Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Game Central Station: Linie 1/Streetcar

The Big Difference Between Linie 1 & Streetcar

This information is from Lou (formerly with Mayfair Games). It refers to their decision to publish Streetcar without the "halte" die that appeared in Linie 1.

"I spoke with Stefan Dorra (the designer of Linie 1) when I was at Nurnberg. We were discussing options as to the use of the die in Linie 1 because Mayfair is releasing the game as Streetcar later this summer. We did not like the way the die worked. Stefan suggested that we use his original design and not the one that Goldsieber put into the game. We like it and it will be the way Streetcar plays. His rule is:

The first player to move moves one space. Each time a player moves after that (the same or a different player), he may move up to one greater than the previous player moved. A trolley MUST ALWAYS stop at the halts and may move less than the allowed amount, both reducing the next player's move. That is the next player may only move up to one greater than the previous player actually moved, regardless of how far that player was allowed to move."

As promised, this rule was incorporated into the Mayfair edition of the game.

Scoring Variants

Ted Cheatham, designer of Silk Road & Gumball Rally... and an all-around nice guy, created his own variant:

Once someone is finished, the other players have two turns and then you count the squares of your track adding 2 for each stop sign you go by. High score wins.

According to Richard Irving, however, "The problem (with the Streetcar method) is that there aren't too many situations where this can pay off. It has to force him to end his turn just before a trolley stop. And you can't have any that seriously block you." He adds a variant to Ted's variant:

I like the counting idea to speed things up, but was there a penalty for not finishing your track after the first player.

-After 1 player completes his track and the first turn he skips = 1

--After 1 skipped turn for 1st finisher = 3

---After 2 skipped turns for 1st finisher = 6

----After 3 skipped turns for the first finisher = 10.

-----Etc.

This somewhat accounts for the extra spaces the first finisher will get before you have a chance to move.

Mark Engelberg throws his two cents in:

"I was intrigued by the Cheatham endgame variant for Streetcar, but I don't like the fact that the winner is resolved by a formula. However, I admit that the race as presented in either Linie 1 or Streetcar is dissatisfying." So, as Ted & Richard before him, Mark adds yet another variant way to finish the game.

During the race phase, on each turn, the streetcar moves to the next stop sign.

In formulaic terms, the winner is the person who minimizes: # of turns to complete track + # of stop signs on track.

Jonathan Degann found many of the above variants too dry and offered his own:

You can put a little less luck into the end by using a common roll for all players.
(We here at Game Central Station have to admit this one sounds intriguing.)

Finally, Paul.Mazumdar came up with a variant quite similar to our own solution here at Game Central Station:

I've started using an "average die minus one" (i.e. numbered 1,2,2,3,3,4) to resolve the races, along with a rule saying that you must stop at all Halt signs. This removes both the 'kingmaker' aspect of the Streetcar race and some of the worse excesses of the Linie 1 dice while still benefitting routes that go through fewer Halt signs.

A Word From Our Sponsor

Frankly, we haven't tried any of the other variants here at Game Central Station, even though Ted's a personal friend and Richard, Mark, & Jonathan are wise & venerable figures in boardgaming world. (Paul sounds like a nice guy, too!) It's just that we still like the cheesy "roll the halte die" version that Gold Sieber put on Linie 1 despite Steffan Dorra's feelings to the contrary. At some point, we'll sit down and play out a couple of games and score with each of the variants, but we haven't got that bored yet!

But, since everyone is making suggestions, I'll give mine. I still think the die itself is the only part of the game that needs redesigning. It currently has the number 1-4 on it + 2 "halte" signs, which allow you to move to the next halte sign.

My humble proposal is that the dice should have 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, halte... thus reducing the chance of a player shooting to victory solely on the strength of rolling halte signs. It would still pay to minizmize stops, but it wouldn't act like you threw nitro on the trolley's engine (ok, I know it's electric... allow me my mixed metaphor) every time you turn around.

Still, this is a great game... especially to introduce non-gamers to German gaming.

And For Something Completely Different...

Mike Mayer got majorly creative and posted a plethora of variants to the rec.games.board newsgroup. We haven't tried any of them out yet, but we just admire the heck out of Mike for doing the deed.

Complete Circuit Variant (no dice):

Lay tiles as normal until someone connects their terminals by a legal route and announces that they have done so (they must immediately announce it when it happens). The tiles need not be connected to the given player's secret locations and the player should not say so if there are.

The second phase of the game begins; beginning with the player who first connected his terminals, all players now receive 4 actions per turn, an action being either a tile placement or one space of movement of their train. As usual, trains must end movements at Stops and move no further that turn, but otherwise players can play up to 4 tiles, move up to 4 spaces, or a combination of both. In this variant, trains DO block each other if they meet. Blocked trains may spend 4 actions to turn 180 degrees so they can go the other way. Or blocked trains may wait until a tile placement frees them up. You need not use all your actions per turn, but they may not be saved up from turn to turn.

Trains must make a complete circuit from their starting terminal, to their 'ending' terminal, and back to their starting terminal. They must visit one of their secret locations on the way down and the other location on the way back. Players do not reveal their secret locations until they stop at them. The player with the train that makes a complete circuit first, wins.

Note: a train may stop at both secret locations on the way down and/or on the way back, but only one of the locations counts for victory until he hits it again on the return route. Players don't have to announce a location as being one of his secret ones until he actually counts it for his victory conditions.

Turnstile Variant:

Before the game starts, place all four "<>" tiles (the ones with four exits connected by inward pressing curves; the ones that look like 4-pointed stars) in the center four squares on the board. All track must by built from these tiles or from track extending from these tiles.

Exchange Variant:

Players may "pass" and trade in any number of tiles for new ones.

Handicap Variant:

Give less experienced or younger players more tiles to hold in their hands.

Central Bank Variant:

Players draw all their tiles from a central bank of 8 face up tiles that are re-filled back to 8 after each turn.

Departures

Here's a trio of reviews of Linie 1/Streetcar.

1 comment:

Dave Vander Ark Family said...

I've only played Streetcar once, but I own Linie 1. I was very disappointed in the way the race flowed in Streetcar. It seemed like the same player got to move the most every time, making the race completely meaningless. I've played Linie 1 a lot, and even though there's too much chance for the die to give you an "H" symbol, I've never felt like the race was as unfair as I did in the one time I played Streetcar. I'd like to try the variant with the average die, or else maybe I'll mark one of the "H" sides of my Linie 1 die to indicate a different result. The other variants seem like too much work for such a lightweight game.