Game Play And Strategy Guide Xbox 360

A-TRAIN HX

GAME PLAY & STRATEGY GUIDE.

© ali3nSXaddict
2009-01-27
Version 1.0


Table of contents:

1. Introduction to A-Train HX
2. Game Overview
3. Game play guide
4. Links


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 – 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 game’s unique world. Thus I’ve attempted a general game play 
guide: Your aims, strategies that might be useful to achieve them and the 
tools at your disposal. This isn’t meant to be a substitute for the paper 
manual or the Artdink walkthrough. Hopefully this will sit somewhere in-
between and compliment them both. I’ve 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 won’t be explaining the use and effect
of all in-game tools and options – the official manual does a fine job it self.

Here’s a few of the complaints, misconceptions and untruths which have 
been circulating the net:

HEY, THIS GAME’S INSANELY COMPLICATED…

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 we’d 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 that’s it.

…AND THE MANUAL IS USELESS!

Oh, the manual! I won’t gloss over the fact that the paper manual doesn’t 
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 doesn’t address what to do if your railway
isn’t making a profit (and this might be an early concern in-game) which 
effectively halts growth. I eventually found the answer on Artdink’s 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. 
It’s all pretty matter-of-fact. Nonetheless I’d say it’s 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 won’t be rushed. HX is about 
the subtle pleasure of unhurried construction as much as it is about being 
profitable. There isn’t 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. 
It’s a gentle, slow burn experience. A-Train simply isn’t a game you’ll ‘beat’ 
over the course of a weekend unless you are spamming your way to the 
Achievements - and if that’s the case then you’ve 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.

IT’S 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 you’ve 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 – 
in fact, you’ll never actually see them. You needn’t 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 don’t necessarily agree that A-Train will appeal mostly to those who are 
‘into’ trains or have always dreamed of owning a model railway set (though 
it’s 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, 
too.

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GAME OVERVIEW

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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 you’ll need factories with adjoining rail facilities moving your
materials into the city to encourage it’s development. You’ll 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 – a 
Bullet-Train service, a magnificent landmark or airport - all of which bestow 
extra special bonuses upon the city. 

Then there’s 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 
profits.

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 what’s 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 
leisure.
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GAME PLAY GUIDE

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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 isn’t prerequisite to 
completing the scenario, rather it’s 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 I’m going to assume you 
are starting a blank map without the expectations imposed by the scenarios. 
I’ll create a simple landscape with no other geographical features. I have 
one billion in funds. I stop the timer. You’ll 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

I’ll go ahead and choose a station type to begin with. All stations can be 
toggled through size and number of platforms. Your choice is:

COUNTRY STATION
Traditional station with slowest population growth. Can be used 
strategically if you don’t want the town to develop too quickly.

ELEVATED STATION
A modern construction which encourages faster population growth. Can be 
built up to several levels high.

TUBE STATION
Steady population growth but can only be constructed underground, perhaps 
if you don’t want to destroy buildings above ground but do want to continue 
growing the city.

MARSHALING YARD
Used to move materials from factories into a city. Cannot be used to 
collect/drop people

I’ll go with two long (to fit more train carriages), Elevated stations, though
I’m 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 
won’t 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 
I’m ready for my city to develop further. It’s 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 don’t the Goods train will not be able to drop its cargo at your 
station and, therefore, you will get no growth. If you don’t 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 - it’s as if they were never there….

I peruse the trains on offer and go for the AR4 with 7 carriages. It isn’t the 
fastest but does have the largest capacity. I won’t need 7 carriages for some 
time but I’m planning ahead. Sooner or later they’ll 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. Don’t rush to purchase the AR4 just because of the huge numbers 
it can transport. Instead, consider what will best suit your needs – 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 you’re planning a sprawling vertical city). In most cases 
you’re better off keeping trains with the same top speed using the same 
tracks. In some cases though, you’ll 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 you’ll notice there are no people riding your 
railway. The city needs development to stimulate population growth. Stop the 
timer again because all the while it’s running you’re 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 you’re spending keep one eye on your funds. It’s
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 there’s 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 you’d 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 don’t know. Many of them will fit your vision for the city. I 
enjoy making rural areas and often choose parks or shrines. Your call 
entirely.

-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 ‘zones’ 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; it’s hard to see how cultural value would 
make an influence in any other way, but who knows. Experiment with them 
and see what happens…

-LANDMARKS are my guilty secret because I have never constructed one 
due to my preference for rural maps. I’m 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 you’ll 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-Train’s stock market is a simplistic and
fun zero-risk waiting game. It has numerous fictional businesses, each with 
its own short biography. They’re cute to read but the business you choose to 
invest in makes no difference (it’s 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. You’ll 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 - don’t rely on the game to point out the optimum time to sell or 
buy. Also, the terms ’surging’ and ‘crashed’ 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 you’ll 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 you’re 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 – 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 
you’ve 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 it’s 
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 it’s a city building one although 
they are interdependent) – 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 that’s 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 – a fun way 
to look at it is that if a city or town isn’t an attractive option to people
they won’t 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 – 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 it’s 
the only solution if you want to run multiple trains at a profit. They’re 
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 you’ll 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 - I’d 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 AR4’s 1700 at 
peak times). Almost 80, 000, 000 but a sound investment which should 
immediately see a return.

As has we’ve 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, you’ll 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 town’s 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. It’s 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 you’ll 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, you’ll not get to reap the benefits of 
the bigger construction enterprises like the Airport.

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That, in essence, is the main game. The paper manual does a good job of 
explaining the map creator and so I’ll 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 I’ve 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 I’d be happier if you’d 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.

I’ve been coming to GameFAQs for several years and dedicate this guide to 
all the gamers out there who help to keep this community alive.

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LINKS
Outside of the Artdink site there is very little written guidance but please
be sure to visit them at:
http://www.artdink.co.jp/japanese/title/ahx/en_index.php

MY EMAIL: [email protected]
MY BLOG: http://lazyjedi.com/

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