Get your math hat on in this quick card game for up to six players, where you win by building trains and making sure your passengers are on the right one before it leaves the station.
|Station Master||Mayfair Games||Card Game|
In The Box
Many players now seem to measure the value of a game according to the weight of its box, or the number of cards and components. It’s true that younger players traditionally were attracted to games with lots of bling, but there’s a point at which the scales tilt away from something being a game and you end up with an interactive toy. Mouse Trap is the perfect example of this. Station Master is the counterexample: A beautifully simple production that uses its spare components to maximum value.
The Train Game genre tends to be more about planning routes and controlling territory, where this version of a train game focuses on what happens before you ever leave the station. You’ll find 112 cards packed in that represent powerful locomotives and a variety of train cars you can attach to these engines. There are also 36 miniature poker chips specially marked with the Mayfair logo on one side and the numbers 1-3 on the other. These represent passengers you can assign to trains before they leave the station, which will determine how many points you earn for any one train. All that’s missing is a way to keep score, which you can manage on pad of paper, with scoring tokens, or poker chips.
How It Plays
Up to six players can compete, so Station Master has some great social interaction that you wouldn’t immediately expect. In one sense you end up collaborating with your opponents to build trains, but passenger tokens each person plays represent a “bid” on the final outcome of each train. Turns come down to decisions about where to place passengers, and whether to play cars that add or subtract value from a locomotive.
Players manage a small hand of three cards, making Station Master easy for young players with small paws. Only a few locomotives are on the table at any one time and make up just 15 of the 112 cards; once they’re used up the game is over. Each locomotive has a number showing how many cars can be attached and how many total passenger tokens can be assigned. A locomotive leaves the station as soon as its last car card is placed. Passenger tokens are revealed and scored at this point, by multiplying the total passenger number by that train’s value.
Special cards that modify the train’s value or force it to leave the station early add some depth, but Station Master is fundamentally about guessing and bluffing. You’ll try to get your high-value passengers on high-value trains and hope your opponents don’t play “bad” cards like Freight Car or Fish Car to reduce the train’s final score. Since everybody will end up with at least one passenger on every train, you’ll have to guess where other players are placing their most valuable passengers.
It’s easy to reminisce for the glory days of passenger railroads while playing Station Master. There are plenty of opportunities to zing your opponents with lousy cars, but just as many times they’ll dash your hopes with one well-placed card.
I like that some cars are more valuable when attached to certain locomotives. The math required in Station Master is about right for a 5th grade student, considering the combination of addition, subtraction, and multiplication.