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Loose Caboose

The caboose is on the loose and running mad! Keep adding tracks to outrun it and stop a derailment!

Published by Gamewright, Loose Caboose is a 20-minute card and dice game, designed for 2-4 players. It’s light, fast, and easy to learn.

Gameplay

The deck of track cards is shuffled, and three track cards are placed in the center of the table, connecting them so that they form one track. You put the caboose meeple on the center card, and players agree on which direction the caboose will move during the game (left or right). Each player is then dealt two cards, a certain number of cards are removed from the track deck depending on player count, and you’re ready to begin.

On your turn, you start by drawing a card. You may then add track and move the caboose or pass. If you add track, you may choose one or more cards from your hand which have the same value (the values range from one to four) and then add them to the track cards on the table. You must add them in the direction the caboose is moving, they cannot overlap any other cards, and you cannot place them so as to cause the railway to make a loop. Next, you move the caboose. You roll a number of dice equal to the value of the cards you played — so, if you played four three’s, you roll three dice. You then move the caboose forward one card for each wheel you rolled. If the caboose would move off the front-most card, you take one penalty card for each card it wasn't able to move to. When you take a penalty card, you take the card at the back end of the rail and place it in your penalty pile. If the card you are placing in your penalty pile has the same value as the card currently on top of your penalty pile, then both cards are discarded. You can discard multiple cards from your penalty pile, on a single turn, using this mechanism.

Four cards in the deck show a broken track. When the caboose moves over (or stops on) one of these cards, you must take a penalty card and add it face-down to the bottom of your penalty pile. These cards cannot be discarded.

If you pass, you move the caboose forward one card (if you can) and take one penalty card.

The game ends once the draw pile runs out and the player who drew the last card finishes his turn. Then all players add any cards in their hands to their penalty piles. You then count up all the values of all the cards in your penalty pile and the player with the lowest total wins the game.

Loose Caboose Components

Review

Loose Caboose is a light push-your-luck game that adds some interesting choices through the penalty piles. You could play cards, but you might actually acquire fewer penalty cards from simply passing now and building up a more robust hand for future turns. On the other hand, you want to be careful not to be caught with too many cards at the end of the game. The choices are straightforward but interesting.

The fact that you can knock cards out of your penalty pile also means you can choose when to strategically pass or only add a few cards to the train line. The game also plays pretty quickly, making this a light, fast, and fun game that families can enjoy.

Gamewright typically does a really good job with its components and game presentation, and this is no exception. The artwork is rich and colorful and the caboose meeple is nice and solid. It can get a little annoying, however, if you’re not playing on a table with a lot of space. You will have to continually slide the cards back since the track more or less tends to get built out in one direction.

This isn’t a very big game, but it’s engaging while it lasts, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It has some clever ideas mixed in with its light gameplay while remaining easy to learn and accessible.

Pros: Components, easy to teach, scoring mechanics

Cons: You may end up sliding everything back to the center of the table multiple times during the game

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.