This was a two-player game, mostly to gain perspective on gameplay rather than necessarily to engage in competition.
I had a slight advantage for having studied the rules and the card contents. I had better understanding of both the distribution of the three Freight Car types and the range of values on the Movement Cards (longer trains move more slowly, of course). My opponent had no knowledge apart from my preliminary instruction, in which I tried to cover all things important.
I also had read a prior session report here. In that game players had all opted for 5-car trains. I otherwise anticipated the possibility of shorter trains this day in order to more speedily reach the destination and capture the “first train”, “second train” bonuses. Nonetheless, my first two turns pretty easily gave me a four-car train of a single type and I waited for the fifth.
My opponent first constructed a 4-car mixed train and we avoided competition in terms of train type. He also gained an Extra Locomotive and moved at a respectable rate toward the destination (and thus the first scoring).
The Extra Locomotive forced him to focus only on moving his train, so as the sole player able to select Freight Car cards fresh from the deck I took advantage of this to form a second train before moving my first.
Useful Knowledge #1: I understood in advance that 5-car trains would only move one or two spaces, but upon drawing a mere 1 for my first move I reached a whole new stage of enlightenment. Moving all nine spaces was going to be more difficult than I had earlier imagined while only reading the rules. The first Clock had not yet appeared but this knowledge already had me worried about the game-ending time constraint since now I had also watched my opponent consume a good chunk of the Movement deck by drawing two cards each turn due to his Extra Locomotive.
Once we placed the final Clock into the Movement deck, Useful Knowledge #2 was revealed to me. I knew from the rules that “Pass” was one of the turn options. I had only envisioned this a way of saying, “the offered Freight Cars are not useful/compatible with my trains at this time. I draw none.” My opponent, however, delivered his remaining train and chose not to draw another Locomotive. He simply passed. We both understood wordlessly that the negative scores for undelivered trains made it unattractive for him to attempt more and his own game was effectively at end. I made two more moves and attained the same status. Thus, the game terminated without truly reaching the final Clock.
In the end, there never was any competition for the “first train” bonuses. He took first, second, and third for Mixed. I took first and second for two of the three single-types. Even though I later ran some shorter trains, I also gleaned “longest train” bonus in three of the four categories.
Him -- 60
Me -- 85
1) I failed to record the complete individual scoring details, but it seems that we only completed about five trains each. Divide the same total among 3 or 4 players and I wonder how many scoring chances you really have. Granted, those situations also utilize one or two additional Clocks but does the effectiveness of the bet each player makes on the first train almost determine the game outcome? More game experiences required.
2) Running out of time at the game end also made me think of two other games for comparison.
2A) I have only played single games of Palazzo on two consecutive days quite some time ago, but I remember thinking that there was insufficient time to execute the multi-turn floor reorganizing process. Therefor no one even tried. So, too, here that we quit before drawing the final Clock rather than attempt a new train. For both game titles I need additional game experiences to get a feel for the probability of completing the options.
2B) An alternate experience comes from Lost Cities, where we freely play for a while and then reach a stage of very carefully counting the last five or ten draw cards. We consciously extend play to assure playing valuable cards already in our hands, or actively seek termination to hamper our opponent from doing so. Thus Lost Cities game-end seems a tense example without being as hopelessly discouraging as the other two appear.
3) Both of the above observations serve to support the concept that reviews should stem from the vantage point of multiple sessions rather than just a single play. I don’t yet know enough of this one to make judgements.
Side note: I was pleased to accidentally find this at my FLGS. I am content with the price paid since I would not otherwise have been interested in the additional cost for shipping on this small package.
See also Gameplay Explained – TUTORIAL