At first glance, Trains seems like just another of hundreds of Dominion clones and it is, but it adds another dimension to the game with the addition of board play. I think of it as Dominion meets Winsome.
Like its predecessor, Trains comes with a lot of cards, about 500, so sleeving may take a while and I will probably since the card backs are a lovely black color which may wear easily. The cards are of a nice thickness and have Japanese and English on them.
Cards have 2 values, one is the cost to buy the card and the other is the money which the card can provide on a player’s turn. There are 30 types of cards which are interchangeable for different games. Some cards also provide player actions. The game also comes with some wooden markers. You use cubes à la Winsome Games to represent tracks. The board is 2 sided giving additional variety with Tokyo on one side and Osaka on the other.
In this game, the train cards are essentially the money cards. You can use these to purchase other cards which may give you additional actions, such as drawing more cards or laying rail or placing stations and you can also purchase VP cards. You also gain points from building connections on the board to cities with stations and remote locations. More stations in a city give more VP. The number of stations are limited by the number of buildings in the city on the map. Player with the most VP wins.
Each player starts with the same deck 7 Normal Trains = 1 money, 1 Station Expansion (lets you place a station and gain a waste) and 2 Rail Laying cards (lets you place a rail and gain a waste).
There are 8 types of basic cards (more trains, VP cards, station expansions and rail laying cards) available and 8 types of random cards action cards available to purchase each game.
Shuffle the deck, draw a hand of 5 cards. Each player starts in a separate hex on the board.
On your turn play cards which can be used as money or for actions. You can buy as much as you can afford and use as many actions as you want in any order.
When you build stations and rails you create waste. Waste cards don’t do anything but go into your deck and clog it up. There are cards like Landfill which can help you get rid of Waste cards or you can pass on your turn and return any Waste cards in your hand that round to the supply instead of your deck. If you build into hexes where other players have markers, you must pay extra cost and gain an extra waste. The different terrain hexes have different costs to build in as well.
The game ends when 4 stacks of cards are gone, all the stations are built or one player has used all their rails.
The first game was enjoyed by all the players (4). We played Tokyo, with one of the suggested set ups for beginners. The scoring was reasonably spread. The game doesn’t take long to play about 45 min seems right.
I liked the game quite a bit. The board play provides a nice additional way to score and some semi-cooperative play can net a lot of points. The Waste cards provide a hand management challenge but there are certainly lots of card types that may be in play to help with those.
I also played a 3 player game on the Osaka map with the suggested card set up. The game was very close and there was a tie for first with third only 3 points behind.
All the players gave Trains a thumbs up. Some comments from the other players were that the only downside was the card art, which was not easy to distinguish at a quick glance and that the card organization seemed a bit confusing initially. They liked the addition of the board and the VP there as an alternative to only having card points available. Some players felt that maybe you should have some penalty, such negative points for having too many waste cards. I felt like having to manage the waste was challenging enough.
Whether you are a Dominion fan or not, Trains is a very fun game which uses similar deck building mechanisms and the addition of the board makes the game play feel just different enough to stand on it’s own merits. The theme fits nicely. The game should see wider release at Essen 2012 and the designers have hinted an expansion board may be in the future.
Opinions from the Other Opinionated Gamers
W.Eric Martin wishes we could game together more often so he could try some fun small-scale stuff more often ;)
Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!:
I like it: Lorna
Not for me: