Publisher: Mayfair games
Designer: Helmut Ohley
They thought I was crazy when I suggested a tram, who would want a cart that can't deviate from it's path? But slowly they came to realize, the safety, the reliability, the guarantee that horse leavings were only found in the middle of the street! An now they talk about the future, steam, even electric, think of it! Trams powered by harnessing the power of thunder, the future will be a bright pace, even safer, even more reliable and far, far less poop!
Trambahn is a 2 player card game in which you try and set up the most successful tram network. The game balances set collection with financial concerns and a scoring system which allows you to dictate which colours score and when.
Each turn you have a hand of 6 cards, most of these cards come in one of 4 colours and numbered 1-10, however there are a few wild cards in the deck. First you must play 1 or 2 cards as passengers, passengers come in the 4 colours, once one colour has 4 passengers that colour scores, so you can strategically make colours that gain you points score faster, however it will cost you cards of that colour which you could have been using for improving your routes. Then you can place cards down on your routes, you can have as many routes as you want so long as you buy a tram for each. Each route consists of 1 colour and numbered cards in ascending order, a route finishes when you reach 10 and the higher numbered cards are worth more than the lower numbered ones so it can be tempting to play small routes with high numbers and ignore the smaller ones.
|The game set up ready to play, in the center-right are the 4 rows where passengers amass|
However Trambahn encourages you to collect large routes, if you make a route 8 cards long then you get a free scoring of that route, this is the only way to score a route without also scoring your opponents routes of the same colour. Finally you can buy a tram, each route needs a tram to run it and these act as a point multiplier for your routes. Better trams are available later in the game, but of course then you have less time to build up the route its attached to. Any cards you have left over get turned into money, as a really nice touch all of the route/passenger cards have 1000 marks notes printed as their reverse side, so they instantly turn into your money as soon as you put them down on the table.
|The 3 different tram types represent technological advances, they give better multipliers for your routes, but also cost far more money.|
Trambahn is a game that just seems to be missing something, it’s fun to win, sure, but losing always felt lacklustre. When I did badly it seemed to be because I just couldn’t draw the cards I needed, its not much fun when you desperately need to draw a blue card and you don’t for 3 turns straight. Perhaps that was an extreme run of bad luck, but victory or loss feels as much luck based as it is skill based. Additionally the winner is often fairly clear by about half way through the game, which doesn’t lead for the most satisfactory situation for the loser, sure you can try and turn things around with the big 4x trams, but the chances of you getting a decent run of them, particularly with the deck now having less cards in the deck, are pretty slim.
In perhaps my most trivial nag, the box is simply too big! It’s a 2 player card game with no board or large components I can easily fit all of the contents into half of the box size, with the exception of the instructions. If you are willing to score on a scrap of paper/phone then all you need to play is a large deck of cards, why did they feel the need to give it such a large box? Perhaps I’m moaning too much about this, but one of the joys of card-0based games is portability, Hanabi, Harbour et al are all highly portable and easy to take with you in case you end up sitting at a cafe and want a quick game. Trambahn’s box costs it that bonus which in turn means that it’s a game that we play sat home, where we have our whole collection available and in that situation it’s simply not the game I would choose.