Tabletop Game Preview: Yardmaster

The cargo cards from Yardmaster.

We were recently given the opportunity to preview Yardmaster, a card-based strategy game by Steven Aramini and published by Crash Gamescoming soon to a Kickstarter near you It’s currently live on Kickstarter, and here’s what we think.

First Impressions

The components of the game.



The game arrived quickly after it had been promised us, boding well for future customer service by Patrick at Crash Games. It consists of 96 cards and 5 small tokens that are quite vital to the game, and the rules. The cards are a nice quality, good shufflable thickness. The tokens were a bit flimsy, in our opinion, but certainly serve their purpose. The art on the cards is simple, but quite lovely, and gives information while setting a non-specific train loading kind of mood.

The cargo cards from Yardmaster.

Andy Warhol, meet Cornelius Vanderbilt

The directions took about 10 minutes to read through, as we’re the type to inspect every element of the game as the directions reference them. They certainly address every eventuality, but I think they’d benefit from a quick-start summary.

Second Impressions – The Game Itself

We played through our first game in exactly 25 minutes, which is consistent with the advertised 20-30 minutes. This was a two-player game, meaning that on alternate turns there would be no Yardmaster (the player who, by merit of having the Yardmaster token, gets to make three moves for that turn instead of the standard two). At first, this mechanic seemed a bit wonky but we got into the rhythm of it, and it’s necessary for the two player game to make any sense.

The game consists of collecting cargo cards (shown above) until you have enough to purchase one of the available rail cars, of which there are always three available in the Arrival Yard.

The Arrival Yard at the center of the table.

The Arrival Yard

The arrival yard is the common pool for buying train cars, which are in themselves victory points. You can buy any car you have the means for, but you can only add them to the back of your train by matching numbers or colors to the current rear car on your train. Once you’ve reached the requisite number of points in your train legally, the game’s over.

The game was fun, and deceptively strategic. It seems simple, but there’s more than first impressions give to choosing to buy cars, keep them in your storage, and what order you attach them to your train. In the end, I won by buying cards I didn’t need in order to keep them out of my opponent’s hands. The limitation of two moves per turn makes each choice require depth of thought, but even so the game moves quickly. It will earn a place in our rotation due to its depth and speed, making it a great start or end of a game night game.

For the more casual gamer, the game is fun, fast, and easy to learn. Its mechanics don’t even require any reading, and I think it could be played by kids and adults together, and everyone would have a good time. I’m not sure my four-year-old would quite enjoy it yet, but I’ve definitely known some first-graders who would find it entertaining.

I’ll be backing the Kickstarter when it launches on April 29, and recommend everyone have a look at it. To compare it to a beer, I’d call this game a Yuengling Lager. It’s something you’ll try because someone who already likes it told you to, and it seems on the surface like something you’ve had before, but there’s more to it than that. And while your first impression might be that it’s merely okay, you’ll look down a few hours later and a case of beer (and several games of Yardmaster) are gone.

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