Table of contents:
1. Introduction to A-Train HX
2. Game Overview
3. Game play guide
Introduction to A-Train HX
A-Train HX was the first Xbox 360 release by Artdink from their A-Train series
of railroad management games. These games have been popular with
Japanese gamers for years though they remain a niche genre here in the
west. A-Train HX is a modern train-empire management/urban development
simulator that slipped furtively under the door of the UK early last year. I
unearthed it late, by which time everyone else had lost patience and interest,
but why? I had immediately engaged with the playful balance of city
development and business empire building. The pace was satisfyingly off-
beat in a typically Japanese way Ė un-hurried planning, experimentation or
construction punctuated by the business of time tables and trading market
shares - it was always quietly compelling stuff. Surely someone else could
see what I did? But the almost total lack of interest was
painful: Chatter on the forums was generally negative and the absence of
any useful English language strategy guide, or even list of tips and
impressions, was disheartening.
A guide was badly needed. Something that might help stem the flow of
misunderstanding; something that might assist newcomers to the genre (as I
was) into the gameís unique world. Thus Iíve attempted a general game play
guide: Your aims, strategies that might be useful to achieve them and the
tools at your disposal. This isnít meant to be a substitute for the paper
manual or the Artdink walkthrough. Hopefully this will sit somewhere in-
between and compliment them both. Iíve assume you have spent a little time
exploring the game, are relaxed with the controls and familiar with the
official game manual. For that reason I wonít be explaining the use and effect
of all in-game tools and options Ė the official manual does a fine job it self.
Hereís a few of the complaints, misconceptions and untruths which have
been circulating the net:
HEY, THIS GAMEíS INSANELY COMPLICATEDÖ
A-Train is the first Xbox360 release of what is an established and popular
franchise from Japan. Each of us brought to it expectations, carried over from
similar-looking games weíd played in the past, as to what we could expect.
The game is essentially quite straightforward: By constructing railways
(passenger and freight) you can encourage or inhibit city and population
growth. The more people that ride your trains, the more profit your rail
company will accrue. Reach ten billion in funds to clear any given map. In a
nutshell thatís it.
ÖAND THE MANUAL IS USELESS!
Oh, the manual! I wonít gloss over the fact that the paper manual doesnít
hold your hand. Perhaps the biggest crime of the developers was to assume
familiararity with A-Trains of the past. They could easily have included a
section which walked you through the first few months of a game - that would
have deflected much of the initial criticism; in a way they invited it. The
most damaging omission was that it doesnít address what to do if your railway
isnít making a profit (and this might be an early concern in-game) which
effectively halts growth. I eventually found the answer on Artdinkís English
language HX site which made the whole thing clear (in fact, the starter guide
they have on their site should really have been in the manual). So, what we
are presented with is a snapshot of the main game screen with labels; an
overview of your goals and means to go about achieving them; followed by
explanation of the menu screens and options for construction and purchases.
Itís all pretty matter-of-fact. Nonetheless Iíd say itís also invaluable until
you are more confident with the game mechanics.
THIS GAME IS SO BORING
Another thing Artdink assumed in us was an appetite for experimenting
enquiry and the free time to express it. But HX wonít be rushed. HX is about
the subtle pleasure of unhurried construction as much as it is about being
profitable. There isnít a particular right or wrong way to go about it because
decisions you make rest upon how you wish a town or whole city to develop.
Itís a gentle, slow burn experience. A-Train simply isnít a game youíll Ďbeatí
over the course of a weekend unless you are spamming your way to the
Achievements - and if thatís the case then youíve missed the point. You are
invited to relax, consider the aesthetics of the town, take pride in how your
railway operates and gradually build your empire.
ITíS JUST LIKE SIMCITY/THE SIMS/THEMEPARK MANAGER/ETC
At first glance A-Train HX looks like it might be a close relative of other
games youíve played in the past. But it helps if we unlearn some of the habits
and strategies we used to rely upon. Your priority is to keep the railway
profitable. Citizens exist only to make you money by riding your trains,
purchasing at your convenience stores or relaxing at your leisure facilities Ė
in fact, youíll never actually see them. You neednít try to keep them happy or
fed. There are no disasters to contend with (natural or supernatural). No city
management concerns like tax or pollution levels. HX is much less intimidating
than SimCity to the newcomer and far less stressful. Furthermore city design
has little impact upon overall profit other than the fact that your
subsidiaries (business you build which helps fund your railroad expansion)
are more likely to thrive close to a railway station.
