If you are anything like me, it can be sometimes hard to get people to play a new game. Especially if those people are more of casual gamers who are a little hesitant to try another new game of yours, especially since I like to play (and craft) complicated games. (Puerto Rico, Pay Dirt, Empire Engine, to name a few on my shelf)
However, some games are simple, and unimposing enough that the resistance is short lived. Once the game has been played, you all find yourselves shuffling up the cards….”Let’s play again! That was fun!” When that happens, I know I have found a good, short, enjoyable, simple filler game, that everyone can enjoy.
Now, I am not always a big fan of games in this category. Games like Uno, Phase 10 (which is really a LONG game), Blitz, Farkle, Rook, and Ratuki, etc. are fun, but for me are not a main event. I like to think and strategize typically. Don’t get me wrong- these are all good games for the niche they fill, and are fun with the family, but it is just not a niche that I need filled all that often. In other words, these are the games, I can get everyone else to play, but I personally am not as excited about.
So when I discover a game that meets those conditions, but also is interesting to me, and draws me into it as well, one that everyone, no matter their deep-thinking comfort level can enjoy, and is short and addictive (“Play again!” “One more time!” “Why not one more round!”), I take notice, and if I can, add it to my shelf.
Yardmaster Express is one such game. While a slightly larger micro game at 30+ cards, this is a good little filler game, that can be enjoyable in-between games kind of game, or if you are a little shorter on time, can be an enjoyable event to itself.
Yardmaster Express is a micro game from a small board game start-up publisher, Crash Games, who recently brought us Pay Dirt, which I have been thoroughly enjoying. My PnP copy has been seeing lots of use!
Yardmaster Express is also another recently funded Kickstarter project that is really a great game for the package. It is the express version of Yardmaster, also a recent Kickstarter project and a small game as well.
Players take the role of yardmasters (imagine that!) trying to make up a profitable train consist to send out. Each player has their own train they are hooking up car(d)s to based on type or value. Once the trains reach a certain car(d) limit, the game ends, and players tally up their points.
As with all it’s games, Crash Games generously provides the full color pdf files for Yardmaster Express on its game page on BoardGameGeek here:
As this games is all cards, it really is a simple, simple build. You print out the cards (5 pages total) double sided with the colored train cars on the front, and the grey wild cards on the back. Then I ran them through the laminator, cut the cards out, and rounded the edges. Other than making sure to keep the cards in order when double-sided printing so that the cards match up with their backs, this was a walk in the park, especially compared to some games I have crafted.
In one sense this game takes elements from 7 Wonders, Uno, and Stationmaster, and blends it into a nice, unique game. First, you draw a hand equal to the number of players in the game. This is a communal hand that gets passed around. On your turn, you draw a card to the hand, play a card either face up or face down, and then pass the hand to the next player.
This deck-drafting/communal hand mechanic is really neat, and while I am familiar with it somewhat with 7 Wonders, it really has a novel, unique feel to it. Do I take that 4/4 card I can’t play, and bury it as a wild card in my train to prevent someone else from taking it, or do I take that 3/3 card in the hopes that the 4/4 card makes it around to me next turn?
Once a set number of rounds have been played (depending on the number of players), players tally up their points from the value of the cars added to the train. In addition, whomever has the longest run of a color gets extra points based on the number of cars in the run. You can also play with the caboose expansion which offers some variety of extra bonus points to earn by meeting certain conditions.
Admittedly this is a very simple game. This is a light filler type of game, and it makes no pretensions to be anything else. Even with that though, there is a little bit of strategy and planning involved, which I alluded to above. The sharing of a common hand makes this game really interesting. The Caboose variants really make the game more interesting as well, and keep things different each game. These really help break up the monotony of always the same goal.
Yardmaster Express is really a great game for what it is intended to be. It is a fun little filler suitable for all ages. If you can play Uno, you can play this. Is this a deep game, or a gamer’s game? No, not at all. In one sense it feels a little more strategic than Uno, mainly because of the card drafting/shared hand mechanic, but on the other, it feels just as simple and easy to play, although it doesn’t feel like brainless play like Phase 10 or other games with little decision making…
In short, this game really is worth checking out. The retail version should be out soon, or you can always make the PnP version, which takes only a little work to do. Finally a game I like that everyone likes to play, not just my gamer friends and family. 😉