At first, I wasn’t interested in this game at all. Pick up and deliver train games don’t really do it for me, with the exceptions of Spike and of course Ticket to Ride. The front cover and the name didn’t help too, it looked very pre-schoolish, like this is aimed at kids, “hey everyone, lets all learn together on Whistle Stop Island.”
Is this a game to introduce children into the genre? I don’t think so, but heres what do I think.
It’s going to be a deep review, however, I do want to give my thoughts on this new game from Bézier Games (Suburbia) and designer Scott Caputo (Voluspa) and give you an express ride through this game’s pros and cons.
Setting up of the main board is a real bear to manage, there is no real way of doing it quickly. The west coast tiles with dark green backs are clear and easy to sort out, but with the middle column you have to sort through the rest of the hex tiles (which there are a lot of) and find all the special ones, pick out a couple and randomly select a couple more, throw in a few normal tiles (those being the ones with train tracks on), throw in some railroad sleepers plus the kitchen sink; Shuffle those together and lay them out in the middle column and then you have to do the east coast column with normal tiles and after you have done with all that, shuffle the special tiles back into the normal tiles and you’re back to where you started, less the tiles just stated. Which just makes you look incompetent and mad to new players. After that it’s just a case of doing a Dice Tower component drop of the rest of the tokens and cubes and hand everyone their own playing pieces. But that initial farting around separating, sorting, placing, sorting and shuffling back together, from a different point of view this will look like an overly complex procedure.
The rules of play are real simple: you use coal to move North, West and South on the board one stop or a whistle to move like “a coal” but East as well and you may travel up to 2 stops with the ability to jump over other players’ trains, who have tried their hardest to block you. It has a similar feel to Adventureland from HABA – restricting your movement, but in a very fluid way.
After setting the board up, you will see there are massive gaping holes in the board that you will need to fill and complete the tracks using tiles from your hand. Continuing the train track to join the middle row and then to the west coast allowing trains to move to these points. However, here is where the notorious Analysis Paralysis (AP) enters the room and destroys the game. If you know someone that suffers with this illness, don’t play WS with them, hide it away until they have left the room and just because it says it plays up to 5 players, don’t! Just don’t, unless you are going to bring out the chess clock. Five players with an AP player then you might as well set up another game in the background, because the down time is huge. The fact is many players will agonise over what tile to play, where and how, it is a mind melting task.
There are power tiles you can purchase with resources you have collected and they can give you a big benefit to your turn and advantage. But wait! There’s more! If another player doesn’t like the power you purchase, they simple give you the resources needed plus one more cube and remove said power and place it in front of them. Now they are the beholder of great responsibility. So, you would think power tiles would be moving around the table all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case and I have not once seen this happen. There was a threat from Michael when we were mid game, because everyone was hating on my power. Again, it ended up being only a big bluff and I kept it till the end; which is good because those tiles give you Victory points as well.
Colourblindness: I would like to point you to the article that Sam wrote for the UKGE and then send a link to Bézier Games, as I am pretty sure they haven’t read it. If they did, they wouldn’t have used pastel colours in this game. FFS, I’m not colourblind and even I am struggling, at points, telling the difference between the players’ colour pieces. And not only that, I had an issue in a game where I couldn’t see my opponent’s green pieces because they were camouflaged against the game board. They were like stealth commando trains, sneaking through the countryside to get to the other side.
Come on publishers! Stop taking the piss believing it is still ok to use pastel colours in your games. You are cutting out a section of gamers that can’t play them, because they can’t distinctly tell what pieces are what and will misinterpret what is going on, with asking over and over again what colour is this piece again.
In short, I like the game, it is really simple to play and learn. It’s fun to build the map up, planning and placing the tiles, hoping to get your trains where you want them to go. But that’s the down side too, because it will stump players and will paralyse almost everyone in some sort of way, trying to imagine how their tiles will fit in with what is already placed.
There are stocks in the game! But before you run off screaming, they are simple, you just need to hold the most of a set to earn 15 points at the end of the game.
All the player powers are good and work well plus really change up the play of each game, along with the tile placement, loads of replayability in this.
I do think the sweet spot is 3 or 4 players and don’t play it with Dr Lewis or anyone with a similar condition. Also this does have a little bit of meanness to it, blocking opponent trains or placing tiles that can make your foes’ trains turn back on themselves, away from their desired destination; this is my sort of game! Added bonus is when you do something on your turn and from across the table you hear “you bastard!..” or “what a dick!” and that is coming from my 10 year old! The wife has a right potty mouth on her when we play Ticket to Ride.
If you are not colourblind and like pick up and delivery train games then you will like this. It’s almost a family introduction game to the genre; and the tile laying is fun. I have enjoyed my plays so far of Whistle Stop, and look forward to more, but not with Sam or Dr Lewis.
- Simple stock rules
- Good player powers
- Able to buy the player powers off others
- Nice bit of being meanness to others
- Rules are clear
- Component are good
- Bad for colourblindness
- No one buys the powers off others
- Setup is a nuisance and long
- Not great with 2 or 5 players.
Written By Joel Wright
Edited By Sam Freeman
Photos by Joel Wright
Supplied by Meeples’ Corner