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TransEuropa is the second incarnation of the TransAmerica game and adds board of Europe and new destination cards. Both games are descended from the Winsome title Iron Road which used a simpler square map.
The game comes with a large board depicting cities of Europe. The cities are in five coloured groups of nearby cities on the board, with red on the west coast, blue in the south and so forth. The board is clear with appealing pastel-effect artwork. The tracks are laid along the sides of a hex-grid overlaid on the board and the single and double (expensive) tracks are clearly marked.
Each player will have a set of cards which represent the destinations they must connect to. In TransEuropa, these cards have the names of cities and a small representative scene or building from the named city. Some are more clearly recognisable than others.
Players also receive a wooden cylinder which they use as a starting point for their track and a small wooden locomotive which acts as their scoring token on the score track. This provides the train flavour.
The game is played in several rounds with players losing points at the end of each round based on how incomplete their rail network is.
Each round starts with a cleared board. Players are secretly dealt one card of each colour representing a destination city they need to connect this round. In turn, each player places their starting cylinder in their colour which forms the basis for their track.
On subsequent turns players can build track by laying a black track stick down anywhere on the board that connects to their starting marker directly or via track. Some of the connections on the board are marked with a double line indicating hilly or expensive track. On their turn, a player can either lay a single expensive track or one or two normal tracks.
The round ends when one player manages to be connected to all the cities on their five destination cards. This player loses zero points, everyone else loses 1 point for every track segment needed to connect the network to all their destination cities. Double-lines count for two points.
If no-one has lost all 10 points, the game continues with a cleared board and new cards, otherwise the game ends and the player who has lost the fewest points, wins!
Notes and Conclusions
There's an ongoing argument whether the player to go last is at a great disadvantage. They might get one fewer turn than other players, but they get to see where everyone else is starting before placing their initial station which can yield lots of information.
There's also a matter of timing to ensure you never waste half your turn by only being able to build 1 single track before you run into a double-track that has to wait until next turn. This is usually solved by having multiple fronts to build from. The hex grid is also nicer because it makes it generally easier to build around another player (useful only with the Vexation expansion)
I personally prefer the Europe over the America map, the layout is more appealing and there are some interesting difficult-to-get-to parts of the board. Other folks prefer TransAmerica for its flatter and more forgiving board. I own both. Even in TransEuropa, for most card draws, the scores will typically be pretty close, most players will manage to get close to connecting all their cities if they play carefully.
There's a lot of luck in this game and it's certainly possible to have one game ruined by bad card draws. Having said that, people who can best anticipate (or better manipulate) other players to build mutually advantageous track will have an advantage shown in wins over multiple games.
Most of the game revolves around the choice of starting token, the information that conveys to the other players about where you will start building, and the choices you make about which order to build your track vs try to connect to the super-network so you can build elsewhere easily. It's probably a good idea to try and do your hard isolated part first so you can take advantage of other people doing the common parts, but watch out for an advantage you might give to players with nearby cities when doing it!
Of course, no-one should take this game that seriously, it's designed and succeeds as a superfiller notable for playing up to 6 players well. For folks very frustrated with the lack of choices, I'd also recommend the Vexation expansion which I have reviewed recently.
I happen to like this game and bring it or its cousin TransAmerica out on occasion to fill a small gap between a larger game and the end of the night or a meal. It's quite popular among casual gamers, but I will note that the randomness and fairly bland gameplay can certainly put some people off. Worth owning a copy to fill gaps of a casual group, not recommended as a filler for dedicated 18xx players.