Game of Trains (published by Brain Games and created by the group of authors Trehgrannik) is a card game with a simple concept. You arrange seven numbered cards in a row from the highest number to the lowest number. Your objective is to move the cards one at a time until you have all of your cards arranged from lowest to highest. It sounds simple, but actually getting there in a multiplayer environment can be a bit of a challenge.
Cards have two gameplay elements to them. The first is a big white number that is used for arranging cards. These range from 1 to 84 for the entire deck. The second is a symbol which indicates which of the various abilities you can use once its been discarded.
The initial setup is easy enough. Each player is dealt seven cards. You determine who goes first in some fashion. The first player is given one extra card, the second player is given two extra cards, and so on all the way up to four players. Each player looks at their hand and chooses one card to replace their set of seven. Any extra cards from their beginning hand are discarded. The card that they replaced is placed face up in the center of the playing area.
Players can execute only two moves in the game. The first is drawing a card and replacing one of their seven cards. Generally, you want to have lower numbers to the left and higher numbers to the right to keep with the overall goal of arranging your set from lowest to highest. The second ability is to take one of the face-up cards and use the power on it.
Most of the card powers involve moving cards. You can swap cards or move them a number of spaces over. Cards with a red X symbol allow you to remove either the leftmost, rightmost, or center card of everyone on the table (including yourself). The lock symbol protects your cards from being removed by the red X, but you lose the protection if you move the card it is attached to. If there are two of the same type of power in the face-up pile, you discard both of them from the table.
Removing cards with the red X can help or hamper your progress. It can be most damaging when someone is in a position where they don't have a lot of room to move in terms of the numbers. If someone's first three cards are 2, 4, and 12, removing the 2 means that only two other cards (1 and 3) can occupy that position to complete the numerical set and win the game. Everyone's set of nine cards is face-up on the table for all to see, so you can use this information to better decide when to make a play. Unfortunately, there's no hand in the game - anyone, at any time, can make use of the face-up cards for their powers on their turn. My group has found that acting quickly with things like locks is essential, especially in games with three or four players. If you wait for too long, someone else will snap up the opportunity.
Game of Trains was created by a group of three designers in Latvia (Anatoly Shklyarov, Alexey Paltsev, and Alexey Konnov) with illustrations provided by Reinis Pētersons. I want to call particular attention to the illustrations - the train cars on the cards look really nice. There's tons of knock-off cultural jokes such as a very similar (but legally distinct!) Ecto 1 or the time-traveling Delorean from Back to the Future. Many of the trains carry cargo, and some of it looks rather mysterious. It's a nice little touch that wasn't strictly necessary but gives the game some character.
The game's box can easily fit in your back pocket. It comes with three rule sheets, each of which cover three separate languages. (I was unfamiliar with some of the flags and abbreviations of a few of them and I ended up having to look them up). You can fit all of them in the box very easily or you can simply set aside the unnecessary ones. The game's cards only have numbers and symbols on them, so there's genuinely no language barriers here once you understand the rules.
Ultimately, my group played around a half-dozen games of Game of Trains over several weeks, mostly to fill the gap when we had a bit of downtime from playing other games. Games were short, sweet, and decisive. There's no tracking points, there's no worrying about tricky rules or procedures. It's not that deep in the end, but Game of Trains ended up being a wonderful exercise in simplicity.
The Bottom Line:
Game of Trains is a fun, family-friendly game with a simple concept and easy-to-understand rules. A compact package and a lack of any language on the cards makes it easy to teach and easy to learn. It makes for a great game that can be played in under an hour with very little in the way of needed table space.
Get This Game If:
- You like to keep it simple.
- You're looking for a game that can be played in under an hour.
- You want an easy-to-learn game that can be played with your family.
- You like more complex card games.
- You dislike games where powers & abilities are communal.
What do you think of Game of Trains? Does the concept of rearranging cards in numerical order appeal to you or would you prefer that your games have a bit more complexity? Let us know in the comments below!