Author: Alan R. Moon


International Gamers Awards



After the great success of the award winning SPIEL DES JAHRES 2004 Zug um Zug, Alan R. Moon and the design crew at DAYS OF WONDER decided to go a step further and - like it is known from other famous Railway-games like Dampfross or Age of Steam - release a new version of the game with a different map for playing. Thus, the idea for Zug um Zug Europa was born, but instead of just releasing a new European gameboard with matching cards, the designers went further by deciding to add a couple of new rules to the game which offer a playing mechanism different from "classic" Zug um Zug.

As I need to point out directly at this point, Zug um Zug Europa is a stand-alone game which is played totally independent of the "classic" Zug um Zug. Let me put special emphasis on the fact that it is in no way an expansion for its predecessor, but instead it takes up the basic playing mechanism and enriches it with a few new special rules of its own. However, as indicated, the basic playing mechanism of drawing cards and using tracks remains virtually the same, so that it seems sensible for me to refer everybody who is unfamiliar with Zug um Zug to my review of the "classic" game, since this review of Zug um Zug Europa will not repeat the already known elements but instead will focus on the new rules and twists introduced especially in the new game.


The new map of Europa is different insofar from the known North America map as there are mountains to pass and furthermore a number of sea passages has to be made as well. As for the sea passages, the players will be forced to take a ferry whenever such a passage needs to be made. Thus, for example, the track between Amsterdam and London bears special symbols identifying it as a sea passage, and this will force a player who wants to take such a track to adjust his playing cards and to collect cards which will allow him to make the passage: for every wagon a player wants to put on a piece of track which is identified as a sea passage, the player will not be allowed to play a matching coloured wagon-card but instead he will have to play a Lokomotive-card. Thus, the Lokomotive-cards not only serve as "Jokers" in the new game, but they also need to be used for making sea passages possible. Depending on the length of the sea passage, a player thus may need either one or two Lokomotives to make the trip.

The next new element are the mountains, and for this reason a number of tracks bear a special denomination which identifies them as tunnels. It is the special problem with tunnels that a player using such a track never knows exactly how long this track will be, and thus a player who has set out on using such a track may end up in having to take back his cards. Thus, a tunnel is used in such manner that the player who wants to use it first has to put out a number of matching-coloured wagon-cards according to the normal rules. However, after the player has revealed his cards he will next have to turn over the upmost three cards of the random drawing stack. Each of these three cards which shows either a matching-coloured wagon or a Lokomotive ("Jokers" !) will make the tunnel longer by one step, and this will force the player either to play an additional matching-coloured wagon-card or Lokomotive for each additional step or to take back his entire hand of cards, abandon the planned tunnel and to end his turn.

The third and last new element are the Train Stations of which each player has a starting stockpile of three. These train stations can be placed at any city on the gameboard, provided that NO OTHER player has set up a train station there yet. The city does not even need to be connected to the current grid of rails - all a player needs to spend his whole turn action to build a train station, pay a number of wagon-cards (depending on how many train stations he has already built) and place it at the city he desires. The great advantage of a train station becomes visible at the end of the game when the players calculate their victory points by "cashing in" their destination-cards. Under normal conditions a player only has fulfilled a destination card if he has linked the two cities from a card with an UNBROKEN chain of railways of his own colour, but a train station now will allow a player to use a track of one of his opponents. Thus, a player may decide to use ONE of the tracks of the other players leading away from the city with his train station, and this in effect will make it a bit easier for the players to fulfil their destination-cards. However, there is also an incentive for the players from refraining to use train stations, since a player will receive an additional four victory points at the end of the game for each train station which he HAS NOT used.

Apart from these three innovations, Zug um Zug Europa only features minor differences to "classic" Zug um Zug. However, from my point of view I would say that already these few new rules change the game in a quite effective way so that even seasoned Zug um Zug players will have to adapt their gameplay to the new game. Thus, the ownership of Lokomotive-cards has gotten much more important with the new rules for sea passages, since it is impossible for the players to make such passages without a sufficient number of Lokomotives. This results in a change of the card-drawing strategy of the players, since now the players more often will consider to take an open lying Lokomotive and thus to pass on the opportunity to take a second wagon-card. Likewise, the fact that the new European map features shorter distances than the known map of the United States also introduces some tactical changes, since the players now will have to put much more effort into fulfilling their destination cards. In "classic" Zug um Zug players could rise quite high in victory point ranks just by occupying long distance connections, but this tactic cannot be pursued anymore due to the different geographical layout of the European map. This also is the point where the importance of the new train stations becomes visible, since on the one hand they influence a player's rail-building strategy and on the other they also put more emphasis on making the right moves at the right time. Players will not only need to watch out for being able to build at the right tracks - now they will also need to keep in mind if and where and when to use their train stations. Especially when the game draws closer to its end, players do well if they have placed their train stations early enough, since otherwise there might be some unwanted surprised concerning how fast actually the game can end.

To sum it up, I would say that the new Zug um Zug Europa actually puts a bit more emphasis on strategic and planned gameplay than its predecessor, but this by no means makes the game less attractive. Quite the opposite, I would say that Alan R. Moon succeeded in making a good game better, and thus I can recommend the game without any reservations…

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Copyright © 2005 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany