Tag Archives: GenCon

Rollin’ – Trains review

Trains COVER

As the deckbuilding genre has been around for a while, it’s high time that the next level of games kick in. Where the original big names like Dominion and Thunderstone kept things relatively simple, gamers are now looking for something that takes the concept a little bit further. One of the better games out there that goes that extra mile is Trains, originally released by Japon Brand just prior to Essen 2012. While that first version was perfectly playable without a grasp of katakana, AEG have stepped in and released the game as part of their Big In Japan series – and man, it’s a lovely thing.

Just like pretty much every deck builder out there, you start with a hand of basic cards and are looking to buy better ones that will improve your lot in life. However, this one is taking it to the next level, remember? In Trains, you’re not just dealing with cards; there’s a board too!

Oh yes. A board! Rather than gaining the majority of your points from the cards you’ll be purchasing, instead you’re attempting to build a networked railway across a hex-based map. Cities are dotted around amongst a range of different terrain types, alongside a bunch of high-value spaces that will pull in a good few points if you manage to get in there. The cards you start with give you either money (with which new cards can be bought), the ability to lay track (placing one of your coloured cubes on the map) or build stations (adding a station cylinder to a city hex – more stations mean more points during the endgame).

Purchase cost is in the top right corner, while its money value is top left. Actions and special instructions are at the bottom - and you will grow to hate that little recycle symbol... bloody Waste cards.

Purchase cost is in the top right corner, while its money value is top left. Actions and special instructions are at the bottom – and you will grow to hate that little recycle symbol… bloody Waste cards!

As the game progresses, your little network of cubes will stretch far and wide across the Japanese countryside, eventually crashing into someone else’s line. Thankfully you’re allowed to occupy the same space as other people, the only issue being cost. You’ll have to take into account the cost for building on the terrain type, then pay one extra coin for each other player’s cube in that hex – sometimes, especially in particularly valuable or contentious spaces, you could be spending a fortune just to open up a new area of the board or muscle in on someone else’s high value hex. The question at the back of your mind should always be whether it’s worth the investment.

Of course, as in the real world, all actions have consequences. In Trains building, whether it’s track or stations, creates debris that comes in the form of Waste cards. You will, over the course of mere moments, come to hate these cards that have no purpose whatsoever except for filling your hand with useless cards. Yes, they’re spectacularly annoying, but it’s such a fantastic idea you get to wondering why it hasn’t been done before. Some of the purchasable cards in the game allow you to trade in Waste for extra money or points (ahhh, Landfill, such a useful buy!) but without those in your deck you’re often going to be stuck with a hand of dregs and cursing yet another wasted turn.

I’ve generally found that not many points are scored during play; the vast majority come during the endgame, so it’s not until you’re finished that you’ll really have a handle on who’s the winner. The fact that cards can be bought that are just about points (along the lines of Dominion‘s Provinces and the like)  mean that even if you’re keeping track of everything on the board, it’s up in the air until that final moment.

From a production standpoint, AEG have taken a great game and really put a sheen on top of it. This new version is a hefty thing of glory. Gone are the admittedly charming though rather industrial looking photographs on the cards, replaced with a swish graphical style that, while cartoonish, is far from childish. The whole package looks cool and modern, though the use of the Thunderstone box inlay immediately had me thinking about the possibility of expansion cards. I know the game is only officially being released at this weekend’s GenCon, but surely someone at AEG and Japon Brand are thinking about such things?

Each game will give you sixteen different card types to play with - eight are always the same, while eight are randomized to give plenty of replayability.

Each game will give you sixteen different card types to play with – eight are always the same, while eight are randomized to give plenty of replayability.

I have fallen for Trains in a big way. Last year, getting my hands on a copy proved nigh on impossible. When it was available, it was too expensive, then when I had money it simply couldn’t be found. Now that AEG have rereleased it to what will hopefully be an appreciate audience (and from the buzz coming out of GenCon it seems to be one of the hottest games of the show), I hope that Trains leads the charge of great stuff from Japan. It’s reinvigorated a genre that can often boil down to multiplayer solitaire, demanding interaction between people with the simple introduction of a board. I think that copy of Dominion is going to be staying on the shelf a lot more – Trains is now my deckbuilder of choice.

