Anatomy of a Genre: Train Games, Part One — Connections

A few weeks ago, I was playing a game of Martin Wallace’s Steel Driver, and when we finished one of the players asked, “Is that what most train games are like?” Though Steel Driver has some fairly typical features of train games, it doesn’t cover the entire spectrum of train game design. Overall, there actually aren’t a lot of games that cover all the features that you find in train games … and so I expounded for a while on my theory of train games — which is what follows.

In my opinion train games feature three main mechanics — connections, stock holding, and pickup and delivery — but few games feature all three.


Ticket to Ride with Aliens

Ticket to Ride

The fundamental mechanic that makes a train game a train game is connectivity — the act of building connections from place to place over a large board. Certainly, not all connection games are train games, as Michael Schacht has proven. However, I think that all train games are connection games.

In the modern day, Ticket to Ride (2004) is probably the definitive connection train game. The whole game is about collecting the resources (cards) to build tracks. You’re then rewarded with points, both for the actual building and for connecting up specific cities. Unlike most train games, Ticket to Ride allows you to build discontiguous rail lines, but the rewards for connecting cities usually preclude players from doing so. Metro (1997) and String Railway (2009) offer examples of even more minimalistic connections-only train game (the latter with strings!),

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Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate’s Game for Me!

Knucklebones: November 2007This is a reprint of an article written in May, 2007 for first publication in the November 2007 issue of the now-defunct Knucklebones magazine. Because of its origins, this article is more introductory and (hopefully) more polished than many of my online writings. Despite the original source of this article, this blog is in no way associated with Jones Publishing or Knucklebones Magazine.

November 2007 was also the first month that Knucklebones opted to accept two different articles for me; the other was an article on Z-Man games, which I finished a couple of weeks later, in June.

Shiver me timbers if it ain’t September again, and you know what that means, matey! It’s time to dedicate a noggin’ o’ rum to Ol’ Chum Bucket and Cap’n Slappy — the two scurvy lads who came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day, back on September 19, 1995.

Of course we know all you mateys and wenches alike will be taking p-arrrr-t in the festivities, but don’t take it as an excuse to just drink grog and sing shanties. You can also weigh anchor, hoist the Jolly Roger, and plunder and pillage on your own with a selection of excellent pirate games.

So keep reading for my top suggestions and I won’t have to make you walk the plank!

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