Catch That Tram

Review of board game Linie 1 by Pevans

With so many railway games around, it makes a change to find a game about tram lines - though Linie 1 may not seem that different at first. The game is in two stages. In the first, players lay track across the board, building up a network of tram lines. In the second stage players run trams across the network.

However, players only run a tram once, as the first player to get their tram home wins the game. And in the first stage players are not extending their own lines, but adding to the network as a whole by adding tiles or upgrading existing track. What drives the game is each player's secret objective.

Where Are We Going?

The secret objective comes in two parts. The first is one of the six tram routes. Each of these has two termini, across the board from each other, and each player has to create a route between their termini. This is complicated by the second card, which specifies two (or three for 2 or 3-player games) additional stops which your route must pass - the specific stops also depend on which route you have.

Armed with their objective, players take it in turns to lay or upgrade two pieces of track on the board, slowly building up the network. However, you don't want other players to know what your objective is, as they will then try to hinder you, so lots of misdirection is called for. Except that you can't afford to spend all your time misdirecting the other players - you need to connect your route as well. Oh, and try and work out what the others are up to and put a spanner in the works.

Why Are We Here?

As you can see, players need to trade off between different tactical priorities. The game has room for several different strategies, from simply going all out to build your route to the complexity of working out what everyone else is after and getting in everybody's way. One of the good things is that it is not possible to knock someone out completely. Even if you put in a line going the wrong way for them, they may be able to upgrade it to a junction that is more useful, or the new track may allow them to connect in to a different route to their objective.

My experience is that players complete their routes at about the same time. When this happens, they reveal their objectives and each takes their tram on an inaugural run. Because you must preserve the existing lines when you upgrade a piece of track, it is not possible to remove somebody's route once it is in place. So at this point the game is a straight race. Those who complete their route first have an advantage, as do those with a straight route - it may be worth postponing your run for a turn or two if you can significantly shorten your route. However, moving your tram depends on the roll of the die, so there's a significant luck element too.

What Time Is Lunch?

This is an entertaining game which requires some thought. Compared to the other Goldsieber games, I would place it between Sternenhimmel and Galopp Royal, both in terms of the amount of thought required and the fun element. It is a bit daunting to start off with, when you are faced with an empty board on which you need to lay some tracks. My advice is to work out roughly where your route needs to go and then to lay some useful pieces of track in the middle of nowhere - rather like sketching out your territory in the early stages of a game of Go.

The other useful thing to do is establish the tram stops. The stop for each building goes on the first piece of track laid adjacent to it. Getting your stops in the right place and your opponents' in the wrong place can be very useful.

The physical production is good, though the tiles are a little flimsy, and the artwork is excellent - with the exception of the tram stop signs. Like other Goldsieber games, the box art extends to the interior of the box as well, which is a nice touch.

Linie 1 was designed by Stefan Dorra and published (in Germany) by Goldsieber. It is for 2-5 players and takes about an hour to play. Pevans rates it 8/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 97, December 1995/January 1996.

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