This game goes into the list of games I can teach my mother or could bring out at a family non gaming event. TransAmerica is a really simple railway game! If you are considering this game, do be aware that it is a lot simpler than Ticket to Ride.
The rule book is all of two pages, clear and clear. It plays in less than half an hour, turns are fast and the whole game is fairly engaging. It has the added bonuses of being fairly cheap, and comes in a small box so is pretty portable.
Three to six players are given a set of cards depicting five cities across the USA and they need to connect them by rail, by placing one or two tracks in turn. All tracks are the same colour, so it does not matter who lays any particular track. The first player to connect all five of his cities wins a round and the game is usually over in three or four rounds, each taking five to 10 minutes.
The question becomes this: Can a game this simple and with a two page rules sheet be any good?
Play takes place over a number of rounds. In each round each player is randomly given five cards, one from each area on the game board. Each card depicts a city. In turn players place one or two pieces of track, there being some places where it costs two plays to place one track, denoting difficult terrain. So play is fast, and because you can make use of opponent track it is interactive.
Because all of the track is the same colour, the key to this game is to make use of the track placed by your opponents, but at the same time they will be trying to make the most use of your play. As soon as one player connects all his cities the round ends. At the end of the round players tot up how many plays they were short of connecting their five cities and subtract that number from their score track, starting at 13.
Another round then starts and the process continues. The game ends when one player falls to zero on the scoring track, the winner being the player(s) with the highest remaining score.
There is a bit of strategy, in trying to second guess opponents and using their track, in trying to make the most use of difficult terrain, and trying not to aid opponents. It’s light, quick to get into, really easy to teach, well designed and fun.
The board and cards in TransAmerica are on reasonably good stock, and the rest of the components are good. The rules, what there are of them, are clear and well laid out. It’s a neat little package, nothing special, but nothing lacking.
Versions and Expansions
If you are looking for a game this simple and you can only find TransEuropa, the only difference is the game board, a map of Europe that than the USA. Play and everything else is identical.
Vexation is sometimes bundled into TransAmerica and TransEuropa. It adds three coloured pieces of track for individual use by each player. These pieces of track can only be played and used by the owning player and no more than two coloured pieces may be placed on any intersection. This is all it adds, it’s that simple, and it makes the game way more interesting and strategic. It’s an amazingly simple addition and one that is really worthwhile to add.
Final Thoughts on TransAmerica
TransAmerica is actually quite a neat little game, it’s balanced, there is a little bit of strategy in trying to guess what cities your opponents might be trying to reach, and it is most certainly not deep or challenging.
From my point of view it’s worth having a copy around for those times when you need a really simple game. Maybe there are younger family members around. Maybe you need an “entry game” that is simpler and faster than say Catan or Ticket to Ride.
Don’t expect anything deep, it isn’t. Don’t expect cutthroat, not even with the addition of Vexation, it’s not. TransAmerica is a fun, light-hearted game, made a lot better with Vexation. Vexation turns it into what I consider to be a good entry game, on par with the likes of Catan and Ticket to Ride, it’s easy to learn, easy to play, fast, interactive and adds just enough strategy to make play really worthwhile and interesting
So, to answer my question. Can a game with a two page rules sheet be any good? The answer is yes.