TL;DR– Great mechanics that compensate for a slight lack of theme 83%
Basics-Think Thunderstone meets Ticket to Ride. AEG brings all it learned from Thunderstone and combines it with area control. Each turn players play cards that give them resources or abilities that they can use to buy more cards, place markers on a board, or do both. Each card features icons indicating what you can do on your turn. Players try to connect stations on the board and reach point spaces on the outskirts of the board. When you get to a station you can use other cards to build stations on these spaces to score points. Other players can enter any space you are in and vice versa. This game features no player combat or destroying other player resources. The lack of player combat and shared terrain makes interesting choices occur during the game. Game ends when all station markers are on the board or a player runs out of trains.
Theme-This isn’t very theme heavy. A theme is there, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the game you are playing. You are playing cards with train pictures. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. I was felt like I wanted more. 3/5
Mechanics-Here the game absolutely shines. AEG has absolutely learned from games like Dominion and Thunderstone. The mechanics are crisp and the game moves fast. There are lots of cards that interact in interesting ways making novel strategies emerge based on what random cards you pull at start up. I had a blast, and I can’t wait for the expansion. The combination of terrain control is pretty seamless, and it really adds a new level of depth the deck building genre was missing. 5/5
Instructions– The instructions are relatively well written, but do need a bit more. I kind of wished for more to help me understand what I was doing in a few corner cases. Once you know, the icons on the cards do a lot of heavy lifting while keeping the game moving fast. However, some strange situations emerge that an extra page or two of the book would really help. 4.5/5
Construction/Art– Again good, but not great. I would have wished for little train cars or something else besides cubes and columns for the board. The use of standard game components like colored cubes kind of hurt the game because it doesn’t enhance the theme. However, all the components and box are solid and well put together. You can tell the AEG learned from Thunderstone and the box comes ready for the next expansions. I will be buying those. 4/5
Summary-This is a good game that misses great by inches. I loved what I played and want more, but I also want some more to make the theme come through. The mechanics are fantastic, and the game plays pretty fast. What keeps this from getting my game of the year is the lack of theme. If I had plastic trains and train stations, I would have felt that much more “in” the game. But the proof is in the pudding. I can’t wait to buy the next expansion to this game or to play this game again! 83%