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2016 edition

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 30 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Franz-Benno Delonge

Publisher(s): Rio Grande Games

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Product Description

Build the rails from sea to sea.

America in the 19th century: railroads are booming! Pioneer spirit and vision are everywhere.

Everyone wants to be the first to build a railroad network across the country. Each player has five cities and tries to connect them with a shared network of tracks. As soon as a player has done this, the round ends. The other players lose points and the next round begins. At the end of the game, the player with the most points left wins!

Product Awards

Major FUN
Award Winner, 2007
Mensa Best Mind Game Award
Best Mind Game, 2003
Deutscher Spiele Preis
2nd place, 2002
Spiel des Jahres
Finalist, 2002

Product Information


  • game board
  • 85 wooden rails
  • 35 city cards
  • 6 wooden start markers
  • 6 wooden locomotive tokens
  • starting map
  • rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.1 in 30 reviews

Simply not fun
July 07, 2009

I got this game for my birthday about 6 months ago but it had not been the first time I played it. In my family, we have a tendancy to all pick up the same game at any given time and for some reason, trans america was that game. For the life of me, I don't know why. Each player randomly picks cities that they have to connect with rail roads. OK, sounds fine. You get to place two every turn, unless you are going over a river. OK, again, a little strategic. You can build into other people's tracks and use them. OK... connect your cities. Done. What this game ends up being is a stand off to who can play the longest without getting bored, and the loser finally says "Fine! I'll build my track close to you because I have to get to one of my cities." Then everyone else hops on his track and the game is usually over in two turns. Flatly, the game is just not that fun. It's a trial in patience and if you have children, it may be a good learning tool. But like candy land, as soon as your children are able to play a different, more complicated game, they probably should. Anyway, trans america isn't all that expensive so if you must try it out by all means, I hope you can enjoy it.

by J K.
Simple, fast, enjoy, repeat...
November 11, 2007

After some time away, I felt compelled to give some review love to several games that we have found keep coming out of the game closet over and over again, all for different reasons. Sometimes, a few hours are available with deep strategists who enjoy the intricacies of multi-phase, hybrid-optioned intertwining. Other times, folks are in the mood for beating one another competitively under the burden of points scores in various card or tile games for nightly bragging rights.

At times, a portable, easy to learn/setup, and fast playing simple game with a touch of strategy and luck fits the bill. One of these games (but arguably much more abstract) that I'd recommend for reinvigoration is Pyramidis. Another that is equally playable amongst various ages and gamer backgrounds is Trans America.

I'll oversight the play-rules courtesy of the many other related reviews (essentially: pick 5 cards designating cities to link to, set a start point, play 2 rails each turn until all 5 are connected) except to point out that you've now basically learned the game. The luck involved is in two dimensions: the initial pull of your 5 cities, and in the laydown of rails from the other players. While there's not a huge amount of variance available given the size of board/# of cities/#of players, it's suitable for a new-feeling game each time you play.

The strategy is arguably minimal but overlooked (I believe) in the depth of options available when one places their 2 rails each turn. This (combined with choice of start spot) helps inject newness to each round and offers sufficient top-level strategies to emerge (Go straight? Hop onto someone else's rails remora-like and share the benefit? Divert myself away from the actual places to confuse fellow travelers but take time doing it?). Some other opportunities get missed by the casual player (when to touch others rails is a key decision, what negatives may occur if one routes through cities you don't need but others might, etc.), taking what might seem a touch rote and senseless-placement based into more of a fun, socially-affected tactic space.

Some expectation do's and don'ts: Do expect this to be a short (15-20min per round) enjoyable game best with 4 that holds up for the several rounds needed to complete the game. Don't expect this to be cutthroat me-against-all-of-you type play that appeals to the "stick it to the other player" type (at best you can annoy by connecting rails to another player early or by building your rails in lines not terribly helpful to the others). Do expect this to be around for several years of play and a nice augment to other rail games such as Ticket to Ride (for those wanting their connecting from A-B Jones handled but also with more risk and "block me" options), Rail Baron (oldie but a goodie with more of an economic/Monopoly angle to building your routes), and others (Express, anyone?). Do not expect a richly detailed backstory, Black Forest/handcrafted game piecery (simple black rails are however complemented by a pretty board), deep strategic option play-based (I can't stop a player's progress? Blow up their train? Slyly divert their rail building in another direction? - oh, wait - can do that one...) type of game.

The only minus for play I'd offer is the inevitable crashing of one's train off the status bridge that notes the loser's inability to connect cities faster than the opponents - an odd points-tracking metaphor at best (You were first! You get to...keep your train in the station, while the their way towards certain doom!?) and personally better if replaced by a "whose train traveled the farthest" approach. Perhaps it's more of an incentive to play well knowing your train may be sent tragically to its end...? Oh well.

Enough verbiage, quick summary: Very playable, flexible, simple game, fun (and winnable) with all ages/experience players. With the exception of constantly losing the many rail pieces amongst the silverware, one could consider it a restaurant/travel game (better for motel bed /floor play). Go-get-play-enjoy-repeat.

