Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist: Ryo Nyamo
Publisher: OKAZU Brand
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Times Played: 7 with a purchased copy
There’s nothing new going on in Across the United States.
It’s not a game that you can point at and say it does this new thing. It has this twist.
Have you heard about that new train game, but where the other thing happens?
It’s like X, but with Y.
And I love it.
It’s like infrastructure maintenance for board games, and I’m here for it.
Across the United States is a train game.
A classic category. And it has stock holding.
It uses a favorite mechanism of mine: limited shared-use components.
That dates back to Civilization.
But is also a train game trope.
The actions in the game center around a deck of cards for 6 train companies.
You’ll have 4 in your hand.
Pick one, play it.
Extend that company’s route.
Start a new line from HQ.
You’ve earned the actions at both ends of the link:
Take some gold. A ticket.
Add a cube. Build a depot for cows, apples, sacks, rocks, or gold.
Buy a share.
But also free shares.
You played one card, now your hand is three.
Place one of those as a share in front of you.
(‘Place’, not buy.)
(That’s one component. Extend the route or expand your portfolio.)
Draw two cards and you’re at 4 for next turn.
Keep it rolling until the stock of stock is exhausted.
Points come from passenger tickets.
Birmingham to San Francisco. You’ve done that before.
From freight tickets.
2 Apples is 6 Points. You’ve done that before.
From stock holdings.
Most shares in a company earns the company’s stock value in points.
Half for second.
Half again for third.
You’ve done this before.
From the back of gold tokens. You’ve done that before.
The first draft of this, when it was mostly just a few notes jotted down, began with the line: Woo comfort food.
I think for me that means warm pasta. The carbs and the tomato sauce.
Or a nice pesto.
I can speak extensively to the pastry offerings of local bakeries and coffee shops within a certain radius of my house, office, and commute.
Who gets what from where. When are certain things delivered.
I’m pretty good with ice cream too.
I know a great off-menu dish to order at the local Chinese joint.
But I don’t think those are the right connotation.
They might be delicious or indulgent, but not ‘comfort’ing. I think you reserve that for the food that wraps you in a warm blanket.
With a sense of nostalgia. Of familiarity.
Those aren’t bad things.
Even the title brings you there:
Across the United States/Across the Universe.
Ticket to Ride/Ticket to Ride.
The fortyfive locations are randomized each game.
But in a way that feels different.
Where will the companies start.
(Have you played a West to East train game?)
Where is the wild stock space.
How are the hammer spaces distributed.
Where are the money locations.
Are there incentives to go to Miami?
(My passengers lust for the beach.)
How accessible are the cows?
The setup matters because there are enough strategies available.
Depots. (The game calls them Cities.)
A balance of column A and column B.
Sprinkles from Column C.
It knows when to go home.
The length is perfecto.
You can play it twice in a night.
Remember when Augustus was so expansion-ready that the cards came with those extra symbols on them.
Then the expansion never came.
I want to toast to solid games.
That are finished.
That are self-contained.
That are satisfying.
It’s a game you can get lost in enjoying.
I forget about snacks. About music.
It’s not microturns and it’s not embedded sub-turns.
It’s Goldilocks turns.
Choosing from the lemons in your hand.
The see-saw of company growth and stock ownership.
How many pages are left in the narrative of this game.
Where’s your inflection point. When’s the dénouement
These are standard victory points.
These are usual choices.
Standard and usual isn’t necessarily boring. It’s also comfortable.
Come December, how about a non-innovative game award.
I want to toast to solid games.
That wrap you in a blanket and keep you warm.
That set aim on a target and hit it.
That fill you with warm pasta.
You picked another game for tonight, but after a turn, maybe two, you’re thinking of AtUS.
Structurally sound bridges.
(Even if they are to “Cinsinnati”.)
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
(How to play)
Play a railroad card
Place cube, take action, buy stock
Stock worth cubes on board
(My thoughts on game)
Constrained choice, tight game
Many options to score points
Shrewd play rewarded.
Joe Huber (1 play): (Sorry, not up for more than prose today.) I had high hopes for Across the United States; Hayashi is among my favorite designers, and I enjoy many train games. But this game fell flat for me. The random setup, while providing variety, nearly guarantees that the setup is ahistoric – which takes a lot away from the game for me. But I was still doing OK, until it became apparent that the card draw limits your choices by far too much for the game to really be a fit for me.
Lorna (6 plays): Fun game with good variability. I like the choices. Plays fast and easy to teach.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! James Nathan, Lorna
I like it. Dale Y
Not for me… Joe H.