I donít necessarily agree that A-Train will appeal mostly to those who are
Ďintoí trains or have always dreamed of owning a model railway set (though
itís satisfying to watch night fall over your modern-Toy Town city with trains
going about their business). Most likely the appeal will also be user-friendly
financial management, the straight forward city building and relaxed pace.
Trains enjoy far more respect in Japan than here in the UK. The Japanese
train system is notable for punctuality, cleanness and modern, efficient
service so little Japanese boys still dream of growing up to become a train
driver. No surprise then that train-themed games are taken more seriously,
You assume the role of a Railroad magnate who will strive to build a
sprawling and profitable empire. People (or population numbers), Materials
and Trains make everything else possible. Without population there is no
one to ride your trains and consequently no money coming-in for you; but
without your trains the population is unable to travel and they, as well as
their town, stagnate right where they are. Without materials your city will be
unable to grow and construct buildings; however, materials depend upon your
trains and factories to transport to the city. So a symbiosis is established.
Build an efficient train service between two or more towns, provide those towns
with materials and people travel with their money as your city grows and becomes
increasingly profitable. This is the basic game mechanic powering A-Train HX.
But owning a Railroad company is a supremely expensive business. You
must always invest for the future (since demolition and re-building costs you)
and this means you are usually running at a loss, at least in the early game:
Factories produce materials; materials in-turn stimulate development in towns
and cities. So youíll need factories with adjoining rail facilities moving your
materials into the city to encourage itís development. Youíll want adequate
housing or hotels for the people otherwise the population number will cap
and growth will cease. Commercial enterprises can be built to raise funds for
your Railway (these are the subsidiaries of your railway empire). Once you
are making enough money you can then invest in very large projects Ė a
Bullet-Train service, a magnificent landmark or airport - all of which bestow
extra special bonuses upon the city.
Then thereís the railway it self. You have many trains at your disposal,
various cost benefits, environmental impact, speed and capacity to consider.
But a train must run on tracks, so you build them with branches, single or
double-cross rails, bridges, tunnels and time tabling to exploit and maximise
You need funds to construct your empire. Money can be raised from trading
stock market shares or procuring a bank loan. If things get very tight you
might be forced to sell some of your subsidiaries. If things get critical and
the railway is losing money then consult the Report menu, find whatís causing
the loss and act upon it!
All this could have lead to a relatively dry management experience, or else a
stressful lesson in juggling multiple and conflicting variables. But A-Train
is never either of those things. Both the business management and city-
building are accessible and creative which rarely, if ever, frustrate (since
population and materials will influence most of your concerns and are
straight-forward to remedy). The overall experience is playful and open-
ended: Reach the financial goal for each map and you can carry on at your
Game Play Guide
You can choose to play through the given scenarios which are graded - in
terms of starting budget - by stars: (* being the easiest to *** the most
challenging). Or you might like to start with a blank map, arrange your own
geographical features and budget and go from there. The scenarios feature
towns or cities in various locations in need of population growth, business
stimulus or modernisation. Occasionally there is the open-ended question of
how development might impact the landscape. This isnít prerequisite to
completing the scenario, rather itís offered as something to consider as you
grow. Thus you could decide to increase the population of an historic farming
region by encouraging numerous small towns to develop along the path of a
river, leaving the farmland more or less untouched; then again you might
decide two major cities are the solution and locate them right within the
paddy fields. You might opt for a business-heavy town; you may prefer to
focus on leisure by creating a ski resort. No one solution is best. All can
work for you. Read the scenario introduction, consider the map and take a
moment to decide how you want to develop. But Iím going to assume you
are starting a blank map without the expectations imposed by the scenarios.
