MetRum Geek Details

Font

The font used on the station cards and throughout MetRum is Railway. It is an open source version of Edward Johnson’s original 1916 typeface for the London Underground. The current Underground font is Johnson Sans, although that is due to be replaced by Johnson100 to mark the 100 year anniversary of the original font.

Station Iconography

The station icons and orientation of the lines are based on the TfL 2019 tube map. The reason for choosing this map was that my original plan was to include the Elizabeth line (formerly CrossRail), the DLR and Tramline lines in set of MetRum lines, but this made the deck too large and unwieldy.

The connection stations are similar to the icons on the tube map, except that they are rotationally symmetrical (like most playing cards in a standard deck). On the tube map, the Victoria line is above the Piccadilly line both before and after the Finsbury Park station icon. On MetRum the Victoria line is above the Piccadilly line on the section South-West of Finsbury Park and the lines are reversed on the North-East section.

The single stations are not rotationally symmetrical, but they are in the same orientation as the base map that the station icons are based on. On the Cockfosters station card the terminus is at the top of the card when in the correct orientation. The card backs are not rotationally symmetrical, so you can always tell which way up the card is intended to be. Whether you choose to hold your cards up the right way or not is entirely up to you, although obviously it would be better if you held them correctly.

Two Stations Copy

All the artwork was created using Sketch. I’m not a graphic designer, and have really basic artistic talent, but Sketch was extremely easy to use and much less expensive than the standard design software. One great feature was the ability to make a template station card and hide different elements (I had one for connection stations and one for single stations). This meant that I could ensure that all my icons had the same overall design and size. I could also globally switch the card border on or off depending on whether I wanted to create print ready masters or cards with borders for the rules and this site.

TfL & Copyright

I’ve been in contact with TfL. The game doesn’t include the Roundel, the words “Tube” or “Underground” which are all copyrighted. The tube map (and any portion of it) are also copyrighted, and I was concerned about wehether the station icons would count as “a portion of the map”. Fortunately TfL have ruled that the icons do not infringe the map copyright, so I have approval to proceed without needing a licence.

OSI

With the advent of Oyster cards and contactless payments, there are connections between some stations that count as a single journey even though you touch out of one station and touch back in at a nearby different station (within a prescribed time). These are called Out of Station Interchanges (OSI), although they generally aren’t marked as interchanges on the tube map. Note that also technically Edgware Road is also an OSI to itself as the Edgware Road station on the Bakerloo line is a separate station to the station for the District and Hammersmith & City lines. I have included the following OSIs in MetRum, although I’m not sure whether Bank/Monument strictly counts as an OSI as you can transfer between the two stations underground without touching out, but it’s included in the game regardless.

OSI

Ghost stations

Not all the Ghost stations are technically Ghost stations. To be a Ghost station the platform has to be visible from a existing tube train as you pass through it. So some stations are actually classed as disused stations such as Aldwych, as it was on its own mini branch of the Piccadilly line, and others are old line extensions which have now closed like Ongar on the Central line. Thanks to my friend Alice for pointing this out to me. However, once I had worked out how to create a Ghost train icon using Gaussian Blur in Sketch, I decided to call them all Ghost stations regardless. Thankfully I managed to find a map that gave me the correct orientation of the lines for each station.

Getting 3 Ghost stations does give a player an advantage as they can gain an extra card of their choice. I decided to make the Ghost station backs a different colour from all the other cards, so that when you are choosing blind, you can prevent another player from having too many Ghost stations.

Drivers

Thanks to the Malta girls (Sarah, Alice, Jasmin) for pointing out my bias in originally making all the drivers White and male. They are now more diverse.

Number of lines and card distribution

The final decision about the number of lines and ratio of connection stations to single stations was governed by the play-testing of MetRum. With earlier configurations, it was too easy to finish when the first player had enough cards for 5 melds because there were too many connection stations and not enough lines. I added the Overground as a 10th line, and reduced the number of connection stations, and now it is still possible to finish on your 5th meld, but you have to manage your hand much more carefully.

