Industrial revolution brought a lot with it, but one of the biggest benefits were the trains. Beautiful, graceful and romantic machines, whose old look enchanted us until now. You won’t talk about the latest racing cars, when you are standing next to this ten ton monster. We all know, where such a train belongs – at the station. And there will also begin our journey for playful experiences.
Trains and Stations is name of new board game coming from Wizkids company. This is a novelty from famous Canadian designer and author Eric M. Lang (Star Wars: The Card Game, Quarriors!, A Game of Thrones LCG and many many others), which came on the market near the end of 2013. The game is based on the most popular item in Wizkids company – dice.
On the lid with a train arriving in the station, you will also learn fun subtitle – Develop, Deliver, Profit. The box is decorated in tan colors, that fit well to timeframe of the game. Inside, you will find surprisingly little game board, that shares its size with square dimensions of the box.
The upper two-thirds of it are occupied by intersecting lines of entire United States from Boston to Los Angeles. Bottom of the plan is seized by positions for cards of various materials, but also boxes for two values of the victory points cards and a deck of advantages (power cards).
Three types of cards await you altogether – cards with raw materials, victory point cards replacing tokens and then there are power cards. On material card, you will find the building, which produces it (in the upper corners) and also the value of the cards in victory points. Power cards usually suggest a couple of cities, you have to connect or some cool combos of gold/silver/cattle.
Basis of the game lies in dice, that are available in eight specimen for each of five players. Another dozen white bonus dice concludes the total of fifty dice. Each side contains one specific symbol. Except for raw materials (ranch, mine and hotel), you will find two symbols of the train and money once on the last side. In addition, cute small tokens representing three types of buildings await you in the box. Its perhaps not surprising, that they show you a hotel, mine and ranch. Components roster is concluded by coins and hat token for starting player.
At the beginning of the game, each player chooses a color and gets all eight dice and buildings from it. Everybody gets also three VPs and above all trio of coin tokens. Players get three power cards from a shuffled deck, but they can only keep two depending on their own choice. Number of players in the game at the same time determines total amount of victory points, which will be available to win.
Now you just need a game board deployed with packages of victory points and resources. But this is not so simple, because raw materials for individual buildings have different levels. Under each position, there is a diagram illustrating goods of increasing values. At the beginning of the game, first level cards are put there.
During the game of Trains and Stations, players each take a whole turn consisting of several phases and only then they give space to next competitor in line. At the beginning of that round, player must first determine number of dice he will be throwing. Most of the time, nobody can roll more than five dice, but situation can be improved with bonus white dice acquired for delivery in the previous round. This phase also allows players to recover ill-placed dice from the board, in case they have at least five of them there. In such a situation, his turn immediately ends.
It did not happen in our example case. Instead of that, we take five dice and roll with them. You will not be satisfied with outcome on the dice very often. And its a good news, that you can re-roll any number of dice for one coin and keep other results, as you wish. In any case, you cannot re-roll dice with locked trains on them. If you have three visible locks, your throwing immediately ends. Otherwise, you may end at any time, once you are satisfied with the symbols or you no longer want to spend more coins.
Now its time to put meaning to all the symbols. You can use them for a total of five different activities. Main of them is not only placing trains on the tracks, but also adding new buildings. Such buildings can be placed only if you rolled a symbol of that particular building at least on three of your dice. Such a house is then taken from your inventory and can be placed on any city, which still has an open position.
For money symbol rolled, you simply get two coins from the bank, but you must never exceed the maximum of five coins in your possession. Result on some of the dice can be kept until the next turn. But we should now go back to laying trains on the board, as if it were carriages. They must, of course, have to be dice with train symbol on them, no matter whether its locked or not.
Dice are always attached to neighborhood of a city or another dice and so on, creating connections between towns. Individual tracks can be filled with dice of different colors, there is no limit to their composition. By the time you finish placing new train connection between some cities, you can proceed to the next (the most important) stage, which is delivery of goods.
Victory points will be awarded to all players, who participated in the laying of a track, when its completed. But in addition, largest builder will be rewarded for his majority share in the form of bonus dice, cards or VPs. It depends directly on the specific city, that has its advantage printed at the bottom of its ring. All owners of buildings from these newly connected cities also get new product card from its deck and place it face down in front of them.