Iíll create a simple landscape with no other geographical features. I have
one billion in funds. I stop the timer. Youíll need passenger trains to
transport people, freight trains to move the materials which stimulate
development. At the most basic level you will want to purchase:
1. A passenger train
2. Two stations
3. Two Goods trains
4. One or more factories
5. A Marshalling Yard
6. A Materials Yard
Iíll go ahead and choose a station type to begin with. All stations can be
toggled through size and number of platforms. Your choice is:
Traditional station with slowest population growth. Can be used
strategically if you donít want the town to develop too quickly.
A modern construction which encourages faster population growth. Can be
built up to several levels high.
Steady population growth but can only be constructed underground, perhaps
if you donít want to destroy buildings above ground but do want to continue
growing the city.
Used to move materials from factories into a city. Cannot be used to
Iíll go with two long (to fit more train carriages), Elevated stations, though
Iím keeping mine at ground level for now, three platforms wide at a cost of
128, 880, 000. This sounds like a lot of money, but the thing with railway
development is that you are always building with one eye on the future. I
wonít need those three platforms for a while, but it saves having to destroy
the station (which costs!) at a later date only to rebuild a bigger one when
Iím ready for my city to develop further. Itís insanely expensive and you are
mostly running at a loss in the early game (this is where your subsidiaries
and dealings on the stock market will help enormously, but more on those
later). A little way (but not too far) from the first station I build the
second and connect them with tracks. Materials Yards will need to be placed
adjoining the stations. ABOVE GROUND THEY MUST CONNECT PHYSICALLY WITH THEM.
If they donít the Goods train will not be able to drop its cargo at your
station and, therefore, you will get no growth. If you donít like having
these materials yards right in the middle of the city you can, in fact, build
them one level right below the station using the cut-away bar over on the
right of the screen. Materials will be dropped from the goods train and
removed for development in the usual way - itís as if they were never thereÖ.
I peruse the trains on offer and go for the AR4 with 7 carriages. It isnít the
fastest but does have the largest capacity. I wonít need 7 carriages for some
time but Iím planning ahead. Sooner or later theyíll begin to fill up and you
can only purchase whole trains, not extra carriages. Around 12 passenger
trains are open to you from the start. They vary in terms of their individual
features. Donít rush to purchase the AR4 just because of the huge numbers
it can transport. Instead, consider what will best suit your needs Ė speed?
capacity? economy? If you want to keep a town medium-sized then a large,
expensive train might not be the best choice (Remember, a smaller number
of passengers and less materials both lead directly to inhibited growth which
is good unless youíre planning a sprawling vertical city). In most cases
youíre better off keeping trains with the same top speed using the same
tracks. In some cases though, youíll want to squeeze a fast train between a
gap in the time table of two slower ones. Multiple trains using one or two
tracks are a positive way of reducing costs and maximizing efficiency. Will
require branches, points and timetable gymnastics but very satisfying.
Start the timer and let the train run. You might see a few paddy fields appear
around the station; most likely though, nothing will grow at this stage. But
why not? Check the train tab and youíll notice there are no people riding your
railway. The city needs development to stimulate population growth. Stop the
timer again because all the while itís running youíre bleeding funds. Now
place the Marshaling Yard, factory and Materials Yard together somewhere
between the two stations. The larger the factory, the faster its material
output.To generate even more materials - for faster growth - you must construct
multiple factories, but whilst youíre spending keep one eye on your funds. Itís
too easy to find you suddenly no longer have the means to support a
growing infrastructure. Keep funds around 200, 000, 000 just to be safe.
Purchase a couple of Goods trains and set them at the Marshaling Yard.
Take a moment to read their descriptions. Is the environmental impact, speed
or design important to you? As ever, you plan for the future. I get a larger
one than I need.
But even with three trains running you still need something to kick-start
population growth. Construct some business (your railroad subsidiaries)
close to the two stations. Convenience stores and petrol stations are cheap
initial sources of income, then thereís hotels, housing (which wont gain you
funds but will provide more space for the population to live), leisure
facilities - anything to entice the public and relieve them of their cash but
be creative and think of the type of city youíd like to develop. It might be
useful to briefly look at the construction options here:
- PUBLIC FACILITIES are generally aesthetic. They might, possibly, influence
population but I donít know. Many of them will fit your vision for the city. I
enjoy making rural areas and often choose parks or shrines. Your call
- SHOPS AND HOTELS increase commercial value. I interpret this as real
estate or property value. You might fancy a business area or high-end
property zone close to a blue lake. Whatever, once the population starts
rising you might notice your own small houses or flats changing, quite
without intervention from you, into larger more expensive buildings.
