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Subject: Station Master Review - Train not in vain rss

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Eric Dodd
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Limited Access - Wellycon XI - Back 5th June 2018
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Games Review
Game: Station Master
Published by: Mayfair Games
Designed by: Chris Bayliss

Summary and Theme:


Station Master is a card game for 2-6 players. The players are rival station-masters, competing to send off the most passengers on the most valuable trains. Games take about 30-45 minutes, depending on speed of play and maths ability.

Components:

- Train cards, numbered from 3-8 with standard, executive and freight trains
- Carriages cards – green passenger cards, red stock cards and some specials
- Chips in each of 6 colours, with values of 1 to 3
- Rules – 4 pages of A5 sized rules

The cards are nicely illustrated in a photo-realistic style, and well colour-coded with green carriages for passengers and red for freight. The trains seem to be real historic ones, but there are no names or details shown on the cards. The chips are less impressive being thin poker style chips. The numbers look like they were scrawled on with a gold-coloured pen, and are actually hard to read, even though they only go up to 3! The rules are only black and white photocopied sheets – colour would have been much more useful. For the price in New Zealand ($40), the quality of the components is not good enough.

Objective:

The person with the highest score at the end of the game wins. Players score points by having chips of their colour on trains when they leave the station. The game ends when the last train leaves the station.

Rules:

The game starts by dealing 3 carriage cards to each player. 5 train cards are placed in the centre of the table. Each player takes it in turn to play, and may do one of two things - Play a carriage card beside a train, or Add a chip to a train. If a card is played, a replacement is then drawn from the deck. Once a train is filled to the maximum number of carriages, it “leaves the station” and scores for the chips on it.

Passenger cars (green) score positive points for normal or executive trains but negative for freight trains, stock cars (red) score positive points for freight trains but negative for the other kinds. VIP cars score big positive points for Executive trains, but negative points for all other trains. Mixed in with the passenger cards are a few special cards including those that: allow the player to add an extra train; move the two rear carriages to another train; shuffle passengers between trains and send off a train early.

Trains score by add the positive and negative values for all carriages, then multiplying by the value of the chips for each player.
e.g. A 4 value passenger train is completed. There are three passenger carriages of value +3, +4 and +2, and one stock car of –3. This gives a value of +6, to be multiplied by the chip values for each player on the train.

Gameplay:

In your turn you are attempting to maximise the value of trains that your chips are on and finish those trains before another player can add a chip or a negative carriage, Alternatively you can try to lower the value of trains that other players have their chips, on by playing ill matching carriages. The special cards can be used judiciously to change a train from good to bad, or otherwise upset the balance of the cards on the table.

Because you can only make one play in a turn, you need to work out whether a train will pull out of the station without you if you don’t put a chip on it now, or if it’s better to finish a train before someone else gets on it or devalues it. As you only have one 3-value chip, you need to score that and the two 2-value chips as often as possible to maximise your points. More experienced gamers will enjoy a bluffing element, where you can fool your opponents into attacking the trains with your chips on (which are only value 1), while keeping the high value chips for last minute play.

Kobra1’s review suggests changes which might improve this game for more experienced gamers, but I’d try it with the standard rules first as they are by no means broken.

Conclusion:

I quite liked this game, though it is by no means a major release. The train theme is nicely carried through with the card illustrations, though the chips and rules are of disappointing quality. There is a good opportunity to interfere with other players’ plans, though you always have to trade off between advancing your position (and possibly helping someone else at the same time) and reducing another player’s position.

In addition, the maths required to work out the scores is a good workout for interested kids, so this game gets a good score as a family game. Play is fast so there is little downtime. I can’t honestly recommend it as a purchase at the price for the quality of components, however. Final score: 6.5

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bruno faidutti
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I really like this game,and rate it much higher. It's a pity it has been so overlooked. It's a light, nasty and cleverly themed bluffing and tactical card game.
If you like some of my card games, like Citadels, Corruption or Dragon's Gold, I'm confident you will like Station Master as well.
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