BUS BOSS - Reviewed by Mike
Bus Boss is a simplified version of David Watts' Railway Rivals, a game that is revered throughout the hobby. The main difference is that in Bus Boss the routes between towns are already established on the mapboard rather than being constructed 'freehand' by the players. As in RR the game consists of a building phase and then a racing phase and the winner is the one with most points after all the possible races have been run. It can accomodate 2-6 players and plays in under 2 hours.
The game comes in a tube and the first task is to lay the map out on the table and put some weighty objects at the corners to keep it down. There are pawns in 6 colours, matching felt tip pens in the same colours, 2 average dice and rules. To play the game you will need to provide a pack of playing cards and to create your own scoresheet to keep tally of the players wealth.
GAME SUMMARY The scorer creates a column for each player and allocates them their starting capital, which varies according to the number of participants. There is a unique flavour to the first turn (described later) and thereafter turns take on a regular pattern of building routes until one player's wealth falls below 50 and then the racing phase can begin. After each race the accounts are updated and this continues until the playing card deck is exhausted and the one with the most points wins.
FIRST TURN. Having determined a starting order each player chooses either one route value of 12 points or any shorter route(s) which combine to make a total of no more than 12 points. Building costs are the length of the route (shown on the board) PLUS 2 points. So a route of length 4 costs 6 points to build and therefore a player could link 2 routes of length 4 in this initial phase.
NORMAL TURN Players simply build one route, which must be connected to their existing network and the costs are deducted from their wealth. Each route will permit only a certain number of 'operators' to run along it, for example, London-Luton has 3 whereas Luton-Cambridge only 1. Players mark the route with their felt tip pen. This pattern continues with players building up their network until one player's wealth falls below 50 points, at which point the races can begin.
THE RACES 2 cards are turned over from the playing card deck to indicate the starting and ending towns for a particular race. In turn order players announce if they intend to participate in the race or not. To take part a player must have some part of the route made up of his own routes but can pay other players to use their routes if that is what is required to complete the journey, providing the total paid does not exceed 10 points. These transactions are recorded on the scoring sheet before the race begins. Players can run joint operations if they wish and share the spoils. To avoid stupid entries in a race if a participants route is found to be more than twice the length of the shortest route being used they are eliminated and any payments made are refunded.
The race itself consists of all participants gathering in the starting town and then moving along their chosen routes in accordance with the roll of the average die. All players have an equal number of turns in a race and it ends when all the positions are determined. Points are awarded according to the positions achieved and the number of contestants in the race(ties are catered for) and this is recorded on the score sheet. Then an extra build phase is allowed, with importantly, the POOREST player building first then the next poorest etc. Then the next race is run.
When the card deck is exhausted no more races can be run and the player with the most points after the last race is the winner.
Bus Boss is suitable for family play as the route building is straightforward and parents can help little ones. The races can be close and provide short bursts of excitement and then there is the decision making of where to extend your network. This can be crucial to enable you to participate in future races so is not to be taken lightly. Although the components are not of the quality that might be produced in a German game that does not detract from a good game which should be enjoyed by all who participate.
There are several different maps available covering other countries to add to the variety. I'm not sure of the availability of the game these days but if you see it on a "Games for Sale" list I would encourage you to buy it.