- OFFICE BUILDINGS AND TALL BUILDINGS increase business value.
Presumably positively affecting the resale price of your shops and other
businesses. Might be an idea to situate them close to other subsidiaries or
make office Ďzonesí rather than placing them close to houses.
- SKYSCRAPERS take weeks to complete and you get the pleasure of
watching their gradual construction.
- LEISURE AND SPORTS FACILITIES are a bit of an enigma. Perhaps nothing
more than encouraging population; itís hard to see how cultural value would
make an influence in any other way, but who knows. Experiment with them
and see what happensÖ
- LANDMARKS are my guilty secret because I have never constructed one
due to my preference for rural maps. Iím playing a game now, though, in
which I plan to make use of them. They have a variety of positive yet
unmentioned effects. With the timer now running you notice ground around
the stations showing signs of development. Houses, office buildings and
roads automatically appear and by selecting the train menu youíll see the
number of people travelling between stations is increasing. In fact,
the only thing not increasing quickly at the moment will be your funds.
Open-up the Market menu. This is where you can trade shares, take out a
bank loan or sell your property. A-Trainís stock market is a simplistic and
fun zero-risk waiting game. It has numerous fictional businesses, each with
its own short biography. Theyíre cute to read but the business you choose to
invest in makes no difference (itís just an opportunity to creatively engage
with the game by selecting a business that appeals to you for whatever
reason. Choosing randomly has zero negative impact) and for all shares the
prices rise and fall simultaneously. The lowest price I have seen shares at
was around 2.40. With patience you can get them for as little as 1.20(ish).
Purchase however many you want and then wait. Youíll get occasional
reminders, as you continue the game, regarding whether the stock market is
surging, crashing and so on. Best advice, however, is to check back regularly
for yourself - donít rely on the game to point out the optimum time to sell or
buy. Also, the terms ísurgingí and Ďcrashedí are used pretty loosely. A
'surge' may involve 4.00 shares rising to 8.50 before falling again. As a
note of caution: Beware of investing too much of your funds into the market
close to a Tax Payment Day. Once-a-year you are required to pay tax on your
property, etc. Should this leave your funds minus youíll bankrupt and the
game will end.
The time between shares falling to their lowest and rising to their highest can
sometimes run over a couple of months. Be prudent. If youíre hanging on for
them to hit 18.00 with tax day looming or your money constantly draining from
poor train revenue it might be best to just accept the 14.00 price and try
again at another time. Also try not to get too hung-up on making the biggest
possible gain every time. Buying at a cost of, say, 8.45 and selling for 15.01
is still a reasonable gain. Take it or risk the market falling unexpectedly,
forcing you to wait even longer for a decent return. Several small gains over
a short period are equally or more profitable than a larger one from a
protracted and risky waiting game.
Bank loans are more self-explanatory. You borrow a set amount to be repaid
- with interest Ė at a later date. The same word of caution can be applied
here regarding not over-stretching yourself close to a re-payment or Tax
date. If you suspect you might struggle with repayments then stick with the
stock market. Finally, if you find yourself in a position where you are close
to bankruptcy you might wish to sell a few of your subsidiaries. In fact, if
your subsidiaries are doing particularly well then you might want to sell them
anyway for a massive profit. This strategy only really gives decent returns if
youíve spent a lot of time and funds constructing multiple businesses in the
early game when the city was still in a period of rapid growth and land was
cheap to build on (yep, land prices will rise with the success of the city).
