Posted October 15, 2013 by Amy in Board Games

20 Express (Family Fiends) Review


All aboard the number train!

Talk about a unique idea! 20 Express is a game like no other, where forethought and planning combined with a whole lot of luck can land you in the winner’s seat, whether you’re playing with two people or one hundred. By using numbers in a a cool new way, each and every game proves how very much differently things can be done from player to player, even when everyone playing has the exact same tiles.

The concept of 20 Express is fairly simple to grasp, given that all players are of a certain age (eight and up is recommended). Each player has a paper score card, featuring one long train with twenty cars. When you begin the game, each car is an empty box. One player reaches into a bag of number tiles, selects one at random, and lays it in the center of the table. Each player needs to use that number, and the nineteen that will follow, somewhere on the train.

The goal of the game is to make chains of ascending numbers, left to right. They don’t have to be in numerical order (for instance: 1, 2, 3, 4), but each subsequent number must be greater than or equal to the number before, otherwise it breaks the chain. It’s very rare to get a complete chain of twenty, but the greater the number of boxes in each chain you have, the more points you’ll score. At then end of the game, when all twenty train cars have been filled, you add up all the points from each chain you’ve created, and the player with the greatest number of points wins.

It seems so simple, right? You put the low numbers on the left, and the high on the right, and it’s an easy win. But it doesn’t quite work out the way, as you’ll realize about halfway through your first game. The tiles available number from one to thirty, with some numbers repeated, as well as a wild card. If you fill the front of the train with low numbers, and then a two pops up, you’ll likely have to break a chain later in the train to get it on the board. If you leave a bunch of spots open in the front of the train, you might get hit with a bunch of high numbering tiles that destroy your hopes of a twenty chain. It requires equal portions of strategy and luck, and it really brings out the competitive nature in all of us as those tiles keep landing.

20 Express comes with a huge pad full of score cards, all printed on both sides, for an amazing amount of games possible, even with a large group. The forty number tiles come packaged in a drawstring bag that keeps snooping eyes off the next draw, but also keeps them safe in between games. You’ll even get a baggie of little pencils, meaning everything you need to play is right there in the box. It’s a game your whole family can enjoy together, in about fifteen minutes or so per match – and it’s a great way to get your kids excited about numbers.

20 Express is a surprisingly competitive game that truly is fun for the whole family. Players young and old can bring their best strategies to the table, but unless Lady Luck is also on their side, it can all be for naught. With the holiday season approaching, this is an excellent choice for young gamers, and families of all ages.


U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)