Trains, Trick of the Rails and Love Letter

Let’s try this crazy thing of posting about games as soon as I’ve played them. Who could come up with something like that?

TrainsLast week we played Trains with the new Nagoya map. That was fun, so I half-joked about doing a Tampere map. Well, it didn’t take long before I was downloading a vector drawing software and trying to find a good map of the Tampere region in the right scale. I found one soon and it didn’t take me long to get a first draft of a map. I showed it to my friends, who gave me couple of suggestions.

We playtested the map yesterday. It worked out well. The biggest problem is the lack of station spaces. I didn’t count the stations, so I ended up with too few spaces – there were three station markers left when the map was fully developed. Oops. We discussed the map a bit, and came up with couple of places where it can be improved. The result should be a better map.

Trick of the RailsWe also played another Hisashi Hayashi game, Trick of the Rails. This is a strange little 18xx trick-taking game. The suits are railroad companies. Rounds alternate with stock rounds and operating rounds. On stock rounds the cards you play become your shares. The winner doesn’t get the share she played, but another share that’s on the table. On operating rounds the cards become track for the companies, and the winner gets to assign a city (valuable location) or a train to a company.

In the end, each company will have a train and will run it. The trains run X cities that are next to each other (so track-building matters a bit) and have a cost that is reducted from the total, and whatever money is left over is what the shares are worth in the end. Everybody will have an equal amount of shares, but not all companies are equal – the running costs for the trains are expensive enough that some companies may not make any profit.

It’s a curious game. At least with five players, it’s quite possible you’ll go through the whole game without any meaningful decisions to make. With four, it’s better, but it’s still quite chaotic and there’s not much control. Enough, however, that it’s an interesting game, in a way. Curious game, and I’m still interested in exploring this one a bit further. At least it’s quite unlike any other game.

Love LetterLove Letter is a charming example of minimalism. Just 16 cards, but quite a bit of game. The game play is dead simple: draw a card, play a card, and try to end up with the highest card when the deck rans out. The catch is the rather strong card effects. When you play a Guard, for example, you name a card and a player. If that player is holding that card, they are eliminated from the round. Baron has you compare hands with another player and the player with the lower card is, again, eliminated. Prince forces another player to discard their card and draw a new one, which is all fine and dandy, unless the other player was holding the Princess, the highest card, which causes player to lose if they discard the card.

It  is rather chaotic – sometimes you’re eliminated before doing anything – yet not without some sense. Fun, certainly! It’s a great filler, and easy to carry along, as it’s so small. Looks like I have to get some opaque card sleeves for it, though, as there’s no box for the game and playing causes wear for the cards as well. In this game it’s rather critical that the cards remain secret.

Hmhm, this turned out to be a Japanese game night, apparently!

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