Kinda like a bullet train – Yardmaster Express
I reviewed Yardmaster back in April, but it seems that the train wasn’t fast enough for Crash Games, and now they have Yardmaster Express coming. Is this just another train on the same track or is there a different destination in this game?
Yardmaster Express looks a lot like the original Yardmaster, but with two cars on each card. These cars may match in color, but they frequently don’t. At the beginning of the game, the first player will get a hand of cards equal to the number of players plus one. Everyone else will get a single card. On your turn, you choose a card from the larger hand, add it to your train, then pass the hand to the left and draw a card. This way the active player has a hand of cards and everyone else adds to the hand when they are passed it on their turns. This can be a little odd to non-gamers at first, but once they see how it works, they should pick it up quickly. Cars must be added as in Yardmaster, with color or number matching between cards. If you have no cards that fit this criteria, you can turn a card from your hand face down and use it as a 2/2 wild card. It won’t get you many points, but it can help with later rounds of play.
There are also optional Caboose card that offer bonuses for meeting various criteria. For example, the Lightweight caboose is awarded to a player who doesn’t use any 4/4 cards in their train. If other players are passing on those cards, it can be worthwhile to take them, but it can also be worth it to go after the bonus. It generally depends on the cards in the hand and the playstyles of the other players.
The game plays with two to five players. I’ve found that I prefer it with less players, as the trains are longer and strategy seems to be more important. With more players, trains are shorter and the focus is changed to simply playing the best card each turn rather than a long term goal. At the same time, this is a micro game that doesn’t take long, so perhaps I’m expecting more from it than what it is. I find the game is best with two or three players and takes around fifteen minutes per game. I prefer the full size Yardmaster, but for a shorter game, this scratches the same kind of itch. It is a little bit drafting and a little bit screw your neighbor out of points.
The Kickstarter campaign launches on June 24th for only $9, or $7 if you backed Yardmaster. For that low of a price, it is difficult to find a game that is as good. I’ll be backing it on day one and if the game looks interesting to you, I hope you back it as well.