Published in English in 1996 by Mayfair Games
Originally published in 1995 as Linie 1 by Gold Sieber Spiele, Germany
Designed by Stefan Dorra
Review copyright 1996, 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 26, 1997

Mayfair games has published a number of translations of European games. The initial group includes Modern Art, Manhattan, Streetcar, and the strongest of the four: The Settlers of Catan. Modern Art and Manhattan have long been recognized as classics by lovers of European games, but the best of these other three games to this reviewer is Streetcar.

Streetcar is primarily a track-building game set in New Orleans. The components are excellent: an attractive mounted board, quality cards, cute little trolleys, three-dimensional car stop markers, and nice-looking track tiles.

The board consists of squares in a twelve-by-twelve pattern. There are twelve trolley stops scattered around the board. Around the edges are twelve terminals, numbered 1-6 twice. The object is to build a route from a given terminal, have it pass certain trolley stops, then go to the other terminal with the same number. The winner is the first one to actually run his or her trolley through the correct route - you can't start running your trolley until your route is completely finished, however.

The game is played in two phases: track-laying and trolley-car running. The heart of the game is the track-laying phase, though - running the cars is a bit of a denouement.

What makes the game exciting and not merely an exercise in blocking one another is the fact that no one knows the other players' goals! There are six trolley cards, with identical backs. At the beginning of the game, deal one out secretly to each player. There are also two different sets of six cards with route letters on them. (One set has only two trolley stops, and the other has three. Use only one set, depending on whether you want a shorter or longer game.) These are also dealt out, one card to each player. A route card lists each trolley number, and the stops it needs to make. You only look at the stops for your trolley - other players will have different stops than the ones shown on your card. Thus you may be trying to connect route 1 to the French Quarter and Tulane University and then to the other route 1 terminal in one game, but have totally different goals in another game. This ensures a high replay value.

There are 126 track tiles, of twelve different types. Each player starts out with three straight and two curved tiles, and each turn you place two tiles anywhere on the board. At the end of your turn, you randomly draw two more tiles. The rules for placement are simple and logical: you can't have track going nowhere, or off the board, or cover up a stop. A Car Stop token is placed on a the first tile placed adjacent to a stop - any car using that stop must pass through that space. (Although each player has a different terminal number, it's likely in a multi-player game that two players will share a stop along the way.)

The tiles include some interesting double curves, spurs, junctions, and other useful (or frustrating, if in the wrong spot!) shapes. An excellent rule is the upgrade rule: you may upgrade any piece of track so long as it retains the original track position and doesn't violate any of the track-laying rules. You could thus remove a straight track and replace it with a piece that has a straight track laid in the same direction, plus a curved spur going off to one side or the other. This insures that you can't be blocked out of your route by an opponent - though you may be slowed down as you wait to draw the correct upgrade piece you need!

The trolley-running phase is pretty straightforward - you start when you're ready, and the other players rush to finish their track building so you don't get too much of a lead! The first trolley to move may move one space. After that, a trolley may move up to one space more than the previous trolley moved. You can thus slow down at strategic times in order to prevent an opponent from reaching a car stop this move - meaning he'll have to stop after only one space on his next move. Obviously, the sooner you start your trolley, on the most direct route, the better chance you'll have of winning - which is why the track-laying phase is the heart of the game. The trolley running phase is there merely to reward both speed in connecting your route and directness of the run.

All in all, an excellent game for two to five people.

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