300 Word Reviews

300 Word Review – Train

Train is a game that almost no one can say much about.

One of the few things you can say about Train is that it is a racing board game where players roll dice in order to load cargo onto their train and beat the other players down the track (or not). Players can also use cards to impede other players and quicken their own pace (or the other way around). However, that’s about as much as you can say about Train, because you’ll only be able to play it once or twice, if you’re lucky.

Train is a game that you aren’t allowed to look at too closely. The game’s creator has thus far refused to release the ruleset, meaning that no one can create a copy of the game themselves. As a result most people’s impression of Train is based on what they’ve read. Unfortunately, Train has only been exhibited at few places, often in public, so those who are writing about it haven’t gotten to spend any real time with the game. The trap is that the experience from a single session of play is probably more indicative of that individual instance than of the game in its entirety.

Perhaps it’s best to see Train not as a game, but as a move in a larger game played between the cultural forces of ‘fine art’ and ‘games’. Games have always been non-terminal acts of creation, and this is anathema to an art world that was born in the worship of sacred objects. In disavowing its promiscuous nature as a game Train is granted an ‘aura’ and entrance into the white cube.

Train is a successful piece of conceptual art. Whether or not it’s a successful game design no one can say, but that seems beside the point.