- Designer: Przemek Wojtkowiak
- Publisher: Board & Dice
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 30 mins
- Age: 12+
- Times played: two mock games (can’t get a group together due to Coronavirus restrictions!)
Traintopia was an upcoming summer release that I was looking forward to – I am a sucker for tile-laying games, and usually a train theme is also enough to make me want to try a game… Put them together, and it’s an irresistible siren call. Given everything that has been going on, Board & Dice has decided to fast forward the launch of their game, now slated for an early May release. Depending on where you happen to be, you may or may not be able to host a game session now – for example, I cannot – but Traintopia is now near the top of the stack of games awaiting our next meeting. The game has a nice mix of drafting and tile-laying.
On the table, there are ten bonus tiles which are placed face up for all to see. A cloth bag is filled with gray, yellow and green commuters. The rest of the wooden bits are placed to the side (white tourists, black trains, and blue mailbags); they will eventually be placed on the round setup cards – a deck of 8 or 9 of these will be created based on player count. The 50 map tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a supply.
Each player gets a random start tile (all slightly different) as well as two map tiles drafted in a snake fashion. These three tiles will be placed on the table by each player at the end of setup. A random objective card is also dealt to each player.
The game will be played over a number of rounds (determined by player count). At the start of each round, a Round setup card is revealed, and the four spaces on the card are filled in with the wooden bits pictured on them – white tourists, black trains, blue mailbags or a random gray/yellow/green commuter from the bag. The bottom of the card also tells you how many tiles are to be revealed face up on the table based on the player count.
Players now draft tiles or wooden bits from the offer, going clockwise around the table. This goes on until there is only one thing left; this thing is discarded along with the card – thus signifying the end of the phase – then all the drafted things are put into play. The game continues until all the Round Setup cards have been used.
If you draft a tile, you will put it into play in the next phase. The tile is broken up into a 2×2 grid of smaller squares which may contain colored (Grey/yellow/green/wild) districts or tourist attractions or money icons or train terminals. Each time you place a tile with money icon(s), cover each icon with a money chit from the supply. Any time you add a tile, it must be placed so that at least one half of a side is orthogonally adjacent to a previously placed tile. The different landscapes do not have to match, but there are a few restrictions on the train tracks. You may not create a dead end to your track; track must either end at a terminal or continue off the tile edge into space where it can be continued. You may also not form a closed loop with your track. It is not necessary for your track to be closed (that is, having a station at each end), though it will be beneficial for your scoring to close them. If you manage to connect two separate track lines, this is allowed, but you must discard any extra wooden bits from the newly joined line – so that there is only one of each thing on the line.
If you draft a commuter, it is placed on track on one of your tiles. Each track line can only ever have one commuter of each color. The commuter scores when only when placed, and it scores 1VP per matching color district (or wild district) that is found along the path of said track. You have the option of spending (discarding) a money chit from one of your tiles to score the commuter as if it were a different color.
If you draft a tourist, it is placed on a track – which is also limited to one tourist total – and then you score for any tourist attractions which are orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to that train line. The tourist attractions can be worth 1VP, 2VP or 3VP each.
If you draft a mailbag or a train, they are placed on a train line this turn,, but they will not score until the end of the game.
At any point during your turn, you can also spend a money chit to either draft one of the available bonus tiles and place it immediately or to draw a new objective card (choosing one to keep and one to place back on the bottom of the objective card deck).
The game continues until all of the round cards are used. There is a final bonus card which is first resolved. There are four things on this card, and they are drafted in order from fewest to most points at that moment. The better player amongst tied players is the one closer to the starting player. There is a mailbag and a train on there; there is also a railhead which is a special station that can be placed anywhere on your tiles and a railway inspector (the purple guy) which can be placed on any train line and scores any one of the three colors on that track.
There is then a round of final scoring.
