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Last Train to Wensleydale

Reviewed by Geoff Gibbs

A train game with a twist, Last Train to Wensleydale combines the usual elements of building train lines and delivering goods with profit/loss management.

First of all, a quick review of the rules, 'cause it's hard to understand what's going on without it.

At the start of each turn, each player gains 12 influence cube, this is the main currency for the game.

Players begin by bidding for influence with the government, engine and rolling stock providers and two railway companies. This influence is used to determine turn order, "persuade" objectors to let you build your railway, buy second-hand engines and rolling stock and sell your tracks.

Once the influence has been adjusted, players build their tracks then buy engines and deliver good and passengers. Goods can be either cheese, from the lowlands, or stone, from the hills, while passengers wish to be transported to one of two company towns. Moving goods and passengers is pretty abstract, they are simply moved from the board onto one of the player's trains; although in the case of passengers a route must exist to a company town of their colour before they can be moved. In order to move goods, you must buy engines for your rolling stock. To buy engines you spend influence.

Money is gained for each good and passenger transported and lost for each track laid, the total is recorded on the profit/loss track. Finally each player can then sell a single train line to one of the two railway companies.

The game is won through victory points earned for each good and passenger delivered, for each set of each type of good and passengers; any profit/loss is also counted before points are lost for any tracks you own remaining on the board.

Wow! Glad that's out of the way. On to the actual review.

The components for the game are simple, but nice. With one exception. The map on the main board is pretty ugly; with the colours green, brown and yellow I liken it to an image of some diseased lungs. Also, later in the game, it can get fiddly to place tracks in some of the smaller valley regions.

The game takes a bit of time to set up, with random cube and passenger placements across the board. But once that is out of the way, play proceeds pretty smoothly (although later on, the thinking time can increase greatly). Bidding for influence is pretty straightforward but very important. Each player can win a maximum of 2 auctions and getting the right influence can be very important later in the turn, so sometimes the bidding can get intense. Since you make your bids with influence cubes, which are also used to build tracks, it's best to keep some in reserve.

Laying of tracks is pretty simple and, unless someone blocks you, is done pretty quick. Most of the time you already know where you are going to go. However, the balance of paying for the tracks and accessing the goods and passengers is very important. Influence must be paid to remove objectors and build into company towns and influence cubes are used to build the tracks themselves (although influence can be used if you run out of cubes).

In the early turns, moving cubes and passengers is pretty simple. In later turns, however, as the player's routes get closer together the turn order becomes important as players compete for the limited goods and passengers.

Once the goods and passengers have been moved, the rest of the turn is spent adding things up and adjusting positions on the various tracks, before the next turn begins. This is all pretty straightforward and quick, with nothing too complicated to work out.

In the games I have played the final scores have always been very close. In the last game played, everyone had the same number of pieces delivered with two players having an additional set. After deductions for losses and tracks on the board, the second place was tied and decided by player order.

Overall a very tense game where every action has it's repercussions. The natural pacing of the game means that there is time for players to learn the mechanics in the first turn or two before things get too intense or competitive.

A great game with only a minor visual let-down. This will definitely be appearing at the club more often in the future.