My wife and I have very specific requirements for games. An ideal game:
1. Plays in under an hour.
2. Plays well with 2 players and easily expands to more.
3. Doesn't cost a fortune.
4. Is fun!
Yes, I've got some longer-playing games, like A&A, Risk, and Runebound. Hell, I've even played Supremacy - all the way to the end. Priorities change when you have kids, and when you have to balance sleep vs. gaming vs. everything else, something has to give.
Anyway, on to my review of TtR:E.
I ordered TtR:E from my local gaming store on Oct 9. It was out of stock because apparently it is quite popular. I wanted it for the long weekend. Michael, the proprietor, told me that he always tells people to buy Markham or Europe, not the original. "We have one copy of the original in case people really want to buy it."
I played the original a few years ago. It was a good time. We have an unlucky but wealthy friend who buys new games frequently in the hopes that he will eventually find one he can win at. It was before the free crazy train expansion was included, so it was long ago.
Anyway, I picked up the order last night on my way home. After the kids were in bed, my wife and I sat down to the game. I told her that I'd punch out all the parts if she finished putting the baby to bed and put on a pot of tea.
Initial Setup: 10/10
There was no punching to be done. All the components are sorted into baggies and are ready to play. The only prepwork is:
1. Open the box.
2. Open plastic wrap from 3 decks of cards.
I like that. I have purchased other games where the manufacturer expects you to either purchase a series of dividers or compartments (I'm looking at you, Risk 2210), or where you have to spend an hour cutting out the parts (I'm looking at you, Axis and Allies!).
First Impression: 11/10
My first impression was good. The organization inside the box was great. Full points to the manufacturer for realizing that yes, we will be putting the game back in the box, so yes, please make it easy to do so. They also get bonus points for including extra trains in the box. If one goes missing, you won't have to replace it with a LEGO or something. (There are 3 spares for each colour.) Somebody on the design team has kids.
There are five colours of trains and stations, five point markers (wood for some reason when the rest of the box is plastic. It seems a little incongruous.) There was a little confusion when I wondered what the heck the little bag with the various train colours was all about. If they'd put a sticker on it that said, "SPARES", that would be perfect.
The colours were a little different than what I would expect. Red has a slight pink tone to it, and blue has a dash of aqua. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's weird that the colours are a little off.
There are also a few decks of cards. There's a train deck, a destination deck, a long destination deck, and two extra bonus cards.
There's also a nice board. It has an older style to it, and I'd like to say hello to Constantinople. It's been a long time since we've seen you on a map. The overall feel gives an old-world feel, and you can almost smell the coal burning. We're not talking about mag-lev trains here. (Although that might be a cool new version...) The only problem is that it's a little hard to play it upside down.
The rules don't get much simpler. To start, each player is dealt one long destination card and three short ones. They can then discard one of them. Each player also gets to start with 4 train cards. On your turn, you can draw cards, build a rail route, draw destination cards, or place a station.
To draw cards, you can select from one of the five face-up cards or draw from the top of the deck. There are wildcards called locomotives. You can draw two cards from the facedown pile or two cards from the faceup selection. If you draw from the faceup pile, you replenish that card from the facedown pile. If you chose a locomotive, you don't get a second card. You can't select a locomotive as your second card. If three locomotives are in the faceup selection, you shuffle.
The whole point of the game is to complete railway routes. To do so, you have to have a set of cards in your hand. If you want to fill out a route that is 4 sections long, then you must have 4 matching cards. If you can't quite get a set, you can fill it in with locomotives. Some routes require specific colours, and those are marked on the board. When you complete routes, you get points (From 1 to 21, depending on how long the route is.)
There are ferries, which require one or more locomotives as one of the cards in the set. There are also tunnels, which are of some unknown length. To fill in a tunnel, you have to have at least as many matching cards as there are squares on the tunnel on the board. You then declare the tunnel and colour and flip over the top three cards from the facedown pile. You have to pay the cost of the tunnel on the board, plus the number of just-flipped cards that match the colour you declared. (Locomotives always match.) So, the short 2-train tunnel you were hoping for to complete a long route might cost you 5 card instead.
Destinations are worth points at the end of the game. If you complete the route, you get the points added to your score. If you fail, then you subtract those points. Don't get greedy or you'll lose points.
If you get blocked off by an opponent, you may place a train station. That will allow you to use one of their routes as a continuation of your route.
The game ends when one player gets down to 2 or less trains left in their pile. At that point, everyone gets one more turn. (Including the player who just ran out of trains.) Afterwards, everyone tallies their scores and a winner is declared.
We immediately played a second game after the first. It is obvious that it would get boring without other games to fill in, but it's certainly one that I'm happy to have purchased and am glad to own.
I'm sure there are strategies for winning this game, but it comes down to luck and practice. Will your cards come up, and are you willing to cut off your opponents? Will you cut off the board just to foil the "longest train" bonus?
This game is a nice, light, parent-friendly game. It's got about the same level of complexity as Settlers. It would certainly be friendly to people who hate board games.
It's fun. If you're wondering about buying it, stop wondering and go buy it. You will enjoy yourself.
I give this game 9/10, and it's prompted me to give my first rating.
Before terraforming Mars, Surviving Mars is required: Paradox Interactive; Steam.
Please contact me about board gaming in Orange County.
I agree that there's more strategy than it seems.
First-time setup isn't quite so easy: You need to count out forty-five trains in each color. Usually, each color has extras. But if you put them aside in the box, then you don't have to count again.
If you think rules can't be simpler, try the Trans America and Trans Europa train games.
Good review. If you think the above paragraph is true, go play it on daysofwonder.com and you'll learn differently.
Thank you. This was my first review.
I am sure there's lots of strategy for the game; I'm just not aware of it yet.