Trainmaker Review

Disclaimer: This preview is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by Alderac Entertainment Group to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.

Game: Trainmaker
Publishers: Alderac Entertainment GroupThe Game Crafter, LLCGrey Gnome Games
Designers: Chris LederKen Grazier
Artists: Jason GloverChris Leder
Main Game Mechanisms: Dice RollingPress Your Luck
Number of Players: 1 to 6
Game Time: 15 minutes

Image from Ken Grazier via BGG

Description: Trainmaker is a quick, light press-your-luck game that has been reprinted by Alderac Entertainment Group. This game involves rolling dice to collect steam engines, rolling stock, and cabooses in order to claim cards that are available each round.

At the beginning of the game, you’ll get a secret objective. There are two types of secret objectives – one requires you to get 3 of one type of train (indicated in the corner of each claimed card) or 3 of another type. The other requires you to collect 7 of the same symbol, which look like the rolling stock that you’ll be rolling during the game. If you’re the first to get your secret objective or you’re the first one to get one of every type of train, you win.

Three cards will be placed in the middle of the board, and you’ll claim them by rolling your dice and matching the symbols on the bottom. Here’s a quick look at your turn.

  • Roll your dice. If there’s no locomotive and/or rolling stock on your first roll, you lose your turn and, if you’ve used it, you get back your switch track token (which I’ll explain momentarily).
  • Build your train. You have to use at least one locomotive and one rolling stock. But, if you use two locomotives and you claim a card with that train, you get an extra turn and the possibility to claim another card!
  • Keep rolling to build onto your train. As long as you’re able to add to your train, you can keep going. If you can’t add on any more dice (going left to right) or you can’t finish the train with a caboose, then you derail, and your turn is over. If you complete one of the cards, and you have a caboose to finish it off, you get to claim the card!
    • If you used two locomotives, you get a bonus turn using only the dice that were included in the train that claimed the first card. You can always have more rolling stock than you need to claim a card, as long as you have the minimum – but you can only have one caboose, and you can only put locomotives on your train during the first roll.  If you’re lucky, you can claim all 3 cards in one round!

And that’s it! You have a “switch track” token, which I mentioned above, that you can use in order to switch a die to any side that you wish. But, you only get it once per game (unless you whiff on your first roll, as mentioned), so you have to be smart about when you use it!

Review: I’ve always liked press-your-luck games, because there’s something fun about pushing yourself and seeing if you can make things happen. This definitely fits quite well in the genre, and it’s a really accessible game that is simple for people to learn with just a short explanation.

Trainmaker is a light, fun game that’s great for passing the time. And when it says 15 minutes on the box, it really is about 15 minutes – out of all of our plays, we only hit the 20 minute mark maybe once. I could see it going longer with the higher player counts, but probably not by much.

The dice are fantastic. I love how chunky they are and how they feel in your hands. They roll really well, the trains are distinct, and the colors are bright. I imagine they work fine for colorblind persons due to the different shapes of the rolling stock cars, except maybe the yellow one (since it’s a white car on a yellow background). The cards have fun art, the symbology is really simple to understand at a glance, and the general “old timey” feel comes through in everything, which makes it that much more fun to play.

The box is a little big for what you get in there, but I imagine the components will fit well in our Quiver if we decide to take it with us somewhere. The extra box space is really my only complaint about the game overall, but I totally understand that it’s about shelf presence. A smaller box may not have caught our attention quite as well, at first – and that’s important to retailers and publishers alike.

This fits that genre of game that some may call a “beer and pretzels” game absolutely perfectly. You can’t do anything to affect the other players, and it’s really easy to chat or enjoy a snack while you’re watching others take their turns. It’s fun to watch people push their luck, and even though it’s competitive, you can’t help but cheer everyone else on, or get excited when they get a stroke of luck that helps them complete that really tough train card they were going for.

Try, Buy, Deny: If you like press-your-luck dice games like Zombie Dice and Las Vegas, then you definitely want to try Trainmaker. I know that Sarah and I really enjoy it and would consider it a buy for us, but not everyone is into the whole “press your luck” mechanism. It comes at a nice price point ($25 MSRP, most online stores have it under $20) and is a really easy to learn, quick filler.

Game On!

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