LISBON TRAM 28

Reviewed by Kevin Whitmore

LISBON TRAM 28 (MEBO Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 45-60 minutes; €29.95)

 

Lisbon Tram 28 is a 2021 game released by MEBO Games.  “28” is designed by André Fernandes Trindade and is his first published design.  Reading the box back, “28 is the most famous tram line in Lisbon.  It goes by many historic sites and has become a favorite of locals and tourists alike.”

28 is packaged in a familiar “Ticket to Ride” sized box.  The frontispiece shows a yellow tram traveling through a Lisbon scene.  Opening the game, you find a handsome double-sided game board that measures roughly 30” x 20”.  Both sides of the board feature an artistic depiction of the Lisbon streets and tourist sites, much like you might see on a tourist map.  The board has varying numbers of features depending on the player count.  One side is for 2-3 players, the alternate side is for the 4 player games.

In addition to the board, there are several other game materials, including 130 full-sized playing cards.  Most of these are “tickets” and the remainder form the Monument or objective cards.  There are also 4 player-boards that depict the tram car you will operate, some markers, 60 colorful meeples that serve as passengers, a nice-quality draw bag, and – provocatively – a bell!  This is the sort of bell you might ring at a service counter.  All the materials, including the rule book are of high quality.

The rules manual runs 12 pages, but it is brimming with large graphics, with the actual rules being laid out sensibly in a large font, with several nice examples of play.  Learning this game from the rulebook is easy and a pleasure.

Each player will operate their own tram car through the streets of Lisbon.  Your aim is to collect passengers who wish to be delivered to one of the local monuments/attractions.  Delivering tourists will earn you victory points, and when the deck of monuments is depleted, whoever has achieved the highest score will win. 

At the start of play four monuments are revealed and are “open” for deliveries.  Players start at the central square with their tram and five tickets in hand. 

Each turn you will have 2 actions available.  Possible actions include moving your tram, picking up passengers, dropping off passengers and potentially claiming a bonus.  Let’s look at each action in some detail:

Moving: To move your tram you will discard one or more tickets.  If you discard one, you can move your tram to the next stop on the street you are travelling upon.  If you discard multiple tickets of the same color, you may move your tram as many stops ahead as you discarded tickets.  For example, discard four blue tickets, and move four stops further along.  Only one tram can be at a spot, other than the central square.  This is where the bell is used.  Should a tram be at a stop you want to visit, you simply ring the bell, and they are obliged to move along!

Pick Up passengers.  Throughout the city are tram stops where tourists wait for the tram.  You must discard tickets to claim passengers.  And the tickets must match, a green passenger requires a green ticket, etc.  Further you must pay for the entire group waiting (usually 3 passengers).  If they fit on your tram, you must seat them.  But even if you cannot seat them, the ticket must be paid.  For example, you might pay three tickets, but only seat 2 passengers.  In addition, there is a push-your-luck option.  You can choose to chime the bell and attempt to get one more passenger.  However, this is a blind draw from the bag, and if you cannot provide the right ticket, you will lose the entire group of passengers.

Drop Off Passengers: This is how you will earn victory points.  Passengers must be delivered in specific batches.  For example, to claim the “Chiado” card a tram operator must deliver 2 blue, 1 yellow and 1 red passenger all at the same time.  If he or she does this, they will claim the card and the victory points shown (ranges from 1-3 vp).  Further, only four monuments are open for deliveries at a time, with a fifth monument “on deck”.

Take Bonus:  There are four suits in the game, red, green, blue, and yellow.  Each suit has a special site where a player may turn in 3 tickets of that color to achieve a bonus.  There are four bonuses available:

  • Free Movement – one free move with no need of a ticket to move your tram
  • More Seating for passengers – basically doubling the seating capacity of your tram
  • +1 action – Instead of 2 actions, you will get 3 actions each turn
  • Improved “extra” passenger acquisition – In the game. there is a press-your-luck mechanism whereby you can get an extra passenger when loading at a stop. The basic action is somewhat risky.  This bonus improves that option making it less risky as it improves the draw from one random meeple taken from the bag to 3 meeples drawn, the player selecting the one they like best.

Draw Tickets:  At the end of each turn you will draw 4 tickets.  There is no hand size limit.  It is also possible to always turn in 3 matching tickets to get 1 ticket of another color.

28 is an easy game to teach.  Play is intuitive as it rests on a solid theme of pick-up and deliver.  Players will need to manage their hand of cards.  Sometimes a player may not choose to do much as they simply need more cards to form a plan.  Initially there are 3 tourists waiting at every stop.  The first four monuments are on display, and players will formulate how to collect the needed passengers to be able to make the prescribed delivery.  Once a monument is claimed, that card is taken away, the fifth monument card opens, and another monument goes on preview.  Further, whoever claims a Monument card draws three random meeples and then decides which empty tram stop to restock.

Players will quickly learn to look at the other players position on the board and which meeples they have on his or her tram.  It will happen that another player will make a delivery that you were preparing for.  The ability to force trams out of your way can be very powerful.  In one of my games played, I was able to bump two opponents out of the way to claim a delivery that they thought was just a dispute between the original two players.  The ability to play several cards of a single color to make a big move (for just 1 action) can quickly move you to a zone your opponents were not expecting.

Another consideration is when to pursue the bonus actions.  In my opinion the “+1 Action” bonus is huge, and I suspect it should never be ignored.  The extra tram capacity or the free move can be very helpful too.  I have not yet pursued the “extra passenger acquisition” bonus.  Once an opponent starts taking 3 actions each turn, their opponents are going to feel they are at a significant disadvantage.

The number of monuments used in a game of Lisbon Tram 28 varies by player count.  In a 2-player game just 12 monuments are used, with only 3 “open” at a time.  For 3 players, 15 monuments are used with 4 open at a time.  With 4 players, 18 monuments are used, with 4 open at a time.  Monuments score 1-3 points per card, as depicted on the card.  In addition, there are “ticket stubs” shown on the lefthand and righthand edges of the Monument cards.  As you collect Monument cards you will create a display.  If you can place cards beside each other that have matching ticket stubs, each completed ticket will score an extra victory point.  Scores are low in this game.  In my games I have seen game scores of roughly 12 points (3-player games) win the game.

“28”, or more properly “Lisbon Tram 28” is a fine game.  It is handsomely produced.  The theme always shines through.  The insertion of a bell to chime whenever you push another tram along adds fun and ,while not strictly needed, I always insist we use the bell.  There is ample room for shrewd play.  Observing your opponents hand size, position, meeples onboard, and even their body language will help you understand their objectives.  Whether you want to try to beat them to that pick up or delivery is part of the fun. 28 advertises itself as a 60-minute game, and I agree.  In fact, once you get comfortable with it, you probably could complete it in 45 minutes.  This reviewer is enjoying this game, and recommend it to you if you enjoy pick up and deliver games. – – – – – – – – Kevin Whitmore


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