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Subject: What is THE quintessential train game? rss

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Theodore Moffett
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So I am always reading about train games and they sound really fun. I am looking into getting one but having a tough time deciding.

Games like Steam, Age of Steam, and Railways of the World sound awesome but also a little on the long side...

My wife and I (as we are the ones that primarily play, but we have others join us semi-frequently) generally like games that are 45-60 min (Istanbul, Isle of Skye, Karuba, Ra, 7 Wonders Duel, etc).

BUT we can stomach longer games if they are super awesome (Concordia, Troyes, and Stone Age, for example) although 2 hours is probably our limit.

My question is, should we get a shorter length/easier to pick up train game or do we go all in for a longer one cause they are just that awesome? I do really enjoy games that I can sink my teeth into as well! If you don't have an opinion or you think either would work, please give us some suggestions for wonderful train games anyway!

Thank you for taking the time to read and for your suggestions! Have a great day!
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C Bazler
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If you haven't tried Ticket to Ride, you should definitely, without hesitation, get Ticket to Ride.
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Dianne N.
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Actually, go for Ticket to Ride: Europe because it includes a few more mechanics that make the game interesting, but you can play with regular TTR rules at first (ignore the stations and tunnels and just use tunnels as regular train routes). This is the reason we have TTR:E and mostly we play one game with the base TTR rules to introduce people to the game, then step it up. It's super easy to learn and plays fairly quickly, I definitely recommend it.
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Michael Schroeder
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I second Ticket to Ride. However, if its just the two of you, I advise getting one of the 2-3 player maps after you buy the base game. I think Switzerland?

TTR with just two just isn't competitive enough most of the time.
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Stephen Jacobsen
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If you can regularly get others to play (3-5), I'd strongly recommend Chicago Express. It's fast (~60min) and deeply strategic. It can be a mean game, so be aware of that. It's currently on Amazon for a criminally cheap price (less than $20).
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C Bazler
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PerpetualFX wrote:
Actually, go for Ticket to Ride: Europe because it includes a few more mechanics that make the game interesting, but you can play with regular TTR rules at first (ignore the stations and tunnels and just use tunnels as regular train routes). This is the reason we have TTR:E and mostly we play one game with the base TTR rules to introduce people to the game, then step it up. It's super easy to learn and plays fairly quickly, I definitely recommend it.


For me, the stations in TTR:Europe make it too easy with two players: it's a fine game with four, but with two you aren't restricted from building basically anywhere and there's no tension. If the OP is principally playing 2-p games with his wife, I'd stick to the original game or maybe Nordic Countries if they want a more cutthroat map.

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Michael Dillenbeck
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When you ask "What is THE quintessential train game?" then the only answer is something in the 18xx series. However, these will go far beyond the time limit you can stomach, especially during the learning phases.

My favorite series for trains is the Mayfair Empire Builder family of crayon rail games, but even with fast rules those are going to take more time than you want. Also, they are actually pick-up-and-deliver games that do a poor job simulating trains, but I have a lot of fun with my wife optimizing my 3 card hand and drawing my rail as we race to connect major cities and make the target cash amount. Its not for everyone though, but look into the upcoming reprint of Iron Dragon; also, use the speed rules to keep the time down if you do play (trains 25% faster, start with extra cash and an extra initial rail building round) - but at my peak I could get a game of Iron Dragon down in about 1-1.5 hours with 2 players (after over 100 games and playing 2-3 games a night 3-4 nights a week).

Ticket to Ride isn't really about trains - its theme is a bunch of rich people making a bet and seeing who gets the most impressive travels along the train lines.

I guess you could also go really light with Isle of Trains, a short card box game.

I guess it all depends on what you view as a train game and what appeals to you for trains. Simpler might be better, but then again you might just be disappointed.

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Everett
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Ticket to Ride. I really don't like that game, but it is definitely the train game that the most people know.
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Stephen Jacobsen
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Verbosity wrote:
When you ask "What is THE quintessential train game?" then the only answer is something in the 18xx series. However, these will go far beyond the time limit you can stomach, especially during the learning phases.


As a budding 18xx enthusiast, I was tempted to mention it, but they go against everything that the OP was looking for (4-8hrs for most, don't really play well with 2).

So they are longer and super awesome, but maybe even longer than the OP had in mind.

