Train of Thought Review

A game that I've been trying to find for about six months (since the designer was kind enough to point it out to me and I thought it looked intriguing) is Train of Thought.

In Train of Thought, players take turns playing as the "conductor". The conductor rolls a six-sided die and draws a card - this gives him a starting word (like "House"). From there, he draws the next card, which gives him his destination word (like "Experience"). Now, he uses the starting word along with two other words to attempt to get all of the other players to guess the destination word. If they don't get it on their first try, he can choose one of their words as his new starting word, and try again. Once you finally get them to guess the right word (this may be very quick, or may be an excruciatingly long time), you draw another card, and use your previous destination as the new start word. For each word that is correctly guessed, both the conductor and the person to guess the word get a point in the form of a card being played in front of them. You normally allow each player to be the conductor twice, and then whoever has the most cards is the winner!

The first thing that I like about Train of Thought is that it breaks my brain - and in a good way. Let's go ahead and admit this. My brain is incredibly analytical (some would say that I'm "overly analytical", but I prefer "super analytical", because then it sounds much more like a super power). And, yes, in case you didn't read between the lines, "super analytical" does equate to "software developer", which is what I currently do that actually pays "real" money (as opposed to blogging). With that, creative word games aren't necessarily something that come naturally to me. Train of Thought, specifically, challenges me to think in much different ways than games like Taboo, where I can keep babbling until someone figures out what in the world I'm saying.  I only get three words, one of which is provided for me (and normally irrelevant) - I better make them count!

The next pro is that the game can have some really neat connections to lead from one word to the next. This is, honestly, the best part of this game and what sets it apart from any other word games that I have played.  One of the games we played saw a connection from (I think) the word "weight" to the word "skin". The connection went something like "this covers weight"; which led to guesses of "clothes", "scale", and a few others. To which, the conductor (not me) cunningly replied "scale to dragon". Brilliant! Of course, scales to a dragon are their skin! When things like this occur in the game, it really helps you enjoy the game, and reminds you why you are playing it instead of any of the other multitude of choices in word party games that are available.

Unfortunately, when people choose not to play by the "spirit of the rules", the game still functions, but prevents you from experiencing the previous pro. The only real requirements of the game are that: first, you only have three words, and second, that you have to use a certain one. However, if your starting word is "Sunshine" and your destination word is "Shield", there's nothing to stop you from giving "Sunshine Captain America" as a clue. In fact, this is a pretty effective strategy, and if your goal is to win, there's no real incentive not to use it (people will catch on and disregard your first word). And I can't really point fingers here, because I have also found myself in a bind, unable to find a connection from one word to the next and thus defaulted to this strategy. I think the game would be more fun with a house rule that you are not allowed to do this - even if that requires you to all agree that you don't even keep score (those of us who are a combination of hyper-competitive and really bad at this game would probably not agree to this house rule otherwise).

The next con is in the limited number of cards included in the game. Whereas there are 200 cards, and each card has 6 different words on it, we wound up reusing some of the same words the third time that we played the game. Now, this was a combination of playing with psychologists (they are great at stringing words together to allow people to figure out what they're thinking and thus scoring lots of point - and going through lots of cards) and some similar dice rolls (we never rolled a one - in either game; we rolled a lot of five's), which led to the duplication. However, it still would have been better to have more cards available to keep the game fresh, without having to give it more down time between games (so that we can forget all the words).

Overall, I give Train of Thought an 8.5/10. I eagerly anticipated trying this game for several months, and it didn't disappoint. I think that this is a new take on word games, and I look forward to getting to play it more often. Unfortunately, it will only be once every few weeks, at the most, to make sure that we don't remember all of the words.

I would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing a copy of Train of Thought for me to try. I would also like to thank Jay Cormier (the designer of Train of Thought) for pointing the game out to me. If you're interested in following his adventure in getting games published, check out his blog Inspiration to Publication.

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