At the same time, it is also time to apply score card, which displays link of these cities. Lay it face up in front of yourself, victory points for such completed tasks will be awarded at the end of the game. The whole delivery of goods ends by the players taking back their dice lying on the board back (only those between scored cities), while bonus white dice are put back to a common pot.
Due to the production of goods, offer of the bundled goods can become empty. At this point, it’s time to upgrade it. You put cards of the next avaiable level according to diagram of production for building of this type. It is always a more valuable card. As a result of this change, players may start speculation and replace their existing card for a new species, but in a ratio of 2:1.
Why would they do that? Because at the end of the game, while victory points are awarded for power cards, players get evaluated not only for their ability to interconnect cities. Much more important role can be hidden in the fight for monopoly in the market for some raw materials. Each player, who has most of cards of given type, gets a score corresponding to the number at the bottom of this particular card. After adding these bonuses together with collected cards of victory points and value of fulfilled connections, you will easily determine a winner. It is player with the highest total.
Trains and Stations are an interesting combination of business and connection games. Emotionally, you feel like you were playing a kind of lightweight desktop version of a tycoon. In the cities, you load the goods produced in your buildings. Luck speaks quite considerably into match evolution, because it determines your chances at the beginning of each turn.
Fortunately, re-rolling dice in this game is not nearly as expensive and inaccessible as it might seem. For one thrown money symbol on your dice, you get two tokens right away and these can be used in the next round to repair your throws. With a little good handling, you can basically control the dice. But if their forces have conspired against you, there’s nothing you can do about it, and some players may just dislike this. Biggest effect of luck remains in the initial power cards dealt.
To win, you begin to really earn and acquire goods, but you must develop your empire sufficiently also by adding buildings. They are the only way to get products, but not the only direction you can go in collecting points. Linking cities and secret tasks also brings significant gains, just be careful not to increase also profits for other players. It often pays to nurture on successes of your rivals, rather than actively build links by yourself. Some links are more difficult to achieve, but their rewards are also graded.
Bonus dice are an important part of tactics. They are the only way to roll more than one triple in one turn. Finally the game is full of options and choices, especially when you have such freedom in placing your trains and buildings on the plan.
Game is essentially a very intuitive one, although its mechanisms are explained in the rules maybe in an unnecessarily complicated way. Fortunately, examples are the rescue, and once the game mechanism are comprehensed by one player, he may well teach it to others. Although the box recommends game from fourteen years up, this number is significantly exaggerated and we played with ten year’s old without problems.
Hardest thing to get about this game is actually concept of speculation in raw materials. Once all players realize, that they actually play to have most of the cards of one type, than everyone else, then everybody will enjoy himself much more.
Despite its complicated appearance, Trains and Stations is game suitable for beginners. You have to push those inexperienced players a little and give them courage, because all those kinds of cards, a pile of dice and colored buildings might discourage at first sight. Luckily everything fits excellently together. It is in connection mechanisms, where Trains and Stations stands out most. On such a simple game, eventually everything takes too long. Our game is usually moving around an hour. Time is similar in all the player numbers, because length is adjusted by number of victory points available.
Processing is nice, dice will please you anytime and they are embossed. But most items are too small. This criticism is directed not to dice, that are placed still pretty well on the board, but particularly with regard to the tiny buildings. Specifically, the best representatives of this complaint is mine miniature, that you have to literally look for on the board.
Trains and Stations are not a bad game, they just needs to reach the right target group. Most of this target circle is definitely not advanced players, who are waiting to play something else. This game is mainly used as relaxed and random fun for beginners, which will be engaged with its theme. When playing, just be careful, that you accidentally do not miss your train..
Trains and Stations is a dice-card game, where the main role it ability to roll correct symbols on dice. And you will use them further in taking actions. Fortunately, you can buy re-roll for one coin and its not so difficult to gain these money is not so difficult. Therefore, you can have some kind of control over game development. Everything seems to revolve around connecting cities with dice, but raising buildings and collecting raw materials is really important too. Processing is beautiful, its only a shame, that these are a little smaller, they should. The game altogether is fun and offers lots of options, including speculations, how to get a majority share of some products. Trains and Stations is a game suitable for less advanced players and it can serve them as a gateway into world of board games.