Traintopia is quick-paced tile-laying drafting game that's all about building train tracks and scoring points. The two- to four-person board game by Board & Dice isn't like your typical train game, which generally focuses on building tracks to specific destinations, usually on a real-world map. Unlike games such as Ticket to Ride or 18XX, there are no routes between cities that players have to build. Instead, players score points by having their tracks meet certain criteria, or by picking up passengers and tourists.
At its heart, Traintopia is a drafting game, in which players collect tiles and other resources over the course of several rounds. At the start of the round, a player draws a round card and pulls the number of tiles and other resources (such as commuters and tourists meeples, or bullet trains and mailbags) for all players to see. Players then take turns picking resources from the round card, until there's only one resource left. As players pull tiles and resources, they place them on their own personal train network, making sure that the tile doesn't cause any contradictory train track builds (such as dead ends or loops). Notably, a player does not have to place their tile to keep an existing track going -- players don't necessarily need to wait to pull a tile with a station to start a new train route.
Players score points throughout the game using commuters and tourists. Commuters, who come in one of three colored meeples, can be placed on a route to automatically score a number of points equal to the matching color terrain spaces that route passes through. Each route can only have one commuter of each color, a player doesn't score additional points by adding more colored terrain spaces once a commuter has been placed. The white Tourist meeples act similarly, only players score points for every landmark adjacent to that track. Both commuters and tourists can be placed on any track, even ones that aren't completed.
At the end of the game, players score points based on the number of completed tracks they have on their network -- that is the number of tracks with a station at its beginning and end. The longer a track is, the more points a player scores, and players get two bonus points if they manage to have a red and a blue station on a track instead of having two stations of the same color. Players double the number of points they score if they have a mailbag on their track, and they can also score points if they have money tokens (used in the game to buy bonus tiles or change the color of commuters) left on a track with a bullet train on it.
Traintopia's biggest flaw is its Victory Point tokens, which are used to track Victory Points scored throughout the game. There are 90 Victory Point tokens with values of one, three, 10, and 50, and they're quite a pain to keep track of throughout the game. Honestly, it might be easier to just use a pencil and a pad of paper rather than try to keep track of the pile of victory points and their not particularly intuitive counting system.
If you're a fan of trains but don't like the train genre of board games, Traintopia is a fun and easy to learn alternative. Instead of trying to replicate planning train routes over terrain, it instead replicates the joy of being given a few wooden train tracks and putting them together in the most innovative way.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Traintopia is available for sale at local and online retailers for $40.00. A review copy was provided by Board & Dice.