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"Playing with colored string and enjoying yourself" is usually not listing under Activities for Adulting, unless you happen to be a very hardcore member of Team Cat. But a Japanese game designer may make you change your mind about that.

At first glance, it seems ridiculous that a board game would have, as it's key component, pieces of string. But that is exactly what String Railway is: You build a railroad network where the track is represented by pieces of colored string. It just seems ridiculous: String seems more likely to show up over in Groopkink than Board Games with OB. (don't ask)

But, in fact, it's the string that makes String Railway something different that just another game of connecting Point A to Point B. It's a game of deep thought disguised as a preschool art project.


So, tie yourself in, because we're going to talk about String Railway.

Game: String Railway
Players: 2 to 5
Gametime: 20 to 30 minutes
Designer: Hisashi Hiyashi (Japan)
Key Mechanics: Point-to-point connection, card drawing

Story: Not so much a story, but you're one of several different companies looking to build the biggest, most effective train network, utilizing the stations built to the best of your ability while simultaneously taking advantage of the stations built by your rivals.


What do you do? The key component of String Railway is, surprisingly, string. Seriously, like actual string. First, there's a very large loop of black string. You will set this up in either a triangle, square or pentagon shape depending on the number of players. The area inside this string is going to be the playing area of the game. Next, a smaller loop of gray string is placed somewhere in the playing area. This represents a mountain on the landscape. Then, a piece of light blue string, representing a river, is also placed.


Each player chooses their color for the game, and receive a corresponding starting train station, a few pieces of colored wood train tokens, and five pieces of string, four shorter pieces and one longer piece. The starting stations are placed at spots along the black border string represented by colored marks.

A deck of square cards that represent the train stations players will be building is shuffled and placed in a face-down pile.


On each player's turn, they will draw the top card off the station deck. They then place that card down face-up somewhere in the playing area and try to connect to it using one of their strings (because, in this game, the strings are your train tracks). The player then receives the points indicated on the cards of the stations they connect to.

When it comes to placing your string, there are three rules that have to be followed:

  • Your strings have to be completely in the playing area.
  • Your strings have to be connected to stations at end of its ends.
  • Your strings can cross over other strings, but it costs you one point of scoring.

But, the important thing to note here: It also doesn't say anything that you can only connect your string to only the stations you've played. You can — and if you want to win, you need to — connect your strings to stations placed by other players as well as your own. You can even connect to the starting stations of other players if you wish. And there's the strategy: You have to figure out how to place you stations and strings in a way that will allow you to connect to as many stations as possible, while preventing other players from connecting to your stations, or at least not be able to do so without crossing over other strings and taking point penalties.


Now, let's talk about these stations. There are nine different types of stations in the deck, with differing amounts of points and how many players are allowed to connect to them. Some stations, like central, city or suburban stations, are straighforward — connect to it, score points. Others have special effects that add to the strategy of how to place it. What do you with, say a countryside station, where only one player is allowed to connect to it plus the players gets to draw a place an extra station? Or what about a town station, where the player who first connects to it gets three points but then loses a point every time another player connects to it? Or what happens when you draw a viewpoint station, which scores more points if it's place inside the mountain?

How to taste sweet, sweet victory: After all the strings have been placed, add up the points each player has scored (the game includes tokens to help with this. Highest score wins.


So, what makes this game awesome?

  • This a really a very freestyle strategy game. You can set up the mountain and river just about any way you want, you can place the strings however you want, you place the stations any way you want. Every game of String Railway is going to look different.
  • Five strings per players means each player is going to get only five turns. So there's no such thing as a throwaway turn. Everything you do is critical for success in the game.
  • There's just something fun about playing with string. Not every good game has to have tons of wood like Caverna or look like Joss Whedon threw up on a table like with Firefly: The Board Game. A few pieces of string and some cards are all you need to have a good time.

Watch it in action: Here is the Shut Up & Sit Down review of String Railway.


Board Games With OB is a somewhat profane feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.

Previous Board Games With OB:[Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis] [Castle Panic] [Small World] [Qwirkle] [Elder Sign] [Carcassonne] [Jaipur] [Tokaido] [Blokus] [Puerto Rico] [Love Letter] [Can't Stop] [The Red Dragon Inn] [Dominion] [King of Tokyo] [Pandemic] [Spyrium] [Settlers of Catan] [Seasons] [Alhambra]


Images via BoardGameGeek

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