So with two stations operational you may eventually notice that development
has stopped; railway profits may cap, materials are not being removed from
yards (meaning that your Goods Trains and factories have become a
financial burden!), no more houses and roads are being built and you are
not turning a profit quickly enough. But why? Your railway has reached itís
full capacity and you now need to expand it - remember that it is the growth
of your railway that should concern you primarily rather than growth of cities
(this is a railway management game before itís a city building one although
they are interdependent) Ė everything else you do will be towards expanding
your business empire. Essentially more housing and trains and materials will
equate to more funds in your account; contrary-wise fewer houses and trains
and materials equates to arrested growth (no new buildings being
automatically developed) fewer people commuting and less funds. A true
Metropolis will require simultaneous railroad investment with inventive,
economical integration of rail track and time table. Inhibited growth - which
is fine if thatís your overall strategy - involves raising multiple towns and
squeezing everything you can from the limited population of each one (I
already mentioned how I prefer picturesque rural maps and actively avoid
encouraging Tall Buildings and big business development).
To raise population for your trains you can begin by ensuring that enough
materials are being dropped into the city to feed the construction Ė a fun way
to look at it is that if a city or town isnít an attractive option to people
they wonít want to live there. You may need to either increase the frequency of
drops (add another train) or increase factory output by purchasing an extra
one. Now look to your city Materials Yards. Are they large enough to hold
more materials? Did you buy the cheaper Country Station? These stations
will inhibit growth due to their small capacity for people. I use them
extensively to promote the atmosphere of ski resorts or lake-side holiday
retreats I have developed Ė but they will prevent you from expanding.
Elevated stations are far better at this and you can, with time and funds,
construct modern multi-level rail systems. Are you using the best train for the
job? I wanted to purchase a new train and have it run during a gap in the two
active timetables (I have been using the manual timetable settings and itís
the only solution if you want to run multiple trains at a profit. Theyíre
really not complicated, it being a matter of, say, having two trains leave
separate stations simultaneously then make a synchronised return, one
branching-off to avoid the other mid-way). In A-Train HX your railway will
have peak travel times during which youíll see more passengers. My trains were
already running the two peak times (morning and evening office commuters). With
a speedy train able to dart inbetween the other two, but with fewer seats - as
off-peak travel is less busy/profitable - Iíd be able to take advantage of the
new population members. I opted for the AR7 Limited Express. A full 40 kph
faster than the other two, max 600+ passengers (unlike the AR4ís 1700 at
peak times). Almost 80, 000, 000 but a sound investment which should
immediately see a return.
As has weíve seen, you could employ a strategy of limited-development for
your cities whilst still expanding your railway. The ability to exert influence
over the aesthetics of any particular city is another interesting feature of A-
Train. Regardless of how many cities develop, youíll never see the same city
twice as there is a certain randomisation in the game mechanic to prevent it.
So say you wanted to see a landscape of paddy fields and small to mid-sized
towns rather than vertical cityscapes. Is it possible to do this and still
expand and profit from your rail empire? By exploiting the limiting influence
of Country Stations and controlling access to materials a townís population
will eventually, as we have seen, cap. The correct type of train will still
make a good profit in such a place. Within these towns you might feel that
constructing fewer tall Office Buildings and more community-oriented
subsidiaries and Onsen hotels rather than the city equivalent is the better
direction to take. Itís Your call. You might see the occasional tall building
spring up but its development will be held in check by the lower population.
The town will retain a certain rural appearance. But youíll need more of
these towns in order to be profitable and, unless you also work on a major
city in another location of the map, youíll not get to reap the benefits of
the bigger construction enterprises like the Airport.
That, in essence, is the main game. The paper manual does a good job of
explaining the map creator and so Iíll not bother here - much like the rest of
the game it is very accessible. It also does a sterling job of outlining the
contents of each menu and the layout of the main game screen. Again, I will
not attempt to go over them.I will update this guide as I get deeper into A-
Train. If you feel Iíve missed anything important, made an error or you need
more advice/information on this game please contact me. Also for a more
complete version of this of this guide (with illustrative movies and screen
shots) please visit my Blog.
Clearly Iíd be happier if youíd not reproduce anything here but it happens.
If you quote or borrow from this guide please do me the courtesy of stating
where you saw it written first.
Iíve been coming to GameFAQs for several years and dedicate this guide to
all the gamers out there who help to keep this community alive.
Outside of the Artdink site there is very little written guidance but please
be sure to visit them at:
MY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org MY BLOG: http://lazyjedi.com/