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As America expanded in the 1920s and 1930s, suburbs grew rapidly around the densely populated urban areas.High speed InterUrban trains like the Comet served these suburbs, carrying all manner of people to work and then home. Different InterUrban lines competed to reap the most revenue from the surrounding suburb. Track was laid, trackage rights negotiated and suburban stations built.
In InterUrban, players manage competing rail companies. They score points by maintaining control of the most valuable rail lines while they build track. The player with the most victory points at the end wins!
I just picked up the 'deluxe' version of this game since I'm always looking for unusual items and like Schacht's other games. For a train game, this one's easy to learn and plays fairly quickly (45-60 minutes at most). Also, there's some nice tension as players jockey for position on each of the six lines available for scoring. However, as Randy says in his review of the kit, the bits are nothing to write home about. In the deluxe version the cutting is done for you and the starting tiles ARE blue, but the track tiles are still the color of a grocery bag. I'm not sure the game's worth the amount charged for it, but it is worth playing and (IMO) worth cutting out if you can get past the use of an exacto.
I see the words 'bagged kit' next to this game entry. But, then again, I see there was once a 'deluxe' version, but it was homemade, too. So, this game, while it may well be a superb game, may never get played because it's so much work just to get the game into playable condition.
Aside from the fact that the price is quite steep for a kit game, you don't get much. Two cardboard sheets of tiles you must cut apart (one sheet is the color of a grocery bag, the other is stark white). The publisher refers to blue start tiles in the rules, but there aren't any--they're white, too. And the publisher requests that, for best results, you need to procure an Xacto knife and a metal straight-edge to cut the tiles apart.
No thanks. Xacto knives scare the bejesus out of me. But I may some day get around to crudely cutting the pieces apart with some scissors and then maybe, just maybe, we'll play the game.
So how is it supposed to play? It's basic tile laying with several restrictions where everyone, naturally, wants to better their position and hinder everyone else's. A telling point is that they suggest a 'competitors version' of the game where a series of games are played with everyone taking turns being Player #1--a sign that first seat has a decided advantage.
Anyway, it reads as though it's not too tough to play, with the exception of recognizing when a rail line is 'complete.' Once a line is complete, you remove the rail-head marker and it's done for the evening. But a line can be 'complete' with tons of space still available on the board, due to the rules for laying track (e.g. only one of each number 1-3 in a line; no back-to-back tiles with 'commerce' points; etc). So, a line could look innocent when, in fact, there is no tile in the mix that could ever extend the line. Those familiar with the game might have little problem, but I suspect newbies would be confounded, much as they are in Fresh Fish.
All in all, it could be an OK game (though the Schaact track record isn't testament to this--as I don't care for Web of Power or Paris Paris). But it could be quite awhile before I get around to giving it a go.
First Franz-Benno Delonge and now Michael Schacht: established German games designers whose reputations will ensure that their latest work is of interest to all the top German companies and yet when they design a game with a railway theme they take it to a small and specialist American outfit. Winsome doesn't offer pretty components and their games aren't cheap, but they are clearly doing something right.
InterUrban is a 'route building with tiles' game, a general concept that has already given us a range from heavyweights such as 18xx and Age of Steam to semi-abstract, family titles such as Linie 1 and Metro. Enough to mean that one's almost certain first thought is to ask whether there is room or need for another. Well, since Michael Schacht's offering is not only very good but reminiscent of nothing that I have seen before, for me in this case the answer is a firm 'yes'.
The notion is of a rapidly growing city with an urban railway that is expanding to serve the new suburbs that are being built. There is no map or board to provide the basis for this, just a central location - represented by a couple of tiles - which serves as the starting point for half a dozen lines, each a mixture of track and stations. Simple, efficient and effective, since the layout that develops does look very like the map of an urban railway. Also flexible, because it means that the starting set-up varies from game to game.
Tiles are square and, apart from the start tiles, fall into two groups - track and stations. The track tiles form a common pool and each shows either a straight piece of line or a 90 degree curve. Some (70%) of the track tiles also carry a number in the range 1-2. These numbers will be used to help determine the value of each route. The station tiles consist of a set for each player and again there are two shapes: a simple straight piece of track and two straight tracks crossing at right angles. Station tiles are also numbered, but this time the range is 1-4 and the main use is decide the player pecking order on each line.
At the start of your turn there will be three face-up track tiles and, for each player, three face-up station tiles. Your task is to place 1-3 tiles and of these at most one can be a station. Usually the station you place will be one of your own, but it doesn't have to be. At the end of the game you will get points from each of the six lines, with how many being determined by the value of the line and where you are in the company order determined by the 'commerce points' on your stations. Your aims, therefore, are to get your stations into positions that will boost your ranking on the best lines, to increase the revenue values of the lines where you are in a good position and to close out lines where you feel that your current valuable position might be taken away by a rival.
A game such as this stands or falls by the placement rules, since it is from these that come the tactics that provide the interest, and what impresses me most about this game is the clever way that these rules have been put together. They are simple, natural and easy to remember, and yet they provide plenty of scope for schemes and a near perfect balance between constructive and destructive play. The rules are
1. The six routes must stay distinct and none can be closed out on the first round of play.
2. Track can't run into one of the blank sides of a tile.
3. There must be at least one piece of track between stations.
4. Consecutive stations on a line can't belong to the same player.
5. On any line there can be at most one station of each of the values 1, 2 and 3 and although there can be several 4-stations there can be at most one from each player.
6. A line with a station of each of the four values is complete and can't be extended further.
Think about these and the consequences and tactical opportunities start to become apparent. (4) means that there is no question of each player picking a line and then putting most of their resources into it; unless there are several players competing for it, it won't grow. This rule also provides one of the reasons why you might want to place another player's station on a line: you can see that in his turn he is likely to place a high-valued station and threaten your position on a particular line and so you spike his guns by putting one of his low-valued ones there instead. (2) and (6) can give you the means of closing out a line at a time when your points scoring potential there is at a probable peak. (6) also gives another reason for reaching for another player's station tile on your turn: you want to close out a line, you don't have the right value face up in front of you, but he does. (5) means that the battles for top spot on a line are fluid, but also that they won't be long, internecine affairs. We have all played games where we have found ourselves drawn into battles which are using up too many resources and yet where we are too far in for withdrawal to be other than a disaster.
The game ends when all six lines have been closed out. The value of each is the sum of the numbers on its track tiles plus the value of of its starting location in the city. The player(s) with the highest 'commerce points' on the line receive the value of the line in victory points. Next highest gets half this, followed by a quarter and an eighth. Highest overall total wins.
This is an original, well themed and very well thought out game and I rank it alongside Kardinal & Knig, which I'd previously considered to be Michael Schacht's best. The components are pretty decent - well printed tiles of a good thickness and some plastic trains to mark the current end of each line and to enable you to see at a glance which lines are still 'live'.