While it is a newer board game genre, in recent years the roll/flip and write genre has become pretty big. I generally like the genre. The games are ususally quite simple to play, and yet have some interesting strategy behind them. Today I am taking a look at Next Station London which was recently released by Blue Orange Games. In the game you play as a metro planner tasked with redesigning London’s Underground/subway system. While not a theme that immediately comes to mind, the idea seemed perfect for a flip and write game. Next Station London is a fun and satisfying flip and write game that many will enjoy, even it if is mostly a solitary experience.
In Next Station London each player is given a sheet with a map of London’s Underground/subway system. You are tasked with redesigning the subway over four rounds. In each round you will create a different line for the Underground system. A card is flipped over which will show a symbol. The symbol on the card shows you what stations you can connect to next. You are trying to create a network that scores the most points at the end of the game. Points can be scored from reaching more sections of the city, having a heavy concentration in one section, crossing the river, visiting tourist locations, and connecting multiple lines to the same station. At the end of the game, the player that scores the most points wins the game.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for the game, check out our Next Station London how to play guide.
In many ways Next Station London is similar to your typical flip and write game. Anyone who has played a game from this genre before likely will have a good idea of what to expect from Next Station London. In a way the game kind of feels like a puzzle. You are trying to find the best way to use each of the cards that are drawn. If you generally aren’t a big fan of flip and write games, I don’t see Next Station London changing that. Those who generally like the genre though, should enjoy the game.
When I first started to read the rules for Next Station London I was a little concerned that the game would be quite a bit more complicated than most games from the genre. Just looking at the how to play post that I wrote, the game may look kind of intimidating. There are quite a few little rules to the game that you need to remember and follow. Shortly after starting the game though, I noticed that it is quite a bit easier to play than I thought it would be.
While Next Station London has quite a few rules, the game itself is quite straightforward. You basically just find a station that matches the symbol that was drawn that you can connect to your line. When drawing lines, no two lines can ever cross. That is basics of the game. It may take a couple turns to be sure that you aren’t making a mistake. Otherwise there is nothing about the game that is too complex. I would guess you could teach the game to new players within about five to ten minutes. The recommended age of 8+ is about right. Younger kids might not fully grasp the strategy, but they shouldn’t have too many issues with understanding the gameplay.
The only real concern with the gameplay is that it is kind of easy to break one of the rules and not even notice until it is too late. There are a number of different rules regarding how you can draw a line. You need to pay attention before drawing a line so you don’t break one of them. While you could check each others lines to make sure you aren’t breaking a rule, you usually will just focus on your own lines. This means that your opponent could end up making a mistake, and not even notice it until scoring. If you pay attention to what you are doing this shouldn’t be a huge issue. Occasionally a player may break one of the rules though and not even notice it.
Reading the rules I also thought the game could take quite a bit of time to play. For your first couple of lines it may take a little time to make sure that you aren’t breaking any of the rules. After that point though you will likely breeze through the game. The only way this won’t be the case is you have to analyze every single option to make sure you make the best decision. While the game gives you quite a few options, there is a limit which should reduce the potential for analysis paralysis. It is usually really obviously what line you should draw next most of the time. I would think it would take 30 seconds to a minute at max to make your decision each turn. Most games could likely be finished in around 20-30 minutes. This feels like the perfect length for Next Station London.
Next Station London is probably not the best flip and write game that I have played. I really enjoyed playing it though. I think the game works for a number of reasons.
First I think the game has a good balance between simplicity and strategy. The game is easy to play and yet has quite a bit of strategy to it as well. There is a little luck involved. The order that you end up drawing your lines as well as the order that the Station cards are drawn can have some impact on how well you do. You could have a plan on what you want to do for a line. If the cards don’t come out in the right order though, you are going to have to adjust your strategy.
Heading into the game I was a little concerned that the map would become congested quickly. I thought it would be hard to work around the lines that you had already drawn. This isn’t much of an issue in the game. There are usually plenty of options to move your lines in any direction. You kind of want to keep your lines somewhat together in order to score points for interchange stations. There is enough room that each line can branch off in its own direction though.
I think most of Next Station London’s strategy comes from the fact that you can score points in quite a few different ways. You likely will want to create lines that reach multiple districts. At the same time you want one district that has multiple connected stations. This is because you score a multiple of these two numbers. To maximize your points you want to make both numbers as equal as possible. This is not the only way to score points though. You score points for crossing the river, connecting to tourist locations and creating stations that hold multiple lines. With all of these different ways of scoring points, you have a lot of control over how many points you ultimately score in the game.
This might be the area where Next Station London thrives the most. I am guessing that there is a best strategy to maximize your points. You need to adjust this based on what cards are drawn though. Figuring out the perfect strategy likely will take quite a few games as well. While you are figuring that out, you have plenty of different ways to score points. This allows you to craft your strategy around the things that work best for you. In particular I mostly focused on trying to maximize my points from the visiting as many districts as possible while having one district with many different stations. The points can really add up if you try to maximize both of these. I think you could score a lot of points focusing on some of the other scoring options as well though.
