Alan R. Moon


No. of Players:
2 - 4



A few years after the award winning Ticket to Ride boardgame Alan R. Moon has decided to board the trains once again, and this time he has taken us into the land of cardgames with Zug um Zug - Das Kartenspiel. It seems to be a trend that successful titles need to be continued either by expansions or spin-off games, but this trend alone is by no means an indicator for missing quality. Quite the opposite, games like the Settlers of Catan Cardgame show perfectly well that such spin-off games do not fear the shadows of their older brothers…

Thus, I have boarded the trains through northern America once again, and as a starting hand each of the two to four players receives a deck of one Locomotive (serving as a Joker) and seven random Wagon cards which belong to one of eight available colours. Furthermore, each player receives a hand of six Destination cards which he may look through and decide which of these cards he wants to keep and which of the cards he wants to discard. All remaining Locomotives and Wagons then are placed as a random drawing pile in front of the players, with the top five cards of this pile being arranged in an open display. Likewise, the remaining Destination cards are re-shuffled with the Destination cards which were not kept by the players, and these cards then form a drawing pile for new Destination cards.

The Destination cards will form the landmarks for a player's strategy, since they list two different cities and a track between them which consists of one to five coloured dots. During the course of the game the players will try to accumulate enough different Wagons (and Locomotives) to fulfil the coloured track requirements of as many of their Destination cards as possible, and for each Destination cards for which they posses Wagons of the according colour(s) they will receive Victory Points in the final evaluation. Even more Destination cards may be gained during the course of the game, but here the players have to be careful since every Destination card which is not completely fulfilled will lead to a deduction of Victory Points in the end.


During his turn, a player has to perform one of the following actions:

  • He may take one or two new cards from the drawing pile, and for this he may chose either to take open cards from the display (which are immediately replaced with a new card from the pile) or hidden cards directly from the pile. Only if a player decides to take a Locomotive card from the open display he is not entitled to take a second card, since the direct taking of a Joker is seen to be an advantage which needs to be counterbalanced.
  • Instead of adding cards to his hand, a player also may place cards from his hand in front of himself to form a "Railroad Shunting Yard". Here, the player may chose either to lay down tree cards of different colours, or two or more cards of one colour plus possible Locomotive-Jokers. However, several restrictions need to be observed when putting Wagons into the Shunting Yard. Thus, a player may never place Wagons of a colour which is still present in his Shunting Yard from a previous round, and furthermore new cards may only be placed if their number is higher than any other player's cards of the same colour in their Shunting Yards. If a player successfully adds cards, a player who possesses Wagons of the same colour in his Shunting Yard will be forced to remove all cards of that colour and discard them.
  • Finally, a player may opt to draw four new Destination cards from their specific pile, and he may examine them and keep any of the Destination cards which he thinks he has a chance to fulfil before the end of the game.

The Destination cards will be evaluated when the deck of Wagon cards has been exhausted, but it will not be the Wagons in a player's Shunting Yard which will count in this evaluation. Instead, from the instant a player has put the first Wagons into his Shunting Yard the player will begin his consecutive turns with moving one Wagon of each of the colours present in his Shunting Yard into a special "en route"-pile. All Wagons in the "en route"-pile are kept face down, and a player is not allowed to check the composition of this pile during the course of the game. As his pile grows, each player will have to memorize which Wagons (and Locomotives) he has sent "en route", and a good knowledge of the pile's composition will enable a player to decide whether to draw and keep additional Destination cards or whether to use other actions.

In the end, the players add up the scores of the Destination cards which they have fulfilled, reducing the total by the values of the Destination cards they have failed to fulfil. Finally, some bonus points are awarded to the players who have fulfilled most Destination cards leading to each of the six major cities, and then the player with most Victory Points will have won the game.

Although the game's rules are relatively short, I have read them two times before I got a grasp of the playing mechanism and the functions of the Shunting Yards and the "en route"-piles. Although seasoned Ticket to Ride players will quickly discover some similarities between the boardgame and the cardgame (e.g. the drawing of new cards), the major playing routines of both games stand pretty much apart.

As a matter of fact, Alan R. Moon succeeded in creating a rather neat cardgame which draws of high degree of uniqueness and independence from the nicely implemented memory-challenge which the players have to undergo when they want to keep track of their "en route"-piles. At the beginning it is outright difficult to keep track of the Wagons while at the same time working out a good composition of a Shunting Yard which the other players possibly will not uproot for a turn or two, but as time passes the players will quickly get a grasp of the game's mechanisms and the strategic and memory challenges will become more or less evenly spread.

The real maturity of the final game is also reflected by some minor aspects which should be mentioned as well. So, younger players can get a more even-handed entry to the game and its playing concept by being allowed to re-check their "en route"-piles, and provision was taken even to allow even colour-blind players enjoyment of the game by adding symbols to the different Wagon cards and the Destinations.

Overall, the new Zug um Zug - Das Kartenspiel is a rather strong addition to DAYS OF WONDER's product range, and the great playing mechanism and its small outer measures make it a perfect small gift or holiday companion.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany