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Subject: Trains: a review of my 45th ranked game rss

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Mike Amos
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This post is part of a series to review every game that I placed in my top 50 games of 2013.

At the time of my initial ranking I had played trains and didn't have a super favorable view of the game. I hesitated to add it to the list because I only had one play under my belt but went ahead. I got some more plays in the interim and I'm pretty sure it will have moved by the next time I do a ranking.

Trains is a deckbuilder that follows the tradition of Dominion very directly.A player begins with ten cards, seven of which are one-money. The player draws five cards and plays them, taking advantage of actions and the opportunity to buy. Purchased cards and all cards drawn go in the discard and play continues.

Trains separates itself from Dominion in gameplay in a few ways. First there is no one buy, one action limitation like in Dominion, instead a player completes as many as desired. Second, waste cards are a core part of gameplay. Almost anything a player does that isn't a buy will cause her to draw a card with no value and place it in her discard pile. Finally, and possibly most important, this game comes with a board that is a rough map of part of Japan. Many of the action cards allow you to build train tracks and train stations which can net points for you at the end of the game.

Unfortunately for Trains, for many people Trains doesn't separate itself far enough from Dominion. Many of the cards are a one for one lift from Dominion, I find myself calling the money Copper, Silver and Gold because their cost and value are exactly the same. Some of the action cards also feel like direct lifts. To make matters a little worse, the intro setup really accentuates the similarities more than the differences. At the time of ranking, I found myself firmly in this camp. It was far too Dominion to be its own thing.

As I mentioned, I've had a few more plays since then and my view has changed. I've had the opportunity to see that managing your waste cards does add a new dimension to the game. The action cards give you lots to tools to either get rid of these or sometimes use them to your advantage. I've also seen a couple different strategies played and see that there are several new strategies that the toolkit offered by Trains brings.

I don't think that Trains is a must own game but it is a should play game. If you don't like Dominion, you probably won't care for Trains. If you like Dominion and want something that is just a little bit different, this is a very good choice.
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Wolfram Troeder
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Bruchkoebel
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Boardgaming is not a matter of life or death...
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Trains is Dominion with a board. If you love Dominion that means it's Dominionwith a board. If you don't that's Dominionwith a board.
If you play it like Dominion and ignore the board, you will loose. On the board is the player interaction Dominion lacks, on the board are the other winning schemes that Dominion lack.

For me Trains fired not Dominion, it revived my interest in deckbuilding games that Dominion killed.
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David Harding
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Wolfram wrote:
Trains is Dominion with a board. If you love Dominion that means it's Dominionwith a board. If you don't that's Dominionwith a board.
If you play it like Dominion and ignore the board, you will loose. On the board is the player interaction Dominion lacks, on the board are the other winning schemes that Dominion lack.

For me Trains fired not Dominion, it revived my interest in deckbuilding games that Dominion killed.

100x yes! Totally agree!
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Joel Berg von Linde
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when are we getting an expansion for Yedo?
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amosmj wrote:
If you don't like Dominion, you probably won't care for Trains. .

I would disagree with this assesment. It fixes some of the problems with Dominion (1 action, 1 buy) and gives it some focus it severely needed (the board)
Now we just need some more advanced cards in the forthcomming expansion
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MeepleofaMan
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Wolfram wrote:
If you play it like Dominion and ignore the board, you will loose.
I was impressed when I was able to win a game with the board only. No (or maybe one lowest value) VP cards purchased. That was my strategy and it won out against 3 other players.
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Russell Howell                (What's Right?) (What's Wrong?)        
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I appreciate your review, and commend you on taking the time to play the game additional times after your initial negative experience to properly evaluate it for your self.

The impression that I personally received from the game is quite the opposite of yours, one of enjoyment and preference. I am writing this just as an alternate point of view as I do not like Dominion and will go out of my way to avoid playing it, but consider Trains one of my top 10 games.