They also have a beastly learning curve, that I haven't even fully surmounted yet after about 35 hours of 18xx game time, and who knows how many hours of reading rules, watching videos, and sifting through forums. They are a labor of love that definitely pay out in full dividends what you put into them.
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C Bazler
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SJacobsen159 wrote:
Verbosity wrote:
When you ask "What is THE quintessential train game?" then the only answer is something in the 18xx series. However, these will go far beyond the time limit you can stomach, especially during the learning phases.


As a budding 18xx enthusiast, I was tempted to mention it, but they go against everything that the OP was looking for (4-8hrs for most, don't really play well with 2).

So they are longer and super awesome, but maybe even longer than the OP had in mind.

They also have a beastly learning curve, that I haven't even fully surmounted yet after about 35 hours of 18xx game time, and who knows how many hours of reading rules, watching videos, and sifting through forums. They are a labor of love that definitely pay out in full dividends what you put into them.


To the OP: DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE WELL-MEANING BUT CRAZY INDIVIDUALS. The only thing more tedious, boring, and interminably long than an 18xx game is an 18xx game with only two players. Stay away!!

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Theodore Moffett
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So I actually have played TtR... I totally forgot to mention it. I guess I thought train games were a bit more involved than Ticket to Ride.
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C Bazler
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moffettt wrote:
So I actually have played TtR... I totally forgot to mention it. I guess I thought train games were a bit more involved than Ticket to Ride.


Well, you're right in that most "real" train games have either a stock system or a heavier economic engine-building mechanic. If you're looking for that, I'd go with Railways of the World, It's still very accessible and not too heavy, but it gives the feeling of a "real" train game and plays well with two.
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Bill Eldard
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moffettt wrote:
My question is, should we get a shorter length/easier to pick up train game or do we go all in for a longer one cause they are just that awesome? I do really enjoy games that I can sink my teeth into as well! If you don't have an opinion or you think either would work, please give us some suggestions for wonderful train games anyway!

What are you looking for in a train game? Connecting locations? Pick-up and deliver? Investing in RR companies?

Based on your time threshold, I would second Empire Builder or one of its sister crayon-rail games. It's laying track, and earning cash through pick-up and delivery of goods, and upgrading locomotives. It plays better with more than 2-players, but 2-player works. We prefer India Rails for 2-players in as much as the board it two-thirds the size of the other games, so it plays quicker. I also like the geometry.
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Stephen Jacobsen
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cbazler wrote:
SJacobsen159 wrote:
Verbosity wrote:
When you ask "What is THE quintessential train game?" then the only answer is something in the 18xx series. However, these will go far beyond the time limit you can stomach, especially during the learning phases.


As a budding 18xx enthusiast, I was tempted to mention it, but they go against everything that the OP was looking for (4-8hrs for most, don't really play well with 2).

So they are longer and super awesome, but maybe even longer than the OP had in mind.

They also have a beastly learning curve, that I haven't even fully surmounted yet after about 35 hours of 18xx game time, and who knows how many hours of reading rules, watching videos, and sifting through forums. They are a labor of love that definitely pay out in full dividends what you put into them.


To the OP: DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE WELL-MEANING BUT CRAZY INDIVIDUALS. The only thing more tedious, boring, and interminably long than an 18xx game is an 18xx game with only two players. Stay away!!



I might very well be crazy, but I did explicitly warn against 18xx right now, especially for 2. And to me, 18xx are the antithesis of tedious and boring, though admittedly long! Rarely have I been so deeply engaged for such a long stretch of time than I have been with an 18xx.
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Richard Irving
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moffettt wrote:
So I actually have played TtR... I totally forgot to mention it. I guess I thought train games were a bit more involved than Ticket to Ride.


Don't listen to these well meaning people who frankly don't know what they are talking about!

First, Ticket to Ride is NOT a train game. It train themed game--none of the play makes any attempt to model railroad building and operation even at a small level. It is a set collecting game with a connection element. That doesn't I don't like Ticket to one my favorites, but it is bit a train game. It is one the best light games to learn and one my favorites!

As for quintessential train game, I don't think one exists as there are at least a half dozen reasonavle candidates and each emphasizes different elements of play: track building, pick up and deliver, stock manipulation, etc.