Trains was designed by Hisashi Hiyashi and was originally released through Japon Brand in 2012. The new English language version is out now and has been produced by AEG. Between two and four people can play with games taking around 40-60 minutes. If you’d like a copy for yourself – and who wouldn’t?! – you can pick one up from Gameslore for £41!

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It’s the (second) most wonderful time of the year…

Oh yes indeed – GenCon is nearly here! The USA’s best board games show is approaching once again, kicking off this Thursday for four days of gaming in Indianapolis, Indiana. Once again it’ll be stacked with the usual pile of new releases and exclusive previews as pretty much every major American publisher will be present along with plenty of the larger European names – but what are the big titles people are looking forward to?

Libertalia from Marabunta / Asmodee is one that I think will probably be under many people’s radars but I have a feeling it’s going to end up being one of the year’s best releases. A role selection game at heart with up to six players acting as pirate captains on their way to retirement and looking for a final hurrah, it’s a sneaky extravaganza of treasure hunting and back stabbing with a great level of player interaction. I’ve already managed to get my hands on a copy so expect a review in the very near future. Also, if you get a copy early enough, you’ll get metal doubloons! Who wouldn’t want it?!

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar by CGE was available to play in early prototype form at the UK Games Expo, but it looks like a near finished version should be at GenCon. It’s a worker placement extravaganza with a really interesting mechanism where cogs turn and interact with each other on the board. Stay on the board too long and your guys could well end up a wasted placing as they move past the resources that you’re aiming for. CGE’s games are always beautifully produced so you know this will be incredible to behold – there’s no other company out there who I’d trust to make such an involved and creative board concept.

Fantasy Flight will be there with wheelbarrows filled with stuff, of course, but the new versions of Merchant of Venus and Netrunner are both due for release at the show. Early reports say that these two remakes are amazing, managing to capture the brilliance of the original games while giving them a shiny makeover, though MoV will include the rules to play both the old and new versions. Netrunner’s asymmetric gameplay has long been a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on this modernised version to see how it compares to Richard Garfield’s classic. Also, there’s the small matter of a little game called X-Wing finally seeing the light of day…

Village, the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner for 2012, has been picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games and looks like it’ll be this year’s go to game for those who want to scratch their Euro itch. Players need to find fame and fortune for their family members in order to keep their name immortalised in the village’s chronicles – make the right moves and your legacy will live on. Screw it up and your future generations will fade into obscurity. It’s a very clever worker placement game and probably the only one I know where death is used to limit a character’s time. This will only be available in very limited amounts – apparently there’ll only be fifty at the show – so if you want a copy, head to TMG’s booth early.

AEG’s Tempest line is also due for its first public viewing at the show with the initial three games in the series getting a release. Courtier, Dominare and Mercante all promise very different playing experiences but the interesting element will be seeing how the public react to the storybuilding aspects of the world. As characters change, further games in the series will reflect these developments – for example, should the story necessitate that a major role needs to be wiped out, later games will reference back to whatever happened. We’re not looking at a Risk Legacy effort here where every person’s game will be different as time goes on; AEG will run the story along the lines of their Legend of the Five Rings property, controlling it from their end with input from players and designers. This could prove a very interesting experiment…

AEG also have the light-as-a-feather but very entertaining Smash Up ready for release at GenCon. The world’s first shufflebuilding game sees players combine two twenty card decks (ninjas with robots, pirates with aliens, that kind of thing) and utilise their joint powers to take over bases in order to score points. It’s a very quick little game but has a surprising level of depth to it as you try and work out which sets work particularly well against your opponents’ selections. I think this one will do pretty well at the show, especially as it clocks in well under that magical 45 minute mark for playtime.

Of course, one of the best things about any gaming convention is the discovery of those releases from smaller companies. 5th Street Games will be showing off their rather splendid Farmageddon while Asmadi should have copies of their very limited Origins hit FlowerFall available too. The new Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse will be selling at the Greater Than Games booth, while Leviathans, the steampunky miniatures air-combat game that I’ve been waiting since the beginning of time for, is finally due – albeit in very limited numbers. Last of all, Morels from Two Lanterns Games will definitely be available and it looks utterly lovely.

