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K-BAN’S KORNER: TRANSAMERICA

K-BAN’S KORNER

TransAmerica (Winning Moves/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 6 players, 30 minutes; $24.95)

 

Railroad games are usually both long and complex. Not so for TransAmerica by Franz-Benno Delonge, a railroad themed connection game for those with short attention spans and little tolerance for learning new rules. A new game that you can be playing in a couple of minutes and takes 5-10 minutes per round is ideal for getting newbies to the table.

TransAmerica’s board is a map of the US with a triangular grid superimposed. There are 35 cities, in 5 different colors by geographic region, labeled with large circles. Most of the grid lines are single width, but those that transverse mountains or rivers have 2 parallel lines (indicating that they require 2 actions). A deck of 35 city cards thoughtfully shows the location as well as the name and color of the city on the front and the color alone on the back. Before each round the city cards are divided into 5 stacks by color, shuffled, and dealt one to each player. As a result, everyone has one city in each region.TransAm

Your mission is to connect your 5 cities with track (black wooden sticks) before the competition does likewise. Prior to laying track, players, in turn order, place their cylindrical start piece anywhere on the board (but most likely in a location close to one or more of your target cities). On subsequent turns, tracks are placed on the grid at the rate of 2 per player or 1, if crossing a river or mountain. Every track you place must ultimately be traceable to your start piece, however. Play proceeds clockwise and rather quickly, as tracks laid become communal property. Once your tracks connect to an opponent’s, a larger network is formed and it becomes relatively easy to connect to distant regions. The trick is to have others do the heavy lifting for you, so you can concentrate on your trouble spots to complete your circuit.

As soon as a player can demonstrate connection of all 5 of their cities by revealing the appropriate cards, the round immediately ends. The player going out first gets a score of zero. Everyone else scores as many points as actions needed to complete their mission. All start with 13 points (marked with a mini wooden locomotive) and count down to zero. If, at the end of a round, a player has hit zero, the game ends and whoever has the most points remaining is declared the winner.

If no one has reached zero, tracks are swept clean from the board, the cards are re-sorted, shuffled and dealt as before, with start player rotating clockwise. Sure, the luck of the draw can thwart the best-laid plans, but there’s always next round. Keys to consistent victory are initial placement based on your cards and placements of others. Getting others to complete sections of track that you need is vital.

An earlier version of the game, Iron Road, was produced by Winsome Games. TransAmerica is both more visually appealing and lower in price. Rio Grande Games will be importing TransAmerica this summer with English rules.

Make no mistake, TransAmerica is light family fare and not for budding rail barons (or rocket scientists). Our weekly play-testing group uses it as an opener, while waiting for stragglers to arrive. If you want to introduce non-gamers to our pastime, all aboard for TransAmerica! – – – – – – – – – – – – Steve Kurzban

(More traveling ahead! See K-ban’s take on Santa Fe Rails and Clippers!)


 

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Summer 2002 GA Report Articles

 

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