19th Oct 2022 - Bus

by RobinWed, 25 Jan (Updated at Wed, 25 Jan)

We played a network-building, pick-up-and-deliver game this week, where you score points for moving things, and you’re competing to get to them before the other players. Could be Age Of Steam, or one of its derivatives? But this game came before Age Of Steam. It could have been huge, but for one flaw: it’s not about trains, it’s about buses.

Unlike steam or air travel, there was no golden age of buses (as far as I know); and that lack of glamour or historical importance seems to put people off a game called Bus. Which is a shame because, as a result, many have missed out on a beautifully crafted game. This game achieves the holy grail of game design: simple rules that give a very challenging tactical game; where playing for two and a half hours to gain 5 whole victory points feels like a great achievement.

I spent the first two rounds acquiring more buses, while the others extended their lines. Meanwhile passengers were arriving at the railway stations, waiting for a bus. But the quirks of the action programming mechanic contrived that no-one actually managed to move any passengers until round 3. Given that each round represents a period of 8 hours, this wasn’t great service. But fortunately the very limited available passengers in this game don’t grow tired of waiting – though their desired destination will change.

By the later rounds, we had built up enough demand and infrastructure to get things moving. Karen used the “stop time” mechanic to keep everyone in the pub for an extra 8 hours – which, strange as it sounds, was not welcomed by the rest of us; but we still managed to get a few points each. Of the three of us who’d played before, however, only Dan managed to equal his best – repeating the mighty 5-point haul he got last time. Michel, meanwhile, who was new to the game, observed early-on that you would need to play several times to get the hang of it; but then came very close to winning.

Also at the club this week we had Carnegie, which is a much more complex game of network-building – and numerous other mechanics. And at John’s table they were playing a selection of shorter games, of which Akropolis stood out. I was on Graham’s table when we played that the previous week, and enjoyed it very much. It’s a hexagonal tile-laying, pattern-building game – I always like the games that look nice :-). Though the reason it stood out was because of the loudly-broadcast result: in case anyone somehow didn’t hear it (possibly for Brian in Cornwall it was only faintly audible) – Graham won.

We also had James’s game of Macao back again for a(nother) successive week – it sounds like it’s been played more in the last month than in the previous 10 years. And continuing the theme of “… and then two come along together”, our group has decided we enjoyed Bus so much that we’re going to try it again next week. Given the downward trend in our scores so far, the win is there for the taking, if anyone new to the game fancies joining us. You wait ages for a bus, and then two come along only a week apart. I’ll post it on Games This Week so others can add their bus jokes there…