Lisbon Tram 28
- Designer: Pedro Santos Silva
- Publisher: MEBO Games
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 45-60 minutes
- Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by MEBO Games
MEBO Games has been bringing challenging games from Portugal for years now. I have gotten to know them quite well over repeated meetings at SPIEL, and their games over the past few years have been a delight to try – we have looked at Carrossel, Porto, and Arraial in the past. This years release promises a tour of Lisbon, on the most famous tram line the city has to offer.
Many self guided tours of the city simply tell you to take this Tram and see what it has to offer – https://www.lisbonguru.com/tram-28-discover-lisbons-hidden-secrets/
In this game, you travel through Lisbon with this iconic tram, pick up passengers, and take them to visit some of the city’s monuments. The board shows a stylized map with a number of scenic locations across the city, and there is a deck of Monument cards that show the types of tourists that want to visit those locations. The top 4 cards are placed face up on the board, and the orange cones are placed on the board at these locations so that you know where the target locations are found.
There is also a deck of tickets, each showing a color of tourist on them – players start with a hand of 5 of these. Each player gets a board which represents their tram car. It shows your initial capacity for each of the four colors of tourists as well as spaces to mark when you get bonus abilities. The meeples are placed in the bag and 3 are drawn to start at each tram stop. Place the bell on the table where all players can reach it, and you might as well give it a smack or two to make sure it works.
The game is played in a series of rounds with each player getting one turn per round (clockwise). On a turn, players may two actions out of 4 possible (move the tram, pick up passengers, drop off passengers, take a bonus) – and it’s possible to do the same thing twice. At the end of each turn, the player draws 4 tickets from the deck. The actions in a bit more detail:
Move your tram – You discard as many tickets as you like of one color (or sets of 3 same tickets to be a single ticket of another color) to move your tram, one move per ticket discarded. A move is from your current place to: a tram stop with passengers, a monument space or a colored bonus stop. Note that an empty tram stop does not end a move. Pay attention to the actual track on the board, you must follow the paths as drawn on the map. Trams can move in either direction, but they cannot coexist at any space other than the central Rossio stop. If another tram is at the space where you want to be, you can bump them out – ring the bell, and then move the other tram one space away so that you can occupy the place you want. Once each turn, if you push or are pushed, you get a ticket from the deck. No matter how many times you push or are pushed in a turn, you’ll only get a single ticket.
Pick up Passengers – if you are at a Tram stop with passengers standing at it, you may load them. You must take the entire group. To do so, you must have tickets with colors that match the passengers (again able to use 3 same as a wildcard). If you do not have enough capacity to hold them in your tram, you must still pay a ticket for each one at the stop and you simply leave the extras behind. You can also take a risk and add a passenger to the stop. You ring the bell, and any other player draws a passenger at random and adds it to the stop. If you are able to pick up this passenger in addition, you get the whole group. However, if you cannot take the extra, you lose the entire action.
Drop Passengers off at a Monument – You must be at a Monument with an Orange cone at it (stating that there is a Monument card revealed for this place), and you must have the exact collection of passengers on said card. These passengers are placed in a discard pile (not in the bag), and you collect the Monument card. As you collect cards, you create a line of them – so add this card to the extreme left or right of your previously collected cards. You’ll notice that the monument cards have colored ticket halves on their sides, and your goal is to match them when possible. As you are doing this, the player to your right draws 3 passengers from the bag and places them together at any one empty tram stop. Draw a new card to fill the display and move the cone to this new location.
Take a Bonus – If you are at one of the four colored bonus stops (all found centrally on the board), you can discard 3 tickets which match the color of said stop and then receive the bonus of that stop for the rest of the game:
Red: +1 action per turn (you now get 3)
Yellow: +2 seats per color in your tram
Green: When trying to add passengers to a stop, your neighbor draws 3 and you choose 1
Blue: Each turn you get one free movement of your tram, does not cost an action nor use a ticket
The game continues until the Monument deck is exhausted (the size depends on player count). Cards not initially chosen are now available to complete the final round – all players will get the same number of turns. Then, each player calculates their score. There are only 2 things to consider. 1) Score VP equal to the number printed on the monument cards that you have collected and 2) 1VP for each completed ticket on neighboring monument cards in your line. The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player with the most completed tickets in their monument card line.
My thoughts on the game
One of the things I have missed most in the COVID era is the ability to travel. Though work and family take up a lot of time, I used to be able to take a few trips each year to see the country (or the world). For the past 2 years, i’ve pretty much been in a circle of about 100 miles from my house, with the majority of it falling in a circle only 15 miles in diameter!
I was instantly drawn to the idea of this game because it simulates travel – this is exactly the sort of activity I would do if I were visiting Lisbon (and that gorgeous city is actually on my short list of places I want to visit next).
The game itself is pretty simple. There are only 4 choices of actions, and it’s really a straightforward pick up and deliver game for the most part. There is a bit of trickiness in both the picking up of passengers (as you have to spend tickets matching the entire group) as well as the delivery of passengers (as you have to have the right combination of meeples). And, of course, if you want to maximize your haul, you may also want to match up the tickets on the sides of the monument cards. The monument cards are worth between 1 and 3 points each, so you can see that the extra VP offered per matching ticket is really quite a worthwhile thing to chase. Sometimes so much that you might pass on a delivery that you are able to make while you await a better card to come available!
When you are not making a delivery, you might work on getting one of the four bonuses. As listed above, each provides you with a specific advantage, and each definitely can help you succeed in the game. You could try to get all 4, but if you do, you will have spent a lot of energy gaining the bonuses while your opponents possibly have been making deliveries and scoring points. I haven’t yet found the sweet spot of how many and which bonuses I want in a game – but I do think it’s probably helpful to try to get one early, and then use the power of that bonus as the crux of your strategy. I have yet to see anyone win who didn’t pick up at least one bonus.
Themewise, there are a few things where you must suspend your disbelief. First, though I wish it were true, the idea that the trams act like bumper cars is necessary for the game, but surely not true to real life. Second, it is a bit backwards for the tram operator to have to spend tickets to pick up passengers – but hey, that’s what you need to happen to make the game work. Finally, though I don’t know this for sure, I’ve never seen a tram line that allowed the cars to freely traverse forwards and backwards on the line, especially if there are multiple cars sharing the line – but again, like the stylized map of the city – some changes have to be made in order to allow the game to work.
The illustrations are quite nice, both on the board as well as the cards, and while I understand that there may not have been enough space to add descriptions of the stops, but we have used Google at times in our games to read up a little bit on the places where we are making deliveries. And… it has a bell!
The Monument cards only give you the name of the target stop, and the orange cones do help you locate them on the board. We have since switched to 4 pairs of colored dice so that it is easier to find the specific stop that corresponds to each of the cards on offer. As you need to have the exact passengers for the specific stop, it saves time to have individualized markers for the four stops.
Lisbon Tram 28 is a wonderful game which can transport you to another city for about an hour. It is not an overly complicated game, but there is enough strategy in the pickups and deliveries to keep just about any gamer happy during their tour of Lisbon.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Doug G
- Neutral. Mark J, John P
- Not for me… Rand L