Over the last 2 years, the gaming industry has seen a boom in large box games, some with multiple trays of miniatures, others with hundreds or even a thousand plus cards. But let’s not forget about the small-box games, the Hero Realms, Tiny Epic Everything, and Exploding Kittens alerts that pop up in our twitter and Facebook feeds on a regular basis.
Today, I want to introduce you to a game that you have likely overlooked.. Game of Trains.
A VERY Brief Overview
Game of Trains is a very straightforward game for 2-4 players that (realistically) should last about 15-30 minutes. The story for this game is nonexistent, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, as the game doesn’t really need anything more than the basic train theme to give reason for the cards all lining up and connecting to each other. This could probably have been done with city buses or segments of a long insect, however, the train theme and artwork are probably the most efficient (and least disturbing) imagery to convey a connecting and shifting chain of cards.
In any case, players are given a train engine card and 7 cards depicting differently numbered railcars. They arrange the numbered cards in DESCENDING order with the highest number next to the engine and the lowest at the back of the train. In the center of the table, you’ll find a face-down deck of cards and a varying number of face-up cards.
Players take turns attempting to rearrange the cards of their train from Descending to Ascending order by performing one of two actions on their turn. One option involves drawing a random face-down card and replacing any of your train-cars with the new one and discarding the old card to the pool of face-up cards. The other option is to utilize the icons at the top of the cards in the face-up tableau, which can have a myriad of effects, such as: Swap two cards in your train, move one card 2 spaces to the left or right, replace all players’ first/middle/last card with a random one from the face-down pile, or protect one car in your own train from other players’ actions.
The first player to successfully reorder their train wins the game.
Much like its premise, this is one of those games that only take a few minutes for a new player to jump into and they can get up to speed rather fast. I find the most confusing thing for a new player is simply getting used to the idea that you can only use the ability on a card if you picked it up from the face-up stock of cards.
While the gameplay is easy to grasp, you will still have a few considerations to make when you decide to draw or use an ability, as well as which cards to replace. There isn’t much of a “take that!” feel to this game, but you can still use your turns to limit the options of other players or to slow down someone who may be closing in on the win. The cards which destroy everyone’s first, middle, or last car and replaces them with random cards drawn from the deck can certainly throw a wrench in carefully laid plans.
Of course, you could always limit another player’s options by controlling which abilities are available to them… You see, if at any time there are two cards with the same ability icon in the face-up pool, you discard both of them, preventing another player from being able to use that ability. So, not only do you need to think about how each of your cars needs to move, if you discard something, make sure it isn’t helpful to the other players or that it removes another player’s advantage.
Again, this small box game has little in the way of components or other fluff: inside you’ll find rules sheets for 6 languages and two stacks of cards. That’s it. (And that’s all you need to enjoy this game.) I do want to note that, while each card’s artwork follows a standard format: Ability Icon on top, Cloud in the shape of a number, and artwork for the train car itself—the designers/artist definitely seemed to have fun with all the easter eggs you’ll find in the artwork. It is definitely been a topic of conversation in more than one of our gaming sessions.
By now, I’m sure you’ve gotten the idea that Game of Trains is pretty light on the rulebook. In fact, it’s just a rules sheet, but that’s all you need. Also, because of the reliance on iconography and numbers, there isn’t really any language barrier… as long as you can explain how to play to someone, they can pick it up. There are no words on any card that impact the game, so go, teach it to your friends, and have fun! That being said, what is written on the rule sheet (in 6 languages, no less) is pretty easy to understand. Overall, they have done a great job keeping things simple and very clear as to what each card is and you can almost figure out how the abilities work simply by looking at the icons (virtually eliminating any bar of entry for new players.)
When I initially opened this one up to check it out, I wasn’t sure how often it would make it to the table, since we tend to like having a light game or two on game night, but they never really last very long in rotation. I was pleasantly surprised at how excited my group was about this one after the first game, how it was actually requested that I bring Game of Trains with me most nights and that it even ended up taking over time we had reserved for larger games because we just kept wanting to play “one more time.”