The number of Ghost stations was determined by having a maximum of 3 Ghost stations per line. I also cheated slightly as the Hammersmith and City line between Hammersmith and Edgware Road used to be a branch of the Metropolitan line, so Grove Road and Uxbridge Road should really be on the Metropolitan line.

There was no logic to choosing 6 Drivers. There were 4 when the game had 9 lines. I increased to 6 when adding a 10th line and the Drivers come up frequently enough without affecting the game balance too much.

Choice of connection stations

When there were 9 lines in MetRum, I included all the connection stations, except where two or more lines ran along side each other for sections of the map (where I included the stations where the running alongside started or ended). With 10 lines there were too many connection stations, so I needed to reduce the number of connection stations further. I decided to remove two-line connection stations where the combination of two lines was duplicated across multiple cards.

For example, Charing Cross and Elephant & Castle are connection stations which are both on only the Bakerloo and Northern lines. I choose to keep Elephant & Castle because I think it’s a better station name and I also preferred the orientation of the two lines on the station icon.

Two Stations

Choice of single stations

There are 8 single stations on every line except the Victoria line (which doesn’t have enough single stations). The choice of stations is completely subjective. I tended to go for stations which were well known and therefore either located in central London or are termini (as you hear and see terminal names a lot), or they have some personal relevance. I also tried to vary the orientation of the station icons within a line. As I’ve lived in West, North West and North East London, stations may be slightly skewed to these areas. Reasons for a handful of my choices are:

  • Mornington Crescent: When my friends Bruce, Guy and Ian and I were in our early 20s, travelling back from central London on a night bus, we would randomly shout Mornington Croissant in a  silly voice. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Chalfont & Latimer: It sounds typically English home counties and very posh. I have never been there.
  • Camberwell: There aren’t enough single stations on the existing Bakerloo line, so I have added a couple from the proposed 2030 extension. My friend Sally lives in Camberwell, so it would be quicker to go to see her if there was a station there.
  • Old Kent Road: Similarly an extra Bakerloo extension station and a nod to Monopoly.

Meld design

Melds have been designed so that for every card, there is a choice of what type of meld they can belong to. A connection station can belong to any of the one-line melds that are on the card, and a single station can belong to its one-line meld or to a cross line meld. Drivers are wild and can belong to any meld, and Ghost stations have their own meld.

Originally cross-line melds consisted on 3 or 4 cards, but this made them too easy to get, and along with the fact that you can pick two single stations up as part of your turn made it too easy to get to 5 melds if you were the first player. Increasing to 4 or 5 cards changes that balance and also makes it harder to get two cross-line melds because of the increased chance of drawing cards that would duplicate a line.

Card selection mechanism

I wanted to give players the opportunity to choose cards rather than just have a random draw. The more lines there are on a card, the higher the score for that card. When the game was just collecting stations on the same line, there was minimal incentive to collect single stations, so I changed introduced a cross-line meld to make single stations more desirable and allowed players to choose up to 2 single stations.

Interaction

Initially there was no interaction in MetRum, but this meant that the best tactic was to hold onto all your cards and just play them when you had 5 melds. This also meant that the  player to the left of the dealer almost always won, and the game was dull and predictable. If you happened to draw any of the 4 or 5 line connection stations you also had an advantage as these score more points and there’s more flexibility about which melds they can be played in.

The first interaction mechanism introduced was to be able to swap a card from your hand with one on the table, so that if someone had played Kings Cross you could take it off them. However, swapping a card meant that you didn’t get any extra cards in your hand, and you need to keep adding cards to be able to get to 5 melds.

The second interaction mechanism resolved this, as you could now swap or take a card as an extra action after having played a meld. The mechanism to swap or take a card from an opponent’s hand also allows you to disrupt the hand management and plans of a player who looks like they are ahead in the game.

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