8th Jun 2023 - Bus

by Robin. Fri, 9 Jun (Updated at Fri, 9 Jun)

After Autobahn last time, the prevailing theme was forms of public transport at the club this week. We had Riverboat, which is about farming but also about boats on the Mississippi; and also Age Of Steam.

Age Of Steam is over 20 years old now and clearly established as one of the key milestones in the evolution of train games, and point-to-point movement games more broadly. But at the club this week we were able to see many of the same concepts (network building and point-to-point movement) in an even older game: Bus, which was first presented by the nascent Splotter group at Essen in 1999.

From previous posts you may have gathered that I am a big fan of Bus. I really admire how its simple ruleset generates such a tactical challenge from the interaction between the players. I am generally a theme snob, and this is certainly not the most thematic game - the combination of building the city, deciding where people want to go, interfering with the spacetime continuum, and running a bus line is a bit of a push. But this is all done in the interest of good, smooth gameplay which, for me, is good enough to justify suspending a lot of disbelief.

And Capstone's new artwork helps to make it feel all in a normal day's bus-work, with the bus-map game board. I think I've finally played all the games name-dropped in the street names, having recently ticked off Wildcatters. This contributed Anglo-Persian Parkway, which joins Splotter references Siap Faji Street and Boats Road, along with a whole set of streets named after companies in 1830.

I know it's not everyone's cup of tea. So apologies to the Lacerda lobby: this game is short on the "playing your own game" mechanics found in so many recent games. Those games all have their turn at the club. This one follows the simple-rules, "playing against other players" model, which characterises the eternal classics like Chess and Perudo. It deserves its turn too.

We did feel like we were playing chess at several points during the game. At the start, I was playing a chess game with Tim, as we competed for the passengers at one of the stations, while Ian was sharing passengers at the other station with Robin C. Later on, I ended up in a chess game with Ian, after he extended his line into the same intersections as mine. And we were all engaged in the perennial cat-and-mouse game of "who will take the first-player action"?

In that respect, I benefitted from being to the right of Ian - so 3 out of the 4 people who could be first player resulted in me going before him. It's hard to give a tip for a game whose course is defined by the players' choices; but if I give any tip for Bus in the tournament, it would be this: sit to the right of the person who you most want to beat 🙂