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Isle of Trains

I previously praised “The Great Heartland Hauling Company” for being a “fun game that has the right mix of resource management and economic functionality”. I couldn’t help but me reminded of the aforementioned game while giving “Isle of Trains” a spin. In short, each player will be building and upgrading a train in an attempt to make deliveries and earn victory points.  What’s “coal” (see what I did there?) about this game though is that the cards you’ll play have many different uses.  Let’s take a look at the rules and show you what I mean.

 

Isle of Trains

Isle of Trains: 2-4 Players, Ages 10+, Average Play Time = 30-60 Minutes

 

Setup & Gameplay

Firstly, each player places a level 1 starter engine in front of them and then five cards are dealt from the deck (the remaining cards, including any extra level 1 engines) to form their starting hand.  The six contract cards are arranged primary side up in the center of the table to form the Isle of Trains. The person who last rode a train goes first.

Starting with the first player and moving clockwise, each player takes 2 actions on their turn from the following:

1) Take the top card from the draw pile.

2) Build 1 card from your hand into your playing area by paying its cost in cards to the discard pile.  Each card in your hand counts as 1 currency.  You’ll need to be mindful of your engine’s weight capacity, as you cannot exceed it.  Engines and train cars can be upgraded by replacing them, paying the difference in their costs and discarding the one being replaced.  You can also remove cars from your train by discarding them.  Trains may only have one caboose and players may only have one building in their play area (which does not connect to their train, obviously).

3) Load 1 card from your hand onto any player’s train car that has available capacity for the type of cargo shown on the right side of that card.  Adding to another player’s train car will yield a bonus for helping them out.

4) Deliver cargo cards from your train to the discard pile to claim a contract card or draw two new cards per cargo card discarded.  There are two secondary contracts on each contract card and ONE of them has to be completed before the player can claim another contract card.  Only one secondary contract (out of the two) can be completed.

Players can use their 2 actions to perform the same action twice, or two different actions. After completing their actions, players discard cards until they reach their hand size limit (default is 5 cards).

The game ends when there are no more cards left to draw (when the discard pile can’t be shuffled to form a new draw deck), or when a player has claimed a certain number of contracts.  When either happens, ALL players get one final turn and scores are tallied.  Players will take into account the victory points listed on each of their engine/train/building cards and any contracts they’ve completed.  They also get one point for each cargo loaded on the train.  The person with the most points, wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

 

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The Review

There are quite a few similarities between this and “The Great Heartland Hauling Company”. For one, they’re both pretty small in terms of size making this a fairly portable game.  Both involve the delivering of goods as a means to reach some sort of goal, though “Isle of Trains” surprised me with its “helper” mechanic.  In other words, helping someone else will grant you some type of immediate benefit.  Here, you’re giving someone victory points for the ability to draw cards and/or etc.  This strategy can be rather dicey, since victory points are the way to win the game.  The helping player just has to hope that their investment will pay off more than it did in helping their opponent.

I liked the idea of being able to outfit my train as well as upgrade it as the game played out.  It gave me a sense of progression in that I started with some dinky little train and ended up with something a bit more majestic in the end.  Sort of like if “Percy” from Thomas the Tank Engine morphed into “Gordon”…there’s a reference you non-parents are sure to get.  Anywho, being able to upgrade made me think about whether or not I wanted a weaker engine that couldn’t hold as much weight.  I mean, upgrading can be expensive…that is, the cards you spend upgrading could be used to complete an easy primary contract right from the gate.  At some point though, you’ll need a better engine and more cars to tackle those secondary contracts (you can’t claim a new primary contract until you complete one of the two secondary ones).

For ten bucks, “Isle of Trains” isn’t a bad little game.  The cards have quite a few different uses (they can be used as currency, cargo, or as an engine/car) so you’ll constantly be trying to figure out what you want to discard so that you can grow your train.  Each card is good in some way, but you’ll have to give some up in order to lay any down.  The manual is fairly light and learning the game takes no time at all, though you may need the reference sheet in the back to remind you as to what the symbols and numbers on the cards mean.  I was quite happy with my purchase and for you train lovers out there, I recommend checking this one out.

Final Verdict: 8/10

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