Get on Board board game: A Four-sided review

The Get on Board board game (or Get on Board: New York & London, to give its full title) is a flip-and-write route-building family game. It’s for 2-5 players aged 10+ and will take you about 30 minutes to play.

Get on Board is a reprint of ‘Let’s Make a Bus Route’, originally released in 2018. Some may prefer the aesthetic of the original in terms of artwork, but both are nicely done. While this updated version adds some tweaks to the rules that address a few issues with the original.

Firstly, it has a two-sided board. One for 2-3, the other for 4-5 players. This has allowed them to tighten things up considerable when you have less players. Secondly, rather than a pen-and-wipe board in the original you now place wooden sticks on the board to mark your routes. Finally, the player sheets have a couple of additional ways to score points by visiting particular places on the maps. But beyond this, the original game is largely intact.

In the box you’ll find the board, 50 double-sided player sheets, 166 wooden pieces and 28 small cards. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around £20-25 delivered – about standard for a game of this size (think Kosmos 2-player box).

Teaching the Get on Board board game

The basics of Get on Board are just that. On each of the 12 rounds one of 12 cards will be flipped over, which are simply marked 1-12. Each player then looks at their sheet to see how the number corresponds to it. Most sheets are different, but it will always mean you’re initially adding 1-3 pieces to your route – either in a straight line, at a right angle, or your choice. If you finish placing at a traffic light space, you get to place one extra piece.

You decide your start point before turn one and must keep adding to it as a single route throughout the game. You can’t revisit an intersection – and if you put yourself in a situation where you’d have to, you’re eliminated from the game. Every time you lay a piece, you reach an intersection – and at every intersection there’s either a traffic light (extra route piece), passenger or building – both of which you’ll be marking off on your sheet as you pass/land on them. These will score you points in various combinations.

Penalty points

But of course, it isn’t as simple as it seems. Sometimes you don’t want to do the movement you’re meant to – or flat out can’t because of where you start your turn. You can break the rules five times each game, but each time will cost you some points. And if you use all those chances up, then need to break the rules again, you only get to place a single piece. Traffic jams are your enemy too. If you travel along a road others have already used, you mark off a negative space on your sheet for each other player who already used it. While on the 2-3 player map, some roads have jams from the start.

If you make it to the end (I’ve not had anyone fail to yet), you do a variety of maths to find your score. Workers and tourists score during the game, as you drop them at tourist sites and office buildings. You multiply the number of students collected by the number of colleges visited, and get various other points for randomised personal and public bonus cards, plus some old folk (who are probably just staying on the bus to keep warm!).

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I was completely charmed by the original Let’s Make a Bus Route. And once I’d got my head around the small changes in the Get on Board board game, my rating of the game actually went up a notch. I like the component and rules upgrades, but preferred the original Japanese art. And the 2-3 player map makes for a really tight game at those player counts. Where it was a little too open in the original. So with a few caveats (see ‘key observations’ below), this new edition has definitely won me over.
  • The thinker: At the length that it is I can appreciate the game. You can set yourself goals at the start based on the personal and shared objectives. But the way cards come out, and how other players move, can really scupper those plans. So, you often have to think on your feet. However, as the game goes on the options left available to you narrow, which can help in your planning. Not a game I’d choose, but I’ve certainly had a nice time playing it.
  • The trasher: While I didn’t hate the Get on Board board game, there wasn’t much for me here. Sure, you’re getting in each other’s way and there’s a fair amount of cursing your neighbours. And it’s pretty fun – in a cutesy way – for 30 minutes. But it isn’t really something you can plan. The only real direct interaction is getting to the shared objectives first, but this only swings things by a few points.
  • The dabbler: Love it and it looks super cute. It took most of the first game for us to really get it though. Especially some of the extra objectives, where buildings score at different times if they have a star. But once we understood them, they added an extra layer of decision making. I think we’ll appreciate that more as we continue to play. And we will, because it’s ace!

Key observations

I’ve been complimentary about the looks and components in the Get on Board board game. But there are a few niggles. First, you get 32 wooden markers each. If you play a full game, you’ll definitely use 26. But it is very possible, with the traffic light bonuses, to add more than your additional six extras. The rulebook even acknowledges this, suggesting you ‘use a suitable substitute’. Really? Would it have broken the bank to put in a few extra pieces?

Some say the personal objective you start with forces you into a particular strategy. I couldn’t disagree more. It might be worth trying to complete, especially on your first play as you wrestle with the concepts. But it only gives 10 points. And you can pick up way more than that elsewhere with clever route building.

The lack of interaction is fine with me. But it’s not going to be for everyone. Especially as the tight board makes it look like it might be a key factor. Also, especially with three players, you can end up with one player avoiding the other two more by luck than judgement – and so getting less penalties. But it’s a light quick game, so I don’t think that’s much of an issue.

The scoring is convoluted. Especially in your initial plays. And the extra things added in this version make that even worse. But I think they do add a little replayability, which may otherwise have been lacking. So on balance, again for me it’s a positive.

It’s also worth noting this is a tighter, tougher game with three or five players than it is with two or four. Much as with Ticket to Ride (with its extra routes between locations for more players), each side of the board here accommodates two player counts. With an odd number you’ll almost inevitably end up with more congestion. So, if you have players that don’t like games with negatives, bear that in mind.

Conclusion: The Get on Board board game

The Get on Board board game is a definite keeper for me. It has some similarities to the other Saashi-designed flip-and-write in my collection, Remember Our Trip. But is definitely different enough to stand up on its own merits. If I was forced to keep just one? I’d probably stick with Remember Our Trip, because the clever interaction in the scoring works so well. But thankfully I don’t have to choose – so they’ll be happy together on my shelves for the foreseeable future.

  • Thanks to Iello (via Coiledspring Games) for providing a copy for review.
  • Follow this link for 200+ more of my board game reviews.

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