Nearly everyone has a horror story about the game of Monopoly that ruined your friendship, the Scrabble match because of which your girlfriend broke up with you, or the Risk piece that’s now permanently embedded in your little brother’s leg.
There are several popular co-operative board games out there to help everyone stay friendly around the gaming table, and the recently release Train Heist adds another option – and does a pretty decent job of it.
Designed by Sean Dallas McDonald, and published by Tower Guard Games in 2015, Train Heist puts players in the role of a gang of cowboys who, as the name suggests, set out to rob a train. The goal is to deliver the goods to one of three towns before the train comes around again. Fail three deliveries, and the jig is up.
It’s basically a race against time to reach a pre-determined goal of how many pieces of loot you can get off the train, which moves around the board based on a relatively simple mechanic – slow at first, then faster later in the game adding to the sense of urgency.
Players collect from a deck of playing cards to get the right combination to rob a particular train car while avoiding the sheriff who moves from car to car randomly as determined by a deck of cards, making capture and failure a real possibility, but without making it impossible to reach the goal.
Having the option to ride a horse, or not, adds a bit more cowboy flavour – especially since jumping from the roof of the train onto a waiting horse is an option.
And a set of wanted posters, which allow players to meet specific goals for an outlaw title like “Doug the Kid,” “Crazy Dave,” or “Two-Timing Karl” gives a touch of a role-playing element and will allow you to, for better or worse, dust off your cowboy accent.
But Train Heist suffers from all the same drawbacks as other co-operative games. Most significantly, it’s very easy for it to become a one-person game played with four people as someone dictates strategy to the rest of the group.
This, of course, could work to your advantage if you’re playing with a less-than-enthusiastic crowd, or playing with kids, but it’s not really to my taste.
The mechanic of the train moving around can get pretty frustrating as well, as you can end up spending half your turn counting squares of where you think the train might be when your turn comes around again, which can quickly come to feel more like work than fun.
Another drawback is it doesn’t feel particularly well balanced for different numbers of players: playing with just two seems much more difficult than with a larger group.
Ultimately it’s a reasonably fun board game, without a lot of complicated pieces that would make the price unreasonable. It’s probably worthwhile to pick up to play in a more casual setting, but if you’re interested in something a little more involved you might want to give it a miss.
3 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Tower Guard Games (2015)
Number of players: 2 to 4
Age: 12 and up
Playtime: 45 minutes