Mayfair, £7

Yes, this was it. The big gaming event of 1991. The Railway card game that Siggins had been waiting for. Imagine 1830 as a card game, playable in an hour, with just as much excitement and strategy. Well, Express is none of these things, so the airmail delivery and slavering expectancy were a little over-zealous - and not for the first time either. When will I learn?

What Express does deliver is a decent, but unspectacular, card game not too many miles from Gin Rummy with some play features that bear comparison with the card stealing of Ogallala. Basically, the game involves drawing hands from stock into your hand in order to make trains which score points. These are laid out in front of you with a loco with carriages, trucks and cabooses (caboosii?) forming a scoring train. There are special cards such as breakdown trains, engineer cars and so on that give you scope to steal opponents cards or fight off such attacks. The player who completes one or more scoring trains and and goes out finishes the round and scores his hand and freezes the others. The cards are very striking, with side on views of coloured trains and the cards are top quality. The rules supplied are a little fuzzy but then that may be a fault of the game being far from intuitive.

My complaints, and they all but ruin the game as a playable item, are that the scoring system is far too intricate and illogical to be remembered (compared to straight rummy scoring it is horrendously complex) and thus strategy is restricted by not knowing the implications of any play without re-reading the rules. The other one is a clear case of poor playtesting (or bad design) in that the a hand can take anything from five minutes to nearly thirty! The lack of the right card for any or all of the players can hold the game up needlessly and this should have been circumvented in playtesting. Barely average, but worth keeping for the components! I would be grateful for suggestions on any workable way of playing this one.

Back to the German Invasion - Phase 3 or on to Master Labyrinth.

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