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Subject: A Couple's Review rss

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Matthew Cordeiro
United States
Cumberland
Rhode Island
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This review series is a joint effort between my wife and me and will incorporate both of our opinions. Please see this geeklist for more reviews in this series.

TransAmerica is a light train game in which players take turns connecting five cities across the United States by placing one or two tracks at a time. At first, you can only expand your own rail network. Eventually, you’ll connect your network to another player’s network, and now you can build off each other. This is where the strategy comes in. You want to connect to other players. You can’t win this game by laying tracks in isolation. In fact, other players can connect to your network, even if you don’t want them to. With that in mind, you have to determine the best place to start laying tracks so that you benefit yourself without helping others too much. At the same time, you want other players to do some of the work for you by building out networks near your cities. So, yes, there’s strategy, but it’s not very heavy.

The light strategy aspect was one of the main reasons TransAmerica found its way into my collection. There are plenty of train games out there, and just about all of them are more complicated than TransAmerica. I was looking for a game that wasn’t heavy so that I could play with my main gaming group, along with non-gamers. TransAmerica fits the bill perfectly. We’ve played with everyone in our regular gaming group as well as people who don’t play games at all. This will also be one of the first games we play with our son in a couple of years. It’s simple enough for a young child but entertaining enough for adults.

TransAmerica plays well with two to six players, which is another reason I acquired it. We often play games with four or more people, so adding another game to the collection that can handle a group of this size was a no-brainer. It’s a bit more strategic with two, and you’re left to your own devices for the most part. With larger groups, a lot of tracks are placed in between your turns, and the game turns more tactical. A five or six-player game is truly about leveraging others’ networks and connecting quickly. With larger groups, you have a bit more downtime in between turns, but the game itself doesn't take much longer.

My wife doesn’t like games with aggressive play. In fact, I traded away a more aggressive game to get TransAmerica. In the standard game, you can’t screw over other players. Just the opposite is true. The more tracks you place, the more you help other players. With the Vexation expansion, which now comes with the game for free, you have the ability to stick it to your opponents a bit. Really, you’re just making their job more difficult but not attacking them or even singling out anyone.

TransAmerica uses a backwards scoring track. The further away you are from connecting your five cities when the round ends, the more spaces you move on the scoring track. Once someone reaches the end of the scoring track, the game ends. The player closest to the start of the scoring track is the winner. I like that finishing in second or third still counts for something. If you’re close to finishing your network when the round ends, you’re still in the game. In fact, you could even win the game without ever winning a round.

TransAmerica fills the train void in my collection just fine. I don’t need anything heavier. We’ve played the wildly popular Ticket to Ride, but I still prefer TransAmerica. My wife is more critical of its lack of depth and finds it to be a bit too simplistic. On the contrary, I find its ease of play to be a selling point. You could even make the case that it’s a great gateway game for that very reason. It’s not one of my all-time favorite games, but it does its job well. We don’t play that often because there are many other games that my wife would rather play. Still, under the right circumstances, it’ll make its way to the table a few times a year.
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Andy Andersen
United States
Ada
Michigan
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Good review, Matthew. I am a bit concerned about the lack of complexity, but my wife likes it. Who am I to disagree?

Thanks.
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Miguel
France
Caen
(from Valencia, Spain)
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I think the Vexation expansion makes it (and/or Trans Europa) the perfect light game for 6. Indeed I have both boards and card decks in the same box (removing the insert), and when we are 6 with casual or non gamers among us, it is THE game I suggest.
 
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