Each player first assesses the number of completed tracks. That is, tracks which have a terminal on both ends. Based on a chart in the rules, score anywhere from 2 to 10VP per completed track – depending on the length of the track and whether the colors of the terminals match or not. If you have a mailbag, the score for that particular track is doubled.
Now score trains. Look at each track which has a black train on it; count up all the money tokens on your network that are adjacent to a track with a train; score between 0 and 10VP for this.
Finally, according to the rules, score for the longest track – it does not have to be a finished track – with players getting between 6 and 0 for their longest track. If there is a tie for track length, ties are broken by being closer to the start player.
And then, while the rules don’t actually say anything about the objective cards, internet sources tell me that people would score the objective cards now. This is one of the weird rulebook issues; the other is that the game name is actually misspelled once as well!
The player with the most points is the winner. Ties are broken in favor of being closest to the starting player in turn order.
Thus far, in mock 3p and 4p games, this has looked to have some interesting choices. The rules are easy to grasp, and the action choices are easy to parse. The drafting looks to be easy enough, and the way the game is set up will give you plenty of choices for both short and long term scoring. At first, it is easy to simply draft the tiles that you know will help yourself. I think, with experience, you’ll be able to also consider options that not only benefit yourself but also take away significant scoring opportunities from those later than you in turn order.
Near the end of the game, watching to see what options are unavailable to your opponents (i.e. which commuters they already have, etc) will become important, though it is likely that they will also have money chits available to virtually change the color by then as well.
There is also an interesting balance between short and long term plays. The one thing that I like about games such as this is the fact that no one can mess with my tiles. If I choose to take a train early in the game and plunk it down on a train line – while I know that others can try to draft tiles in front of me to deny me the tiles, they cannot do anything to sabotage what I have played or will play to my area.
The artwork and overall graphic design is nice with a few exceptions. I would have liked the green neighborhoods to be a different color. From afar, they too easily blend in with the green grass of the empty regions, and there seem to be enough other color options available to have allowed for a third neighborhood color that didn’t match the background. Also, though it seems like a little thing, having a faint grid line dividing each tile into the 2×2 grid would have made it easier for my bad eyes to see what was adjacent on areas across the table. Otherwise, the little wooden figures are nicely turned, and the iconography on the components are easy to understand. I have already made mention of a few quirks in the rulebook.
Traintopia looks like it will be a great entry to mid-level drafting game. Of course, it is so hard to say until I get a chance to actually play it against other people; but it will be high on the list of games to hit the table when we’re able to meet again!
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Dan Blum (1 actual play):I enjoyed the game well enough; I generally like tile-placement games and this one does a pretty good job of being interesting without being Carcassonne-esque. I had a few more problems with the graphics than Dale did – the different colored regions should really be clearer, and the tourist attractions should stand out more. More importantly, I am also not convinced that the train scoring is worth thinking about – you can get at most 10 points this way, which is a reasonable amount, but I suspect that in most games you can get considerably more by spending a few money tokens. If you happen to get enough money that you can spend a few and still have four, great, but otherwise it seems like a poor deal, especially since to score any points you have to take an otherwise-useless train.
However, this is only a suspicion, and I’d certainly play the game again to see if it is actually a problem.
Steph Hodge (1 actual play): Enjoyable game. I love drafting, so that worked for me. I feel like there might not be enough to keep me interested in many plays, but I would certainly play again.
Alan How (1 actual play): I really like the play I had. Unlike Dan I didn’t have any problems with the graphics but I’d agree that the train scoring seems more limited than the options to spend the money. I realised partway through the game that they weren’t enough of the right shape tiles to fit my network so it was certainly less than ideally created. But I think that is true of many tile placement games and I’m looking forward to playing this with more people when it’s possible to do so. I note that there is a promo tile which I suspect is produced in another of the company’s games in accordance with their enticement to buy more games and get more additions to existing ones. I’m quite happy with this approach.
It would not surprise me if there was an expansion to this as it would seem easy to create more tiles with more variation to stimulate replayability.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor