Last Train to Wensleydale first impression

Last Train to Wensleydale

I was fortunate enough to make it to the game night this week. Last Train to Wensleydale was most wanted of the new games, so we got full four players. Short version: it’s good and worth buying.

Description of the game

Players build small railroads in the Yorkshire Dales, moving cheese, stone and passengers. Passengers are tricky, because they have specific needs, they need to reach the NER or MR network. Stone and cheese are easier to move.

Everything hinges on influence. There are four sorts: government, train, NER and MR influence. Players get influence from a Amun-Re style auction. Government influence determines track building order and is necessary to get rid of complaining farmers who want to block progress. Train influence is super important, as it’s needed to rent trains and it also determines the order of goods movement. NER and MR influence are needed a bit in the track building and a lot in the end of the turn (I’ll explain later).

Track-building is easy. You can only build one continuous stretch each turn, no forking! Track has a cost, which you can pay in investment cubes (= money that’s replenished each turn) or influence. Building must start from a MR and NER town or from own track.

In the movement phase players rent trains of varying capacity and move stuff. Cheese can be moved if your track reaches the area where the cheese is, stone moves if your track is next to the hill with the stone. This is pleasantly simple. Red passengers want to reach a MR town, green passengers want to reach a NER town.

Players get profit from goods moved and collect those for end game scoring, loss is accrued from track on board. Placement on profit/loss track determines general turn order.

In the end of the turn, players can make one of the big companies to acquire their track. It takes a connection to a company town and some matching influence. No more losses from useless track! This is very important phase for the general well-being of your company.

This goes on for four or five rounds. After that you score your profit or loss, 1 point for each good moved during the game and 2 points for each set of four different goods.

Our session and my impression

I like the game. It’s fairly hard to grok, I think we got it pretty much on the second or third round. Next time it’ll go better. The rules aren’t super clean, but we got only one thing wrong (the cost of takeovers). Still, takes a while to explain them.

The setup is notoriously tedious (two cubes are placed on each area, then wrong-coloured cubes — white on lowland, orange on hills — are removed, then passengers are placed in towns) and indeed a bit annoying. There’s some fiddly tracking of influence, too.

The game took about 110 minutes. A bit long, but full of action and I can see fast experienced players playing this in 90 minutes. Still, two hours is fairly well justified, there’s meat in the game (and I’m not talking about the board, which looks like a bacon omelette).

There’s lots of clever stuff going on. I like the auctioning for company influence, the track-building, collecting goods and the takeovers — most of it, that is. Last Train is pleasantly different from the collect-the-shares train games and pick-up-and-deliver lot.

I started by building a track to Hawes in the middle of the hills. I kept the track the whole game, shipping plenty of stone to keep myself making profit. I also got some cheese and green passengers. The route had plenty of red passengers, but it took some effort and two turns of track-building to reach a red town. On the last turn, I did a separate track to gather up some more cheese and green passengers. I wasn’t very efficient with the takeovers, so on the last turn I ended up on -3 in the profit/loss track.

However, I was the best with goods, gathering 34 points from four sets and ten more goods cubes. Petri got 23 (least cubes, +5 profit), Hannu 20 (29 points in cubes, -9 mostly from unnecessary track) and Tuomas 11 (21 points, -10 on p/l track).

I’m very glad to own the game and definitely want to explore it more. The different setups will lead to different games, so I suppose there’s quite a bit of replay value there.

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