The London underground maze as a template for a board game? Since the release of Next Station London, that's no longer just wishful thinking, it's reality. As in real life, public transport can sometimes be chaotic. This time it's in the hands of the players to optimize the entire logistical process so that the subways ultimately run on sensible routes. 

The London Underground is one of the oldest underground systems in the world. It is the second longest network route in Europe, with several million passengers on weekdays and weekends - perfect conditions for a simulation game that deals with logistical processes. The French publisher Blue Orange sells the original, in Germany the title is published by HCM Kinzel.

Next station? London!

In Next Station: London it's your job to redesign the London Underground network. The game by Matthew Dunstan relies on a flip & write mechanism. At the Spiel22 game fair, the game was already a big hit at HCM Kinzel. The game can be played alone or with up to four people aged 8+. You play over four rounds and use a different pen color in each round to differentiate between the respective lines. Each color has a starting station on the map where you have to start.

Revealed cards show symbols that correspond to stations on the game board. Connections must always be entered directly from station to station (along the gray lines) and must never cross other lines. You can only enter new stations at the end of the current line. The only exception: you reveal a switch symbol. Filling in the lines is optional and is done until the fifth underground station is revealed (there are 6 aboveground and 5 underground stations, but they are treated the same in the game).

After each round there is a scoring. You get points for this

  • the number of boroughs you traveled through (the map consists of 13 boroughs)
  • the number of stations in a selected borough
  • The number of Thames crossings

This applies to the current line. You also mark the tourist stations you have approached (stations with an asterisk) on the sightseeing scale. Extra cards offer you even more challenges and opportunities to earn more points. Train stations can be used by different lines (this even gives you bonus points), but lines can never cross. So be careful not to block the paths.

The departure is delayed a little...

Next Station: London starts with some starting problems: the manual is accordion-folded and very wide. This is a bit unwieldy and makes it a bit more difficult if you want to read individual rules. As soon as you have internalized the rules, and that goes quite quickly despite the small starting problems, the game plays without any problems. The rules are quickly internalized and can then be explained well.

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Simple optics: Next Station: London is not particularly pretty – the game has other advantages (!). Photo: Volkman

The game then strikes a balance between luck and strategy. When drawing the lines, I can make sure to build the most profitable routes possible, but I am always dependent on which cards I turn up. I never had the impression that the luck factor took over and completely ruined my game. In this context it is also important: You play for yourself. Whether alone or in a group of four, there is no interaction between the people. You have to like that, but I think it suits the game very well, because nobody from the outside can screw up my rail network. However, the revealed card is always the same for everyone, so that there is no idle time, unless one person takes a very long time for their turn (caution, pun!).

Any game can fail because of bad material. Luckily that's not the case here. The game block is designed in a simple but beautiful and colorful way. The double-sided printing guarantees you fun for a few games. At some point I would have wished for alternative blocks to other cities - but what hasn't happened yet can still come. The pens also leave nothing to be desired. The colors are easy to see and don't bleed through to the back. Are pens really worth mentioning in a game like this? Yes, because too often the pens provided are very poor and almost useless. Pencils often paint much too pale and felt-tip pens dry out before you have played five games. That's why my expectations for pens are rather low, but here I was happy about the quality.

What remains a bit confusing is that there are above and below ground station cards, but both are treated completely the same. While the underground cards are used to determine when the round ends, I felt like the cards would work differently in the early rounds. All in all, Next Station: London was convincing. The game is handy and therefore ideal for travel. Once the rules are understood, the game plays very quickly and the high score mode (in solo mode) or wanting to be better than the others motivates you to continue playing. It would be a big surprise if no more parts or block extensions were released.

The personal mess

Style, gameplay, visuals - everything is greatly simplified in Next Station: London. The basic topic of the logistics planning of a widely branched subway network, which is able to transport many millions of passengers every day, loses some of its appeal. Ultimately, however, the track painting is fun - mainly because the gameplay works so well. Driving station after station with colored pencils is a catchy idea and is not burdened by a tangle of detailed rules. Next Station: London remains a comparatively superficial representative of the genre, which in this case isn't a real flaw. Because it gets trickier with every move. Next station: London manages to bring a decent brain teaser to the table with the simplest of rules.

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Putting the right lines on the city map at the right time is not easy. Photo: Volkman

Planning ahead is pretty much everything - as the game board fills up, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw lines without crossing them. It's particularly annoying when you simply have to leave points on the track - in the truest sense of the word - because you can't draw any lines. Just scribble on the fringes - that might be the obvious solution to all problems, right? Yes and no. Although you avoid bottlenecks, you also get fewer points at the end thanks to a rule trick. Bonuses can be triggered especially in risk situations. Ultimately, the whole event revolves around the best possible drawings in this Flip'n'-Write.

While there isn't much to play for in Next Station: London, the game is far from easy - at least for ambitious players who aim for as high a score as possible. Full risk, safety, or the balance of it - there are many ways to the goal. Basically, of course, the greater the risk, the more points you can get. This can be mitigated somewhat with jokers and switches, which has a positive effect on the freedom of choice because more options are simply possible.

The optional add-on cards are a nice gimmick for the small-format game. They provide a slightly higher level of complexity, so that Next Station: London can also expand its target group to gamers with aspirations.

About Next Station: London

Number of players: 1 to 4
Age: from 8 years
Playing time: 20 to 35 minutes
Difficulty: easy - medium
Long-term motivation: medium
Classification: family game

Author: Matthew Dunstan
Illustrations: Maxime Morin
Published by HCM Kinzel
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Language: German
Cost: 22 Euro



Next Station: London by Matthew Dunstan (previously: Elysium, Echoes, Roll for Adventure) is a visually simple, beginner-friendly, yet challenging flip'n'write game. Basically, the title does not reinvent the genre, but convinces with its low entry hurdles and the still existing possibilities of being able to get better with an increasing number of games. In any case, it doesn't take long after unpacking to familiarize yourself with the gameplay, but some experience is required if you want to get the best out of the given situations - with the right amount of courage.

With newcomers, there is a great danger of being too ambitious when it comes to drawing the route, which often leads to the kind of chaos that is so familiar from daily commutes in local public transport: At some point it says that nothing works anymore. This applies to the line drawings in the case and the score. If you get the hang of it and use switches and jokers cleverly, you can feel the appeal of the basically simple paper-and-pencil game, which can end up on the table with families as well as with more enthusiastic players. From time to time, one's own genius shines through when it succeeds in turning individual stations into genuine transhipment stations. In any case, the hunt for higher and higher scores is fun – even solo.

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Last updated on 7.03.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API