Many of the points of comparison that you make between Dominion and Trains can be true in the eyes of the readers of your review, but I am hoping that others reading this will not disregard the possibility of playing Trains due to their previous experiences with Dominion based on these comparisons alone.

Thank you again for your time and keep of the good work of informing others about your experiences and opinions.
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Bill Eldard
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huffa2 wrote:
Wolfram wrote:
Trains is Dominion with a board. If you love Dominion that means it's Dominionwith a board. If you don't that's Dominionwith a board.
If you play it like Dominion and ignore the board, you will loose. On the board is the player interaction Dominion lacks, on the board are the other winning schemes that Dominion lack.

It depends on the available Randomized Cards. On more than one occasion, I have seen players win by buying up the all the Skyscraper cards and were well into the Tower cards when the game ended.

The cards to watch out for are Control Room and Wagon Factory. If you see a player start out (a) buying Express Train and Wagon Factory cards while (b) not laying rail on the board, watch out! As soon as the player starts adding Control Room (Draw 3 cards) cards, he/she will have a deck with (1) tremendous buying power and (2) very little Waste. In fact, the only Waste cards that are acquired a the result of purchasing Skyscraper and Tower cards, and those cards aren't bought until the purchasing engine deck has been built. Even the Waste cards may be purged if Freight Train is available. Ignore the Lay Rail and Station Expansion cards while building up purchasing power.

I witnessed one player buy ALL of the Control Room cards; it's not hard once you've got a hand full of Express Train and Limited Express Train cards and no Waste cards. Once you get this strategy going, your purchasing power explodes. I saw one player using the strategy hold anywhere from 15 to 22 buying points in their hand at a time.

This strategy will also accelerate the game end by depleting the Express Train and Limited Express Train decks, as well as the Skyscraper and Tower decks. If the Control Room deck is depleted, you won't even get to the depletion of the Tower deck.

Does this mean the game is broken? Not at all. All players have knowledge of the available Randomized Cards at the start of the game, so they can compete with the aforementioned strategy by not allowing one player to buy all the Control Room cards. Concentrate on building purchasing power a bit before laying a lot of rail.

With the cards mentioned, the player develops a relatively thin deck with a lot of purchasing power,

huffa2 wrote:
Wolfram wrote:
For me Trains fired not Dominion, it revived my interest in deckbuilding games that Dominion killed.

100x yes! Totally agree!

I greatly prefer Trains over Dominion.

I would say that devoted Dominion players may or may not warm up to Trains; I've seen a mixed reaction.

But when we've introduced Trains to gamers who've stopped playing Dominion for one reason or another, it's been almost universally welcomed, and several gamers have purchased their own copies. The reason most commonly offered is that in Trains, players can't attack each other's decks; all the interaction is on the board, and that has to do not with denying players access to spaces, but elevating the costs of laying rail.
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Bill Eldard
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joelpetersen wrote:
amosmj wrote:
If you don't like Dominion, you probably won't care for Trains. .

I would disagree with this assesment. It fixes some of the problems with Dominion (1 action, 1 buy) and gives it some focus it severely needed (the board)
Now we just need some more advanced cards in the forthcomming expansion

I agree with you, Joel. In fact, I've introduced Trains to gamers who've never even heard of Dominion, and they love it.

As for expansions, I think the deck-building/board development combination lends itself well to the addition of a pick-up-and-deliver system. For example, a card could be added that earns a point (up to 3) for each city to which a nominal freight is delivered. Play the card along with a train card to 'connect' that many non-adjacent cites where the player has cubes. So, the 'Deliver Freight' card played with a Local Train card would score one point if the player had cubes in two non-adjacent cities. A 'Deliver Freight' card played with Limited Express Train card could score up to 3 points.
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Joel Berg von Linde
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when are we getting an expansion for Yedo?
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Yes, it would definetly improve the game if it included some cards that would benefit from feedback from what happens on the board.
 
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