For three choices:

Mayfair Rails (aka Crayon Rails) series, this includes Empire Builder and Iron Dragon: Essentially build track by drawing your lines directly on an erasable board paying costs as you go with added costs for mountains, rivers, etc. Then you run a train on this track picking up items listed on demand cards and delivering them to the cities that want them.

18XX: This is a challenging game of stock manipulation, player run the companies they have to most shares in--not necessarily to the benefit of other shareholders. As the game continues better trains come into play that allow more deliveries and some rules changes (better track tiles, etc.) and rusting older trains as obsolete.

Age of Steam is a tight economic game of cutthroat competition: You have to get loans early and make sure you get increase your income--if you don;t you lose badly. Other variants of the system Steam made some ill advised rule changes, nut truly avoid Railways of the World--by putting the game on huge map, it eliminates most competition and the winner is the player who gets the best area who also doesn't get picked on.

Mayfair rails is certainly best of these games for two, but train games generally work better for larger player counts. 3-5 or so.
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Ted L
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For a lighter, shorter train game which incorporates investment and route-building, I would recommend one of:

- Paris Connection - super-simple stock system, although the route-building can be of the mean, waste-your-trains variety. Accommodates a wide range of player-counts well and is very fast

- Samarkand - Routes to Riches - slightly more developed system than PC, less mean although the limitation of two shareholders per family (company) and asymmetric bonuses dilute the incentive-manipulations which are the hallmark of these kind of games. Also, the theme is trading families in the desert rather than trains, but they aren't fooling anyone.

- Airlines Europe or Union Pacific - Ticket-to-Ride plus (same designer), with investment and some incentive manipulation. I'd recommend this even though it plays a bit longer than the other two and is more sensitive to player count. Very newb friendly and a nicely balanced game, if a tad fiddly.

Interestingly, all three of these lack an auction for share distribution, which makes them more forgiving in that inexperienced players tend to be less likely to impair the fun factor for better players. Auctions do tend to be another hallmark of the genre however, and add quite a bit of tension for good players. If you're looking for the next level, I'd say Chicago Express hands down.

Honorable mention to Spectaculum on the simple side for the best-at-three-players slot, and Mogul for incorporating an auction which works for newbs (at the expense of serious route-building).
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1830: Railways & Robber Barons...Everything else not 18xx pales in comparison.
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Chicago Express meets OP's playtime requirement, but needs more than 2P.

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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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My wife and I love Empire Builder, Eurorails, and India Rails as 2-player (or more than 2-player) games. (These were mentioned above, but I want to give my +1.) We can now play them in about an hour; we often play twice back to back.

If you start with these, I recommend taking the disaster cards out until you are comfortable with the system.
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Dan Likos
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"Family" rules to Steam are really good.

Not sure if they are called the family rules or the introductory rules, or not the "full game" but they aren't bad to learn and provide a nice pick up and deliver experience.

There are rules in Railways of the World, that we like to include in our games of steam... essentially we play a hybrid Steam and Railways... but more Steam.

TLDR... introductory steam


Edit: Missed that the request was for a primarily 2 player game... I have never played Steam 2 players... not sure I would like it.
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Martin Larouche
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Via Nebula is a family style train game. Check Tom Vassel's review to get an idea.
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Bill Eldard
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deedob wrote:
Via Nebula is a family style train game. Check Tom Vassel's review to get an idea.

Yeah, it works like a train game, even if it doesn't have trains. My wife and I have enjoyed it as a 2-player game.
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Chuck Turnitsa
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Ticket to Ride sounds like it fits your criteria and the types of games you describe.

Yes, many 18xx fans (and others) may say that Ticket to Ride is not a railroad game - but that is not so. It definitely is a railroad game. You are building networks of routes to connect cities. And it is extremely fun, and a great way to get your friends and family members to play a fun game.

It is (with regards, and high respect, to my 18xx friends) not a simulation of railroad operations, but most of the games in that category (while extremely engaging, and with a huge following) fall outside your criteria.
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With your time requirements, I'm not sure you can play a "quintessential" train game, as they typically are longer than two hours.

I second the recommendations for Chicago Express and Paris Connection as good games that play in about an hour. Though not 2-player.

But. As far as quintessential goes, my suggestion is to set aside an afternoon and play Silverton.
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Scott Payne
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Perhaps I missed it in this thread, but I like Russian Railroads.
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