Oh yeah. One final thing.

I’m very excited about is the fact that my new game, Pocket Universe, will be on show at the Game Salute booth. I’m finding it very nerve-wracking that it’s being shown at all but it’s even worse when you consider that I’m not actually going to be there. You may well have tried it out yourself by downloading the files from the site (there’s been a few, honest!) but that version is light years away from the one you’ll be able to check out at GenCon. While it’s still in prototype format, the gameplay is 99.99% finished – I’m considering tweaking maybe one or two very tiny elements – so why not have a look at it yourself? Just ask one of the GS team at the Sneak Peeks booth (#2035) and tell them I sent you.

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News and Stuff: August 13, 2010

Back in the swing of things again! It’s Friday, so that means it’s news time. Now, admittedly, having been on a break for a couple of weeks means that there’s been a lot going on. I’ll do a quick runthrough of some of the big/interesting new releases in a bit, but there’s something a little more important I’d like to cover first…

I’d like to pick up on is a campaign started by a guy called Kevin Schlabach. As well as being responsible for the Seize Your Turn blog (and companion twitter feed) which picks up on some on the best news and reviews in gaming (as well as some of the stuff I write), Kevin has started PiP: Play in Public. While it’s ostensibly aimed at American players, the concept is certainly something that could and should be done here in the UK as well – or indeed anywhere you’re reading this. The idea is simple: we love to play games, but it seems that we’re kind of hiding under the bed. If you mention board gaming to most people, they get the image of kids fighting over Buckaroo, poorly run Christmas Day sessions of Monopoly or forced games of Trivial Pursuit after dinner parties. As gamers, we know that there is so much more, so why not try and promote our hobby? For more specific details on Kevin’s campaign, have a look here and pledge your support!

GenCon has just wrapped up, taking place last weekend (just as I was flying back from the US – brilliant! Next year I’ll time it better an hopefully actually attend). The self-proclaimed “Best Four Days of Gaming” took over the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, playing host to 30,000 gaming fans as well as comic artists, TV stars and – of course – some of the most important people in the industry. Originally founded back in 1967 by D&D creator Gary Gygax, it’s grown into the world’s biggest English language gaming convention. There are plenty of write-ups from various attendees on BoardGameGeek, but highlights included Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (which apparently was everywhere – review coming up on LMD soon!) and the general public getting their first proper look at Dominion: Prosperity. This has – of course – lead to the usual arguments over Dominion being little more than a CCG in big box form, but let’s gloss over them… It’s made me think though about the lack of conventions here though – aside from the UK Games Expo, what else do we have? If you’ve got any local gaming events going on near you, let me know – email littlemetaldog@gmail.com and I’ll put them up on here!

Now, a quick wrap-up on new releases. As is the way for this time of year, the various games companies are beginning to get ready for the holiday season (yes, I know it’s August, but we must be prepared). There’s a fair few decent looking titles making their way to stores over the next few weeks – stuff that interests me includes the previously mentioned Ascension (designed by some of MtG’s greatest players, no less!) and Petroglyph’s Graxia games (Heroes and Guardians). There’s also the retro Voltron game coming out from Privateer Press which I was lucky enough to have a quick go with at Comic Con (as well as a load of new Monsterpocalypse stuff) – if you’re into huge monsters kicking seven shades out of each other, you’re in for a treat! For the more sedate amongst you, the latest in the Catan Histories series is now available: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails is set in the USA of the 1800s and sees you attempt to distribute resources across the whole country. Having not tried one of the Histories games, I’m intrigued to see how differently they actually play – initial reports are good, though. Finally, Asmodee have got the ‘enhanced’ standalone version of the classic party game Werewolf – The Village has a bunch of new roles as well as a curious mechanic involving buildings. Is it taking the simplicity of the original too far? We shall see soon enough…

And that’s your lot! Keep an eye out for the next episode of the podcast – episode 7 is still being finalised, but should be available next week. I’m very excited about the guests coming up over the next few episodes – a lot of the people suggested by you guys for the LMD5000 competition are up for coming on the show, including a few people from the world of podcasting. I shall say no more until the show is all edited together! Have a great weekend and get playing!

