so you can just play solo and keep working towards a high score.
When I first saw MetroX, I wasn't too excited about it. I am so glad that Mike DiLisio from SoloMode Games talked it up and convinced me to try it. I have actually never played a roll and write before MetroX, and until now I wasn't sure I was interested. But I think I might have become an addict. Every time I play this game, I have fun. It works when I'm by myself on an airplane or in the evening before bed. It works in groups—I swear, you have never heard so many grown adults get so excited about a "skip" card that let them make progress on their train routes. My boyfriend and I have played it while waiting for food at a restaurant, and I plan to laminate some of the maps so I can play it again and again with game club students.
It's possible that my ardor will cool a bit once I get fully familiar with the maps and fall into more strategic patterns. But for now, I am enjoying the process of getting to know the Tokyo and Osaka maps. Every time I play, I have a better sense of what the best move might be, and I'm developing preferred strategies as I go. And once I more or less master these maps, that just means I'll be looking for a fresh set of maps to conquer. I would actually like to see a MetroX app so I could get even more plays in! MetroX is also my entrée into a new genre of board games. I seriously doubt this will be my last roll and write, since it's been such a positive experience.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. You will surprise yourself with how much fun you have. If you want a quick, relaxing game that is perfect to play on the go, then MetroX is worth your consideration.
I have one warning, though: MetroX is not easy to get ahold of in the US. I got my copy because a vendor at Dice Tower Con had brought a bunch over from Japan.
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.