“Brevity is the soul of wit.” Shakespeare (through Polonius in Hamlet Act II, Scene 2)
“Eschew surplusage.” Mark Twain (“The Literary Offenses of Fennimore Cooper”)
“Just spit it out!!” Anyone who has ever played Tasty Minstrel’s brain wracking party game Train of Thought.
Like a lot of party games, Train of Thought puts one heroic player on a quest to squeeze the magic word from the lips of the other players. In most such games each player discovers, when it is his or her turn to accomplish this task, that all the other players were gifted with fewer brain cells than the universe bestowed upon zooplankton let alone higher mammals. Can’t they SEE what I’m doing? How hard can it be to guess this word?
Train of Thought gleefully flips the script around so that it is the player who feels as if they are a couple of IQ points short of stupid as they try to give hints that may be only three words long. There are a lot of laughs to be had due to this limitation, but practice and patience rewires the brain and soon enough, everyone starts to feel almost telepathic.
There are three main components to Train of Thought. 200 Station Cards contain the word clues (6 per card). A 6 sided die. A 120 second timer. Each player has a turn as the Conductor in which they try to get the other players to guess specific words in 120 seconds. A correct guess scores a point for the guesser and the Conductor.
The Conductor draws a Station Card and rolls the die to determine which word will be the starting word. All players see the starting word. When the timer starts, the Conductor draws another Station Card and finds the word with the same die number as the starting word. This is the target word. The Conductor provides a THREE WORD clue that contains the starting word. All other players shout out one word—and ONLY one word—as an answer. If no one guesses correctly, the Conductor must make another THREE WORD CLUE that includes one of the words shouted out by the other players. This continues until the correct word is guessed. The Conductor draws another card and now has a new destination word.
Especially in early games, it is easy to get flustered by the three word limitation. How can you possible get someone to guess “chimpanzee” when one of your three words must be “pudding”? This is a source of great frustration and humor. When you say “This eats pudding” the other players will naturally say things like “children” and “grandpa” and “ants” which are all wrong. BUT it lets you now say “Children sized ape” which might get you a bit closer.
In my observation of the game I learned two helpful strategies. One: don’t worry about wrong answers. If anything, think about getting the others to guess words that will help you get closer to your goal. Two: don’t even worry about making sense. It is perfectly legal to say “Pudding Jane Goodall” with the hope that someone will blurt out “chimpanzee” even though there is no connection to “pudding.” You have three words, and if two of them will get your answer out of another player then you get a point and you also get to seem like the Amazing Kreskin.
Tasty Minstrel Games has a great party game here and it looks great. The instructions are clear with plenty of examples. Art is catchy and the game play is lively. They are a relatively new company but have an impressive stable of games that will appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Check ‘em out. In three words: Major Fun likey…
For 3 – 7 players, ages 10+
Train of thought game design by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim. © 2011 by Tasty Minstrel Games.