Review by Stephen Mingo
The perfect railway network doesn’t exist. Well, with a few carefully placed tiles, now it can! We took on Board & Dice’s rail franchise themed board game: Traintopia. Released in 2020, this 2 to 4 player from designer Przemek Wojtkowiak and Artists Jakub Fajtanowski & Zbigniew Umgelter was simply a joy to behold. I’m not just saying that because we got sent it to review, I’m saying it because I’ve played it countless times since receiving it and it is now one of my go-to games to bring along to game night.
The colourful artwork, coupled with the seemingly endless possibility of combinations of game tile pieces results in a satisfying affair with your network of fictional locomotive tracks. It’s a game with replay-ability on it’s side, you never really know how your network of tiles will turn out as you don’t know what will come up each round. Laughably short, although still point scoring, tracks can be complimented by long and sprawling projects entirely reliant on an endgame ‘station’ tile to cap it off after eight successful rounds of building.
The rules are simple. On your turn:
- Draft a tile, commuter, tourist, mailbag, or a train from the middle of the table.
- Expand your network by adding the newly drafted component to it.
You score points when your commuter zips along your tracks based on the number of tiles of a certain colour you have collected. The timing of the scoring is up to you – go in early for quick points or play the long game and get a mega score on a long track at the risk of not getting the colour token you need to do so. Of course, there are various ways in which to increase or multiply those points. From little mailbags that go up and down the track at the end of the game doubling your score, to scoring attractions that happen to be alongside your track, there are various different tactics one might take to win.
As a Ticket to Ride fan, I was already predisposed to enjoying the basic concept of this one. But actually, this isn’t just a copy of the aforementioned classic railway building game. This is more something we would see if Ticket and a game akin to Carcassone had a lovechild. The objective is to build the best railway network by selecting tiles from a communal pool and joining those tiles up neatly with your existing map where possible. You can concentrate on your own plans, but isn’t it much more fun to take a tile you know somebody else absolutely needs to shaft them out of points?
The artwork really deserves an honourable mention. The bright colours are attractive, yet not overcrowded meaning you can game with ease and score your points fairly quickly. The tokens are wooden and good quality at that and the commuter bag to hold them in feels nice in the hand. The whole game has the feel of a cartooned, efficient German eco-train network. I’m not sure the sentence I just typed makes sense unless you’ve played the game, but you get the picture (pun intended).
If I had to pick a downside, and I would be hard pressed to do so, it would be with the money system. Certain tiles come with a money token next to your track. You can spend that money to grab a bonus tile which usually has particularly useful rail components, or mega point scoring features. Or you can keep the money and have your train come along at the end to sweep it all up for extra points. Having played 2, 3 and 4 player variants of this game, rarely have I found that the money system makes much difference in terms of end-game scoring compared to the effort put in to carefully select the limited number of tiles displaying the handful of dollars and coins. Time is usually better spent on other strategies, but being able to purchase bonus tiles does make the game that little bit more exciting.
My wife and I enjoyed a few rounds of Traintopia since it first arrived, and it has quickly become one of her favourite games due to the simplicity of it and how creative and fun it can be. Bonus points go to Board & Dice for including little plastic bags inside the box to store all your game pieces once popped out of the cardboard. If more game designers did this, the world would be a better place.
At time of writing, you can pick up Traintopia for about £30-35 at most good game retailers. Or, if you’re in the East Devon area on a Tuesday, drop me a message and I’ll happily bring it along to the club for you try out.
If you’d like us to review or playtest your brand new game, get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a club membership base full of experienced wargamers, board gamers and card collectors happy to give feedback and/or spread the word about your product. We are also accepting submission for family games suitable for young children who are keen and enthusiastic tabletop gamers too.