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News & Stuff – 9th July 2010

What’s better than sitting outside in your local beer garden? This week’s Little Metal Dog News, of course!

It’s actually a bit of a slow news week, but what’s out there’s pretty interesting. First up – brought to my attention by LMD listener Roger Faires – is a top idea from TerrorBull Games to finance their next release as well as put a bit of money in the pocket of Amnesty International. The makers of the infamous War On Terror (as seen on everyone’s favourite geek extravaganza The IT Crowd!) are offering up the chance for members of the playing public to appear in the next edition of the game. The six different note denominations will each have a different picture chosen by the winners of a selection of eBay auctions that are currently running (and here’s a link to one of them!). They end next Friday (July 16th) at noon GMT – winners of the auctions will get their own collectors edition of the game as well as the fame and glory of being on the bank notes. It’s a great concept and I hope that TerrorBull raise a bundle for Amnesty – it’s an incredily worthwhile charity! I’ll get in touch with the guys at the company after the auctions are complete to see if we can show off who the winners are – so for now, go and bid! Bid now!

Next up, Summoner Wars. One of the most entertaining games I’ve played recently, Colby Dauch (who appeared on the show a while back) has released an onslaught of news from Plaid Hat Games regarding some new expansions. I recently got my hands on both the Vanguards and Fallen Kingdom decks and they’re both excellent additions to an already great game. The forthcoming premium board is also pretty much ready to roll and should be in the hands of those who pre-ordered by September at the very latest. While Summoner Wars is perfectly good with the included board, a heavy duty hard board will certainly be another welcome addition. For more regular updates from Colby, he’s updating the BGG page with alarming regularity.

It seems that a week can’t pass without mention of some awards, and this time you’re getting a double header. The recent Origins expo in Ohio, USA saw some interesting games get the nod in a range of categories. Check out these for a random bunch:

  • Best Board Game went to Games Workshop’s Space Hulk (seriously? Yes, it’s good and all, but you can’t buy it!)
  • Best Card Game – Poo: The Card Game from Catalyst Games (looks… interesting!)
  • Best Children’s, Party or Family Game – Looney Labs’ Are You the Traitor?  (simple Werewolf / Mafia style goodness) 
  • Best Historical Board Game – Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! from Academy Games (looks to be insanely well respected, but way beyond my brain!)
  • Best Historical Miniature Game Rules – Wings of War: WWII, Deluxe Edition by Nexus (a load of fun, even better with mini planes all over the table)
  • They’re actually a pretty good bunch, but the selection of Space Hulk surprises me greatly. What was basically a limited edition, uber-expensive reprint is worthy enough to be deemed Game of the Year? Interesting. Especially considering the Games Workshop aren’t the most popular company out there…

    Anyway, more awards. This time, the annual ENnies (aka the Gen Con EN World RPG Awards) nominations list are out as of today. While LMD mainly focuses on board and card gaming, I must admit to enjoying a bit of tabletop RPG action and there’s not much better than curling up on the sofa reading through a hefty manual. Looking through the list, there’s a fair few interesting looking games there, but I was particularly pleased to see UK based company Cubicle 7 up for their excellent Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space set – there’s a full review on this very blog too! However, if anything deserves to win, I really really want Lucha Libre Hero to pick up an award – building characters based around Mexican wrestling? Who wouldn’t love that?

    And that’s your lot for now. The next episode of the podcast is currently being edited and tinkered with – there’s an interview with Mathew Anderson from Petroglyph Games (makers of the upcoming Graxia releases as well as the Panzer General series) and a huge – and really entertaining – chat with Antony Brown from Dice Maestro. You’ve got to listen, it’s brilliant. Mental, but brilliant. As well as that, Chris will be returning to help me out with your questions, so drop me a line at littlemetaldog@gmail.com  – cheers as always!

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