On top of this Next Station London’s advanced modules add even more to the game. The shared objectives give you a target to focus your strategy towards. For example if you get the objective for reaching all of the districts, you are going to try to spread out your routes so you can reach each district. Meanwhile the river objective will make you stay closer to the river to try and cross it as many times as you can. I think these are a great addition to the game once you are more familiar with the main game.
I also thought the pencil power cards were a good addition as well. Some are more useful than others. They add an additional element to the game though which if used at the right time can really help. You can only use each one once during the game, but finding the perfect time to use them can make a big difference in how many points you ultimately score. I think both are good additions to the game. They don’t really add too much complexity to the game either.
The mix of accessibility and strategy creates a fun gameplay experience. As I mentioned before the game kind of feels like a puzzle. This may not be for everyone, but I thought it was fun. It was satisfying when I was able to create a line that scored me a lot of points.
This brings me to the other thing that I think works really well for the game. I actually thought Next Station London utilized the theme quite well. I can’t comment on how realistic the map is in regards to London. The game does a good job making it feel like you are designing the subway system for a city though. You obviously want a subway system that connects large parts of the city, while also having stations where people need them. On top of this you want it to drop people off at tourist spots while also having a lot of interchange stations so people can switch lines. I obviously have no experience with designing a real subway system. I thought the game did a really good job making it feel like I was designing one though.
Probably the biggest complaint most players are going to have with Next Station London is that it is a solitary game for the most part. There is basically no player interaction in the game. Nothing you do in the game will have any impact on the other players. During the game each player basically just does their own thing. Then at the end of the game you compare your scores to see who scored the most points. There really is no difference between playing by yourself or playing with other players. Instead of comparing your score against the other players, you just compare it to a chart to see how well you did.
If you are the type of player that generally likes player interaction in board games, this will likely be an issue for you. Outside of talking about things outside of the game itself, there really isn’t anything to discuss about the game either. The good news is that all of the players play at the same time, so the waiting time is pretty minimal. Unless a player has to over analyze their options, most players should finish at about the same time.
I personally didn’t feel like this was a huge issue for the game. I wish the game had some more player interaction, as it didn’t really feel like I gained much playing the game with other players. The good news is that the solo game is quite fun on its own. In fact you could make a good argument that it is better then playing with other players. You can take as much time as you want with your decisions, and you don’t have to wait around for other players. It is more satisfying to beat another player(s) than compare your score to a chart. Each time you play Next Station London though, you are going to try and score more points than your previous game.
Other than the lack of player interaction, the other main issue I had with the game is that I wish there was a little more variety to the gameplay. While it wouldn’t fit the name Next Station London, I kind of wish the game had a couple of different maps that you could play on. There is only one map so each game starts in the same exact position. The good news is that things generally diverge pretty quickly. The order in which you draw the Station cards is going to change each time you play the game. Some strategies are better than others which will likely push you towards designing your routes in a specific way. It is still likely that each route will look different each time you play the game.
As for Next Station London’s components, I thought they were quite good for the most part. I kind of wish the game would have included dry erase boards instead of paper, but the game includes a lot of sheets where you could play the game a lot before you have to start worrying about running out of sheets. The game’s artwork is kind of minimalist, but I think it really works for the game. The idea of using colored pencils was genius as well. It makes it really easy to tell which line is which. All of this comes in a box just big enough to fit all of the components making it is easily transportable. There really isn’t anything to complain about with regards to the components.
Next Station London probably won’t be for everyone, but I thought it was quite good. In many ways it plays like your typical flip and write game. It has its own twist though as it utilizes its subway theme well. The game may seem kind of intimidating at first, but it is actually quite easy to play. It plays pretty quickly as well. I think the game works because it is satisfying trying to build a subway system that scores you a lot of points. The game gives you plenty of scoring options allowing you to adjust your strategy to what cards are drawn. There is probably a best strategy, but I think it will take quite a few games to get to that point.
The main issue with the game is that there is no real player interaction in the game. There is no significant difference between playing with other players or by yourself. This might not be a big problem for you if you like solitary games, but it will be an issue if you generally like player interaction. I also wish there was a little more variety to the gameplay as well.
My recommendation for Next Station London comes down to your thoughts on flip and write games, games that are mostly solitary, and the game’s theme. If you don’t like one of these three things, Next Station London may not be for you. If the game’s premise intrigues you at all though, I think you will enjoy it and should consider picking it up.
We would like to thank Blue Orange Games for the review copy of Next Station London used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
Next Station London
Year: 2022 | Publisher: Blue Orange Games | Designer: Matthew Dunstan | Artist: Maxime Morin
Genres: City Building, Family, Flip and Write, Network and Route Building
Ages: 8+ | Number of Players: 1-4 | Length of Game: 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Moderate | Luck: Light
Components: pad of map sheets, 4 colored pencils (purple, blue, pink, green), 11 Station cards (6 Street cards/blue background, 5 Underground cards/pink background), 5 Shared Objective cards, 4 Pencil Power cards, instructions
- A fun flip and write game that utilizes the subway/Underground theme really well.
- Gives players quite a few different ways to score which adds quite a bit of strategy to the game.
- Is mostly a solitaire experience as there is basically no player interaction.
- Could use a little more gameplay variety such as another map to play on.
Recommendation: For fans of flip and write games that are intrigued by the subway/Underground theme.