Just before my husband’s birthday I popped into the local board-game shop to see if they had anything suitable to add to his birthday presents. As I didn’t have a game in mind I browsed the cheaper games and was drawn to the Isle of Trains as my husband likes steam trains. I followed this up with a quick check on BoardGameGeek – sounded promising, potentially had similarities to Race for the Galaxy (one of our favourites after a shaky start). So I decided to take a punt and buy it. The friendly guy on the tills commented on how much he enjoyed it, explaining how he’d played it recently. This reassured me that I was making the right choice.
Fast forward four months and we were ready to play for the first time. Initial impressions are mostly positive. The majority of the rules make thematic sense: the bigger the engine the more it can pull; the larger the carriages the more they can hold. Some aspects confused us and required looking up answers on the internet, particularly on how to score the completed deliveries – I think we got confused by the points on one side, but needing to look on both sides in order to add up the points for a building (I’ve since reread the rules and it is clear in there, I just misread it first time round). The score was close 55 – 47, I lost. An upshot of me losing is that reduces the time before we play again, if I win comprehensively on the first play it often seems like reading the rules has given me an advantage which puts my husband off playing it again quickly.
My strategy in the first game was to build a big train and score points that way, as I lost I decided to try a different strategy for game two. I focussed on claiming and completing deliveries and only made upgrades to my train to meet those aims, even though I claimed and completed 2 deliveries I still lost. This makes me want to play the game again and find a way to win, it also shows that their are probably lots of ways to win and that it is important to balance the difference point scoring methods. One issue we did have with our second game is we almost forgot when to end it, we were so busy thinking about what to do next that I didn’t notice my husband had claimed the fourth delivery until the second part of my next turn.
We have only played with 2 players and this gives a choice when loading, do I load onto my opponents train to get the bonus or do I load onto my own train and hasten when I am able to deliver. I imagine with 3 or 4 players this would become even more strategic as then you would be able to consider whose train to load onto to still get the bonus without advantaging the current leader. I like games where you can decide to use your cards in a variety of ways (like Race for the Galaxy) and this has that aspect, cards can be used as part of the train, loaded and delivered as goods, or spent to build the train. There are also cabooses to provide in game benefits and buildings to gain extra points at the end. I would recommend this game to those who want a relatively quick game with interesting choices.