Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Load the train—faster! faster!

If you thought that at twenty minutes long that Yardmaster was too long a game, then there is a solution. Funded through Kickstarter and also published by Crash Games, Yardmaster Express is a micro game that can be played in ten minutes however many players you have. Designed for between two and five players, aged thirteen plus, in Yardmaster Express, the players attempt to build the most valuable train in a limited number of turns.

The game consists of one Start Player token, five Engine cards, thirty-two Railcar cards, and four Caboose cards. At the start of the game, each player receives an Engine card to which he will attach his Railcar cards and one player is given the Start Player token. This player draws a hand of Railcar cards equal to the number of players. He then takes his turn.

On his turn, a player draws one Railcar card and adds it to his hand. He then plays one card from his hand. Each Railcar card is two-and-a-half inches square and divided vertically in half. Each half of the Railcar card has a colour and a number on it as well as a Railcar. Both the colour and the  number on each side can be the same or they can be completely different. What matters is that when added to a player’s train, the colour or the number of the new Railcar must match the colour or the number of the last Railcar in the train. So for example, the last Railcar in Dave’s is a Green 2. Thus he can play either another Green card or any card with a value of 2. If a player lacks a card that he can add to his train, then he flip a card and play it as a Wild Card, in which it acts as any colour or number.

At the end of his turn, a player collects up his hand and passes it to the player on his left, who then takes his turn. 

Once a set number of round have passed—seven for two players, six for three players, and so on, then the game ends. The players add up the value of the numbers on the Railcars in his train—that is, both numbers on each Railcar cards—to get a total. The player with the longest run of one colour of Railcars receives a bonus equal to their number. The player with the highest total is the winner.

Now what is clear here is there is only the one hand of Railcar cards. It is this that is passed from one player to next, each time the holding player drawing and playing a Railcar card. The draw, play, and pass mechanic feels not dissimilar to that of 7 Wonders, though of course, there is only the one hand of cards whereas everyone has a hand of cards in 7 Wonders. The same two core choices are offered here as in 7 Wonders—does a player add a Railcar to his train because he needs it, or because it will prevent another player from adding a Railcar that he needs? This choice may not always be there, but it needs to be kept in mind when it is. The game though, is primary luck based, players relying on drawing the Railcar cards that they want to play rather than on cards that they want to prevent another player using..

Yardmaster Express is nicely presented. The cards are of a high quality and a nice touch is the basic rules are printed on the Engine cards for easy reference. The rules are easy to read and learn. The packaging is nicely sturdy. The addition of the wooden Start Player token is nice too as is a mini-expansion and some variant rules.

Given the lack choices and actions—just draw a card, play a card, pass the cards on—Yardmaster Express is suited to a younger audience, rather than the suggested minimum age of thirteen which feels rather high. It also plays better with three or four players as with five players, the number of turns feels far too short. Yet despite its simplicity, Yardmaster Express is reasonable filler, one that fits easily into a bag and carried around.