Kam and I played the boardgame Maglev Metro today. We both liked it, and want to play it again. But there are two things that I find really disappointing about it:
1. The game description starts out: “Welcome to the future of train games! With the use of cutting edge magnetic levitation technology, transport passengers and robots beneath the cities of Manhattan and Berlin as efficiently as possible.” But it turns out that the maglev aspect of the game exists only in flavor text. There are no real physical magnets in the game. And almost nothing in the game’s thematic elements refers to maglev either; it’s essentially just a subway-building game, vaguely like a boardgame version of Mini Metro. There’s nothing wrong with that! But the maglev aspect is a disappointing bait-and-switch. I’m guessing that they just called it maglev to make it sound futuristic, so they could justify the use of humanoid robots in the game.
2. The production values come really close to being excellent, but they fail in a bunch of different ways. For example:
- The quasi-meeples for two of the three kinds of robots are too similar to each other in color, even after the game makers learned that they were too similar and provided an extra set of copper robots in a new darker color to help differentiate them. That is, even the new copper color is still too close to the gold color for some of us to easily/immediately distinguish them. (I’m partly color-blind, but I gather that even some non-color-blind people have problems with this.) And the colors on the player boards that indicate where you can put the gold and copper robots are also not different enough.
- They chose an odd set of colors for the human commuters/passengers: pink, lilac, coral, and purple. It wasn’t until halfway through the game today that I realized that the idea is that there’s a pale color in the vaguely red part of the spectrum (pink) that builds up to a darker quasi-red (coral), and a pale bluish (lilac) that builds up to a darker quasi-blue (purple). That’s a fine idea, but the colors are simultaneously not similar enough to each other to feel intentionally related, and not different enough to always be immediately distinguishable for me. (Especially the lilac and the purple.) And the colors on the corresponding tiles don’t quite match the colors of the meeples; in particular, the “Office” tiles where the pink “Professionals” work are kind of off-white rather than pink.
- The transparent plastic tiles for the tracks are a great idea—but they’re pretty thin, which leaves them feeling a little flimsy.
- The indented hexes on the board where you’re supposed to place the cardboard station hexes are a great idea—but some of them are cut slightly too small, which makes putting the station hexes into them mildly annoying.
- The station hexes are nicely sturdy and thick—but they achieved that by gluing together a couple layers of cardboard, and the stuck-together pieces aren’t always precisely aligned.
- On at least one part of the board, the printed hexes have dimensions that make it impossible for the transparent track tiles to quite fit if you want them to lie flat and not overlap each other’s edges. They almost fit, just not quite.
- The trains look great, and they each have a little trough that you can put meeples into—but a single meeple on a train almost invariably falls over and lies flat in the trough, necessitating picking up the train and turning it upside down to get the meeple out.
- The player boards are made of reasonably thick cardboard, but two of mine have already started to bend upward at the edges. (And the room we were playing in didn’t have unusually high humidity.)
- The game comes with a cloth bag that you draw meeples out of during the game. It’s nice that the opening of the bag is plenty big enough to easily put your hand into. But unfortunately, the whole bag is way bigger than would be needed to hold all the meeples in the game.
…I will say that the starting-player token is a nicely made solid heavy metal piece designed like a subway token. I have no particular complaints about that piece.
But other than that, I feel like for most of the parts of the game, they had great ideas for really high production values, and then they executed them in non-ideal ways. None of them are terrible, but there are a lot of minor annoyances and rough edges to deal with.
Anyway. I like the game, but I think I would like it a lot more if I didn’t find the execution of the playing pieces disappointing.