I was never much for charades, Pictionary makes my skin crawl, and the last game of Twister I played resulted in two separate ambulances and a bevy of court orders. Needless to say, party games aren’t usually my thing. And yet despite my general distaste for the genre, I found myself slapping on an engineer’s cap and playing conductor for a few rounds of Train of Thought. As it turns out, there’s a little party fun tucked away somewhere inside me after all.
Train of Thought is a party game that’s all about word association. Stacks of cards are scattered around the table, and on each card are six different words. Players will take turns being the conductor, and it’s the conductor’s job to roll a die to determine a starting word, draw a new card kept in secret, and attempt to get the other players to say the word on the secret card using a three word clue that contains the word on the first card. So if I roll a 6, and on the first card the sixth word is car and the second card the sixth word is engine, I might give a clue like “Under car hood.” Somebody might guess engine, and if they do, both the guesser and the conductor get a point.
Of course if the words were this similar, the game would be a piece of cake. Train of Thought is nothing of the sort. Word combination could be anything from “taxi” and “basement” to “haircut” and “morning.” Making a three word clue from one that can lead to the other is pretty much an impossibility. Luckily, you’re not stuck with just the one clue.
After you’ve given your clue, players will make a guess using one word. If they all get it wrong (and they will) you can give another clue using one of the words the other players have guessed. So if we stick with the taxi/basement combo, I might make my first clue “places taxis go.” Someone might guess “house,” and I’ll say “room under house.” Get the picture?
As conductor, you want to try and grind through as many cards as you can before a timer ticks down and ends your turn. Once someone guesses your word, you’ll draw another card and develop a clue using the word that was just guessed. After it goes around the table twice, everyone counts their cards and the player with the most cards wins. Since non-conductors will grab a random card every time they get a correct guess to denote a point, the scoring is taken care of pretty easily.
Train of Thought was a blast when we played it – so much so that we went a few more rounds than we were planning – but it’s also the sort of game that’s only as much fun as the people you’re playing with. If your group prefers strategy and structure over creativity and silliness, this might not be the game to break out. If, however, you’re looking for a great bit of silliness around the kitchen table, where folks care less about winning and more about having fun, it’s a perfect fit. In fact things moved so fast, half of us forgot to/didn’t care about grabbing cards for scoring because we were just so engaged in the experience. And in the end, it didn’t even matter.
In fact, we quickly house ruled a few things – and by that, I simply mean that we house ruled “all of the rules don’t matter so long as we’re having fun.” (Kind of like how we did for the celebrity based Apple to Apples inspired game Who Would Win?) For example, if someone shouted out a pair of words, like a proper name, as a guess, we agreed that it would be fine to use in the next clue. That’s how we got from “rhino” to “wheat” by way of “Wilford Brimley.”
If there’s one gripe to be had about the game, it’s really just a hiccup in its packaging. The box misleadingly suggests that it’s suitable for 2-7 players, but in a two player game it’s impossible to win. Every time a clue is guessed correctly both the conductor and the player get a point, so the game will always end in a tie. Still, so long as you don’t care about the scoring, you can have plenty of fun with just two players. I’d also argue that “to 7,” is something of a silly limitation. With plenty of cards in the box, the only real max number of players is the number of people you’re willing to tolerate in your living room. A word of advice to Tasty Minstrel Games – maybe your next printing should list the number of players as “3 or more.”
Even if a few of the people in your group are creatively-challenged sticks in the mud, they’ll probably have plenty of fun when they’re not the conductor. For everyone else, this is a terrific little game to get a room drowning in laughter. And in case you couldn’t tell yet, this is a great one for non-gamers too. Your grandma, your neighbors, your cellmate – everyone can get in on the fun. Just be prepared to think fast and not take things too seriously, and you’ll find Train of Thought to be a party game that’s well worth boarding.
If you’re interested in purchasing Train of Thought you can do so directly through the developer!