Publisher: Mayfair / Lookout Games
Designer: Helmut Ohley
Artist: Klemens Franz
Release date: 2015
30 – 45 mins
Favouritefoe score: 7.5/10
*Set Collection * Racing * Multi-use Cards * Mid Game Scoring * Hand Management * Two Player *
Ticket to Tram!
Munich; the land of beer……and……well, turn of the century Bavarian tram businesses, it seems! Welcome to the late 1800s and the world of Trambahn!
Cleverly combining set collecting with a natty twist, Trambahn is part of Lookout Games’ successful 2 player series. In it, you will be racing to pack your trams with passengers in order to be crowned Tram Tycoon!
Not one to settle for natural horsepower, however; you’ll be upgrading your trams as and when you can afford to jump on that newfangled electricity bandwagon!
So, how does it play, and how do you get it to the table? Let’s find out!
Set up is simple but it is a table hogger. Shuffle the cards depicting Stations and Conductors, and place them in a tall stack face down on the table (money side up). This will form the main draw pile for the game. Place the Tram cards (horses at the top running down to electric at the bottom) within reach, and reveal the first three cards. Lay out the four Terminal Station cards in a single vertical column on the opposite side to the draw pile.
First player then takes 12 cards from the draw pile (representing 12,000 marks) and the scoring pad (lucky duck!) with their opponent taking 15 (15,000 marks). This starting capital is vital. Finally, each player takes 6 more cards from the draw pile into their hand and this tram party is ready to go!
Fire Up those Engines!
First off, you may have already realised that the cards in the draw pile are multi-use (which I love!). Knowing what they do and when to do them is key to victory in this game.
For example, those canny cards are your Stations. When placed together in ascending order, the line create tramlines scoring you the total number of points on each run of cards. The Tram card always begins a line, and acts as the multiplier for scoring purposes.
The fewer Stations you have, the more seriously your tramlines are going to flatline! Like Lost Cities, however, you can only place higher value Stations on existing tramlines – no sneaking lower value cards in between to bump up your score!
Secondly, the draw pile cards also act as Passengers. These have the power to trigger a scoring phase for tramlines matching their own colour.
And finally, those hard working draw pile cards can be thrown, Wolf of Wall Street style, into a player’s money own pile ready to be spent on Tram Cards.
Tram Tip: Purchasing Tram Cards (of which there will always be up to three to choose) is a vital step to success in this game. Each developing tramline must begin with a Tram Card. If they don’t, all the Stations along those particular lines are discarded at the end of a player’s turn. No Tram? No Points! As a result, players are going to face tough choices throughout the game between keeping cards, playing cards, and converting cards into cold, hard cash. Tramtastic!
Having turned your head with all of those cards, let’s turn to, well, a turn!
On your turn, you will place up to 2 of your 6 cards as Passengers along any one or two of the colour coded Terminal Station rows.
After that, you can choose whether to place any of their remaining cards as Stations, convert their remaining cards into cash, keep them in their hand for the next round, and/or use their capital to purchase one or more Tram cards to lock in a tramline for the rest of the game.
At the end of your turn, you will replenish your hand of 6 cards from the draw pile.
Surprisingly, you can create multiple tramlines of the same colour, and each will be counted repeatedly during the 10 scoring phases. That is if the colours match the 4 Passengers pulling the whistle, of course. But, whilst you can buy more than one Tram Card on your turn (hello Moneybags!), you must be able to attach each one to an existing tramline immediately; you cannot stockpile Trams like lockdown loo rolls ready to receive Station cards in later rounds.
Eight random draw pile cards also act as Conductors. These fickle fellows can press hard on the accelerator pedal by acting as Passengers to trigger a scoring phase , or act as Stations to bump up the number of cards in a tramline to 8 in order to trigger a bonus scoring “extra tour”.
Trambahn cleverly combines a number of races twisting together to propel one player to top of the trams whilst their opponent languishes on the streetcar scrapheap. Once players get into the swing of the game, it plays fast and, although the fist balling moments are common, because of the fast scoring phase turn over, shouldn’t frustrate either player for too long.
I think Trambahn is a fun set collection game with a unique twist. Running parallel to the desperate push to stretch your own tramlines from Hof to Oberdtorf in order to achieve high scores, is the need to strategically hit the brake pedal. After all, slowing the rate at which Passengers are getting up close and personal at the Terminals, could be key. If they start partying on a colour matching your itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie tramilines, your scores are going to tank that round, and your opponent is going to know this. Throw in the additional need to decide between laying Stations and generating cash to buy Trams? Well, then Trambahn becomes a serious case of mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Although published quite a few years ago now, I only discovered this game recently, and it is a real shame that it fell off the radar for many. Although I do understand why that might be the case. Whilst the game revolves around trams, this could be a little to “dry” in today’s multi-dimensional, kaleidoscopic gaming universe. Luck of the draw also impacts the rate at which players can build up tramlines early in the game, and this can skew the balance if suitable tactics aren’t deployed to mitigate that.
Ultimately, however, we really like it. It takes the essential game play of the stupendously stonking Lost Cities and swaps out the seriously punishing scoring element for some interesting trammy twists! On that basis, if you are looking for a tactical two player multi-purpose card game, then Trambahn could punch your ticket!