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Trans America is a light, gateway game in the theme of the train game. The game is so simple and easy to play, but allows for some deeper decisions. The game can be a little tricky in out thinking your opponents.
Trans America is more of a filler than a main event game. Rather than a traditional train game that is more route building, pick and deliver, economics, this game focuses on connecting cities only. After playing a round, you score, wipe the board clean, and do it all again.
It plays more like a light filler than a train game in a lot respects. It is one of those games you look at and think you won't like it, then a couple of plays later your night has evaporated.
Simple to play and entertains. That is much desired for many players.
The bits in the box are pretty good especially for a filler. You get a very colorful, pleasant board. The board has good art and very easy on the eyes. The board is very functional.
The bits are all wooden and have the highest quality. The cards are the smaller ones, but the game itself is small so it works. The cards go for more functional than for big art. I am thankful of this. The cards do include a picture of the country to show where the route should be laid.
The rule book is just a single piece of paper. It is full color with pictures and great examples. The rules are simple and easy to learn. After a single play, we really didn't have any questions or any problems. Top notch; way to keep it simple.
Flow of the Game:
To start the game, each player draws 5 cards and this is the 5 cities they will try to build tracks to. If they accomplish this goal, then they win the round. For the players that do not meet this goal, you lose a single point for each single line missing and 2 points for each double line. So in this game, you are trying to not lose points.
Next, each player puts his start marker on the board. On a turn, a player may either:
1. lay 1 or 2 tracks on a single line
2. lay 1 track on a double line
Any track laid must be connected to the player's start marker. You must always play at least one track.
The round ends when someone connects to their 5 cities. Then you score for the round.
The board is cleared and another round is played. The game ends when someone passes the barrier and loses too many points. Most points win.
The expansion vexation adds a lot to the game. It is very simple to learn the expansion and the base game at the same time.
Each player is given three colored tracks that only they may use. The can be used to block other players. No more than two colored tracks may be at the same juncture.
Should I buy this game?:
Yes, this game can have a good spot in your collection. It can also be used as an entry point for train games. Sure, most think of Ticket to Ride as the gateway game for trains, but Trans America is even easier to play.
This is a simple game with deep decisions. It is a game you can teach in minutes.
I agree with your conclusion and analysis.
I'll also add that it supports up to 6 players AND is actually best with the higher player counts (in my opinion). I guess that last may be a plus for some groups and a minus for others but I think it's nice as it is harder to find good quick games for 5-6 than 3-4.