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Rack-O has been a favorite family card game of ours for a long time. It's a simple game of getting your secret rack of cards in ascending numerical order while also messing with the other players' cards to slow them down.
The Game of Trains, a new card game by Brain Games, reminds us a lot of Rack-O.
The good news is that's Game of Trains is still different enough to deliver its own unique fun.
We'll give you a quick rundown of how to play the game, why it's a good family card game, as well as what we like about its uniqueness.
How to play Game of Trains
The objective in Game of Trains is be the first to get your line of train cars in ascending numerical order. If you’re the first to do so, you’ll win the game.
To begin, each player gets 1 locomotive card and draws 7 train cards from the shuffled deck. They then arrange those train cards in descending order from their locomotive.
The first player draws one card, and each other player in clockwise order draws one more card than the last person. Then each player replaces one card in their line with one of their just-drawn cards and places the replaced card face-up next to the train car deck.
Then players are ready to begin taking turns, starting with the first player.
On a turn, the player must perform 1 of 2 actions:
1. Draw a card from the face down train car pile and replace a car in their train line with the drawn card. The replaced card is placed face-up by the deck. If ever two face-up cards next to the draw deck with the same action appear, those cards are discarded.
2. Take the action associated with one face up card by the draw deck and then discard that card.
Taking a turn is that simple. The twists come in how the different special actions are used to impact the train car lineup.
There are 8 different actions that are shown as icons above the numbers on the cards. Some impact just the active player’s train and others impact all players.
* Swap any 2 adjacent cards in your line.
* Swap 2 cards in your line with exactly 1 card in between.
* Move 1 of your cards 2 spaces to the right.
* Move 1 of your cards 2 spaces to the left.
* All players Remove their leftmost card.
* All players Remove their center card.
* All players Remove their rightmost card.
* Protect can be placed under the leftmost, rightmost, or center card in your line to be unaffected by the Remove ability on that card.
The game ends when one player successfully gets all their train cars in ascending order. That player wins the game.
Can the whole family enjoy playing Game of Trains?
Game of Trains is a great game for families who like quick and simple card games.
There’s something so welcoming about just pulling out and playing a game with simple rules.
There isn’t a lot of rules to remember or deep strategy to become expert at.
Instead, they’re just light fun where players can enjoy being together and having a conversation around the table while playing a game. Game of Trains is that kind of game.
Players both young and old can also enjoy playing together. Since there’s a fair amount of luck in the game, kids will have a good chance of winning as well.
At the same time, we wouldn’t recommend going too young with the player age. Just because kids may understand numbers and how to put them in order, they may not grasp the choices involved in using the card abilities to their advantage.
Not only do players have to think about using the face up cards in the center for their abilities, they also need to pay attention to which cards in their lineup they’re discarding. Because the abilities on the cards they discard will then be available for the other players to use on their turns.
So players also need to be aware of what’s happening with their opponents’ trains.
It’s this mix of luck and thoughtful choices that make Game of Trains a good family card game.
Comparing Game of Trains to Rack-O
As we mentioned in the beginning, Game of Trains reminds us a lot of Rack-O since both games are about getting your cards in numerical order.
However, there are still numerous differences between the two games that one won’t replace the other in our game collection.
In Rack-O every player’s lineup of cards is known only by themselves. Players can play cards that impact other players’ cards, but they don’t know the extent of the damage may or may not cause.
In Game of Trains every player’s lineup of cards is visible to all players. This means everyone can see how close players are to getting their trains in order. So players can make choices based not only on their own train, but also based on how they want to impact their opponents.
In Rack-O the starting positions of cards in players’ racks is completely random. Cards are placed in racks as they’re drawn.
Whereas, in Game of Trains players have to set their starting train cards in descending order. Thus, everyone starts the game on equal (and known) footing.
In Rack-O some of the cards have abilities that players can take when they discard those cards from their rack.
In Game of Trains every card is dual-purpose. However, players don’t activate the ability when they discard the card. Instead, only face-up cards next to the draw pile can be used for their ability and then discarded. When a player removes a card from their lineup it goes into the face-up row of cards. But if there are duplicate abilities showing, they’re discarded. Thus, players can have some control on which abilities are available.
In Rack-O players must draw a card and discard a card. The only choices are where to place the drawn card (if at all) and who to impact when discarding a card with an action.
Game of Trains offers more choices during play. Players first choose whether to draw a new card or use a face up card ability. The various types of abilities also offer more choices in how to manipulate cards along the way.
There isn’t any theme in Rack-O.
As the name says, Game of Trains is themed around trains. And a theme about getting train cars in order is very fitting. That being said, the game play and theme aren’t inextricably connected. Meaning that there’s nothing special about the card abilities or game play that are unique to trains. The theme could just as easily be about getting any number of things in order (boats in a harbor, books on a shelf, packages in a warehouse, etc.).
Yet, there’s something cool about lining up these sweet train cards. We love the artwork on all the cards as well as how the type of good on each train car ties to the special ability it offers. For example, all the “Swap cards with 1 card in between” have airplanes on them. And all the Lock cards have items that are covered.
How does Game of Trains score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?
As with a lot of light card games, Game of Trains scores high on our “let’s play again” game meter. It’s a quick card game both in the flow of turns and length of play. When one game ends, it’s so easy to dive into another game right away.
We’ve also found the games we play the most in our family are those where we don’t have to refresh ourselves on the rules every time we pull it out. Game of Trains scores very high in that category.
Game of Trains is also a great small card game to take on family trips. There’s always some downtime during trips where pulling out a light card game is great to play while sitting around chatting.
If you’re looking for a new light card game for your family, we’d recommend you buy a copy of Game of Trains.
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Rack-O with gorgeous art is enough to sell me, but I'm glad you like the extra bits too