Invest in the stock market and extend track as you stretch railroads across France to create the best portfolio of companies.
Total Game Time: 30 minutes
Designer(s): John Bohrer
Artist(s): Oliver Schlemmer
Publisher: Queen Games, Winsome Games
Paris Connection is a fun and light train games that shows the balance between expanding companies and investing in stock. This game is short and a great introduction into the world of train games as it teaches some core concepts that can be applied to many games within the train genre. I absolutely adore trains games but, honestly, it wasn’t until I played Paris connection that some of the major lightbulbs started going off. This game is fun, fast, and a little silly as you can drive some train routes into a circle or into the middle of nowhere – just because you want to!
This is a general overview to provide context for the review, not an in-depth how to play. Some rules may be glossed over or missing.
Paris Connection is a game for three to six players with hidden information and a lot of small trains. While there is a plethora of components, this game can fit any table (we have played it on our coffee table before).
Paris connection compacts a train game into its core components: stocks and building routes. This game reflects more of the cube rail style games. I have played is several times with players of varying experience with board games. And every time, it was fantastic!
The game is starts with a random player and then proceeds to move in clockwise action. The active player will have the option to do two things during their turn – Build Track or Trade Stock. This continues until the game ends.
I’m not going to lie, setting up the game is probably the worst part of the game for many people. Or, if you’re like me, and absolutely joy in the exercise of sorting pieces based on color. All the train pieces start mixed up in one bag. Player will then draw a certain amount of secret trains to act as their personal starting stock. After everyone has drawn their trains, it’s time to dump the trains out of the starting bag and sort them by color on the corresponding company charters. This part can be a little tedious for those who don’t like sorting, but it works fine as a group exercise in my experience.
A player turn can be broken down into two actions: building track or trading stock.
Building track allows a player to take one to five trains from any company board (that still has trains on it) and place them out onto the map. There are some limitations when placing trains: the company can only go to spaces it hasn’t already gone to, it can only go to a rural (non-city) hex if there is no or one train is that space, and can only go to a city if no train already exists there.
When a train company is connected to a city, the company value is then increased by the corresponding city value (dictated by color) on the stock tracker. This can result in stock value jumps of 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Trading stock interacts with the secret information behind each player board. You can trade one train from behind your player board and trade it for one or two trains of a different color.
The game can end in two potential ways. The one I have seen the most is when five out of the six companies have run out of trains. The other is when one train company connects to Marseille – the active player will then finish their turn and the game ends with each player tallying their value from their stock portfolio (each stock is worth the value listed on the stock tracker).
Concept: Share Density vs. Share Value
This is one of the major learning lightbulbs I came across while playing this game. Over the course of the game, two types of companies will appear: those with high value but limited growth potential and those with low value but a decent amount of growth potential. It’s easy to focus on value – One stock worth 10 is clearly better than one stock worth 6.
But trading is not one to one. It’s one to two. So, is one stock worth 10 really better better than two stocks worth (a total of) 12? Share density is important. Getting a lot of stocks quickly means that every stock you have is earning money and there are no empty slots. It’s also important to note that companies with high value will eventually stall because eating up their stock means there is less trains to expand the map resulting in less growth. While the smaller stocks will grow more and could actually surpass the bigger companies later in the game.
Concept: Players versus Companies
Trains games have a very distinct line drawn between players and the companies they oversee. But can be hard to see that line. I know I have had the mentality of “I started the company; I want to make it do well” and it can be hard to remove that mentality. Paris Connection does a fantastic job of making that line brightly colored and flashing. Because you don’t start the company. You don’t own it. You don’t control it. Anyone can lay track regardless of how invest they are in that color (which is completely unknown in this game). This causes a rift between the player and the company breaking that connection and making it feel totally okay to abandon a company that isn’t doing so well.
Who Will Like it?
Paris Connection is like a party game for people who like Train games. It’s light, easy to learn and great for anyone to play! I have played Paris Connection with those experienced in the hobby and those who don’t know the hobby really exists! I would liken this game to Northern Pacific or Ride the Rails.
What I Think
Paris Connection is a fun game that is easy to learn and easy to understand. It has many positives to play and only a couple of negatives.
What did I like?
Paris Connection is great because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If everyone starts investing in one color, one player can drive it into the ground by placing out 5 trains in rural areas and limit it’s potential. The game is entirely player driven so the game unfolds in a variety of fun and interesting ways. Adapting to other players is at the core of the game.
While choices will hold weight if you win or lose, there is no long-term commitment since the game is so short. And there are no detrimental, game losing decisions, that anyone can make in one turn. One decision won’t be the reason you’re cursing you past self in the next thirty minutes.
What didn’t I like?
As I stated before, the set up for this game can be a little intimidating. But I don’t think it’s a game deal breaker- just be ready for a sorting party. I like to treat it as a mini game before the game. The other big downside of Paris Connection is the box. It’s big. Probably too big. Unfortunately, this box can take up a lot of room on the shelves which can make it difficult to justify for those who want to minimize their game space.
This game is all around a good time for anyone, whether they be an experiences gamer, new to the hobby, or just a family member you coerced into playing. It’s a game that will make you laugh while also cleverly and lightly introducing some important concepts that can be applied to many within the train game series.
Rulebook/Learning the Game
This rulebook is easy to learn and easy to read. The whole rulebook is two pages (which makes sense because there are only two actions with some limitations on them). The rulebook very clearly shows the fully set-up state of the board game as well as gives great visual examples of what is and isn’t allowed. Learning the game takes only a few minutes and it’s very easy to understand what you can do.
The first time I played Paris Connection, I tried to attach myself to one or two companies. I made these companies good in stock value and did my best to grab all the shares I could of the company. At the end of the game, I was under the allow limit of stocks. (I think the limit was 20 and I only have 15 trains behind my screen). This alone cause me to lose because I just didn’t have as much stock density as my opponents. Even though my stocks were good, that lack of 5 stocks made a massive difference.
In subsequent plays, I learned from my mistakes and gunned for stocks. Trading as much as I could based off the actions that others were taking. While this was great for my stock value, I had little control in the direction that many of the companies developed. I am still finding a way to balance when to take each of the two actions.
I thoroughly enjoy playing Paris Connection, but it often only comes out when we have players in the group who are less experienced at playing train games. With those who have more experienced (or who are more willing to get into something complicated), I tend to pull out cube rail games (i.e. Irish Gauge or Age of Steam) or 18XX games (i.e. 1830 or 1836).
*See my rating scale Here