Monday, January 5, 2015


Trains is one of the new games that we got for Christmas, and we gave it a bit of playtime last week. Decided it is a keeper!

Setting up the game is quite the chore: you choose a gameboard side. Then there are sixteen piles of cards that go next to the board. So this is an arm-stretcher of a game, because the piles end up all around the board and there is no hope of reaching them all from your seat without some friendly passing, aerobic up-and-downs, or giggly grunting. Eight of those piles are always used -- like the Express Train pile that affords you extra money, the evil Waste-card pile, and some buildings that afford you extra Victory Points at the end of the game.

Then you have a large selection of sets of cards, separated by tabs, in the box. You'll only use eight of these sets, and the way you pick those eight is to use a "Randomizer" deck that includes a card for each set. Draw eight of those, pull out the eight corresponding sets of cards, then put the rest of the cards and the Randomizer deck back into the box. So the game can be a little different each time you play.

Next to the board is a pile of wooden "Stations" and in your area, you have a pile of blocks representing your train lines. Each player gets a deck of 10 cards to start with -- these are not random, they are preassigned and each player has the same ten cards. But you shuffle this little deck and draw five as your starting hand.

The mechanics of this game are VERY similar to those in Quarriors if you are familiar with that. We also played Ascension once, and it was also reminiscent of Quarriors. So if you're familiar with those, the rest is easy-peasy. My husband was NOT familiar with those, and he still found it very easy to pick up. He said that the directions sounded deceptively confusing at first, but once he saw how one round went, it all made sense.

Each player places a token to claim a starting spot on the board. From that spot, you used your cards to lay more rails from city to city, trying to get to each city first because it is a lot more expensive to get to a city after another player has already laid rails and/or stations there.

This is still pretty early in the game.
On each turn you play the five cards in your hand, if you can. The cards can be used for their monetary value to buy other cards from the piles surrounding the board, or to pay for actions. Then those and any newly-purchased cards go into your discard pile for later use. There also might be action cards in your hand that allow you to do things like lay rails or place stations in cities (each city can only have a set amount of stations, usually one to three). And any time you lay rails or build stations you have to collect a "Waste" card. These are useless and just serve to litter your draw pile with BS. So you can buy a couple of "Landfill" cards, if available, or skip a turn to get rid of any Waste cards in your hand. In Quarriors, this is called "culling" and you get to do it anytime you score. One thing I wish you could do in this game is get rid of cards OTHER than the Waste cards -- some cards that are useful early in the game when you just want to build aren't as useful later on when you need more money to get better cards so that you can gain more VPs (victory points). All go into your discard pile after use or purchase -- unless you are getting rid of Waste, which goes back into the Waste pile by the board. At the end of your turn you draw 5 more cards from your draw pile. Once the draw pile is used up, you shuffle the discards and create a new draw pile.

We haven't played with all the available mini-decks, of course -- and from the looks of the box design, there must be expansions available, though I can't find any online. So perhaps some of the randomizer decks let you cull cards other than the Waste cards.

It's a pretty fast-paced game and really easy to play once you get through a round or two and remember to pay extra and gain extra Waste whenever you move into a territory already claimed by other players. We found ourselves hating Waste cards, racing each other to claim cities where there were stations, but no rails; grieving over the lack of money cards (next time we play, my husband is determined to pad his deck with more money -- you play and learn new strategies).

The game ends immediately at the end of anyone's turn where one of these conditions are met: there are no more stations, one player is out of rails, or when four piles of cards around the board are depleted. Most of the Victory Points are added up at the end of the game. Any of your trains in cities with stations add to your score. Then there are cards that give you extra VPs (they are useless during play and only add more waste to your pile, in a way, but can add up at the end of the game). My son beat us by a LOT of points because he seemed to always have lots of money to spend, and bought cards that let him add a few more cards to his hand during his turn (affording him more money and more opportunities to lay rails and build stations).

On the Alderac Entertainment website, they offer a couple of printable boards made specifically for 2-player games. I'll have to give one of them a try. It was fun playing a 2-player game with my son on the board that came with the game, but when we added hubby into the mix for another game, it was definitely more challenging.

Have you played it? Let me know in the comments! If you have any questions about the game and I'll try to answer them! Hopefully you'll have a chance to give this one a try soon.