J. K.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
This is a great game!
January 02, 2006
My son got this as a birthday present from my sister, and we've played it everyday since. It is a definite favorite in our household. We've shared it with others and it is on our shopping list whenever we need to buy for a birthday - it is the best game we've played in a long while.
Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by D R.
Short game and very fun
January 02, 2006
This is a very fun game. The rounds are relatively quick. The game dynamic is easy and interesting. There is no backstabbing or mean competition. Even people not familiar with these sorts of games love TransAmerica. This is a good "starter" game to get people interested in these board games.
Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great lunchtime game
September 13, 2005

TransAmerica is fast to pick up and left us all feeling good after a lunch-hour of playing. The pieces are solid and wooden. The cards are smallish but good quality. The board is brightly decorated, double tri-fold and sturdy -- a typical Rio Grande game. The play is fast, with only a few deliberated (drawn-out) plays in any game. Most rounds, the scores are very similar. I only regret that the nicest wooden pieces are the scoring markers. Also, once the stations are placed on the board, it's impossible to tell which player is which color, unless you memorized the colors first.

A great, quick, light-weight filler game. Not five stars because with 2 people the fun factor of this game decreases. The more people, the better it plays!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Light, but solid. Like, say, aluminum.
August 22, 2005

TransAmerica is certainly a light strategy game, but a solidly-designed one. In many ways quite the opposite of Ticket to Ride (since the superficial similarities require that we talk about that game). Rather than competing for routes (since all track is shared), you're second-guessing other players goals so you can get them to build track for you, spending their turns so you don't have to. Between the shared track and partial credit for near-miss routes, there are no big losers on any given round, and the overall experience is much more casual than a lot of other games. Go into TransAmerica if what you're looking for is a short, casual game, and this will be a good thing.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
A classic - and a great gateway
January 30, 2005
Ignore the review about there being no "game" to the game. TransAmerica is a classic - it's a light and fast game, to be sure, but it is a great one for when you are in between "meaty" games, or are looking to introduce "non-gamers" to german-style games.
Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
No game to this game
January 28, 2005
This game plays very quickly, so we were able to try it out many times when we bought it. After the third time, none of us had found any game to the game. Seriously, there was never a point where any of us found any real strategy to the game. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up Ticket To Ride instead!
Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Quick, easy to learn
January 25, 2005

Just picked up this game today.

I'm a fairly serious gamer but some of my friends aren't. This game is great, it has strategy that you can use when playing serious players; or just play fast and furious with new players, or if you just want to have fun.

The rules are really simple and easy to learn. We were playing within seconds of opening the box. Great game.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Rick T
Fast moving family fun
September 05, 2004

We have 3 young kids and this is one of our favorite family games. It's easy to learn, fast paced and has nice visual appeal. It doesn't get bogged down like some games where players overthink their moves and slow the pace of play.

While the game is easy to learn, there is enough strategy that smart moves can change the outcome. And, if you don't do well on a particular turn, it's okay because the next round is soon to start.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Mike
Reading your opponents
March 24, 2004

This is a game, not just about pure strategy, but about the ability to intuit your opponents' moves and resources. You need to be able to sense where their cities are located. You also need to be able to gauge where/when they will place certain rail tracks.

Your initial placement is key. I had a round where my cities were the furthest apart from everyone else. So I started within a close distance to my opponents and through a strategic pass. That way, they would come to me, and do the work that I might have done alone. Also, waiting is a key strategy of this game -- not giving your position away, and confusing your opponents. There is some memory involved as you have to remember which cities were claimed by whom. There is more to this game than meets the eye.

I just played for the first time, and I won with 12 points. The other players ended with 0 and 4. So the positive experience of winning might have biased this report to an uncertain degree.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Highly replayable fun
January 18, 2004

Our gaming group has enjoyed this since one of our California members brought this back with him over the holidays. (Even our resident disliker of most all rail-games liked TransAmerica!)

I found it highly replayable and enjoyable.

When we first played, I seemed to lose no matter what I did. This made me feel a little like the folks here who have said it's more an activity than a game.

Then I played a bit more and tried doing a few things differently and -- hey! -- I won three rounds in a row.

The difference, as someone else said in a review, really is in making a decision about where to build and when. Just building flat out to connect the cities was my first approach -- done blindly this simply helps other players too much.

Yes, drawing cities does create a high luck-factor, but if you want a game with no luck factor, play GO or Chess.

I do agree that it would be nice to be able to do *something* to stop another player -- play a flood card to wipe out rails over rivers, for example, or snow in the mountains, etc. (sounds a little like Empire Builder, now, eh?).

Regardless, the game is consistently fun and unanimously liked by our group.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
2 Player Rail Building Fun
January 13, 2004

As many others have attested, this is a simple and fun game with a lovely board and nice pieces. It is also very playable with two players but I'd change one rule to make it a better two player game. The change is as follows:

Do not move the rail barrier on the point track to the right after the second round even if the game conditions are met. This is by design a short game (especially for 2 players) and following the official rule will pretty much elliminate any ability for a come-from-behind victory. Following the official rule makes sense for 3-5 player games as without it, there's a potential for a longer than desired game.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Alright, It's just plain fun!
December 15, 2003

No doubt some of you are looking over TransAmerica as a possible gift for the mild to moderate game enthusiast in your life. However, even thought TA has a very easy learning curve, plays very quickly, and never lags into analysis paralysis, it does require some thoughtful play if you want to maximize your chances of winning. For some, the luck factor is a negative (my wife seemed to have every neighboring city that I was building into or out of tonight), but even though we have a great selection of games, we keep pulling out TA because it's fun. We think it plays well with two (the tactics are a little different, though) as with three or four. Our experience with more than four is that it gets a little chaotic. Highly recommended. Also a great game to play with the kids!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Terrific game for a small group
June 09, 2003

What makes this game really fun is the 'not knowing' factor. As others have noted, the game is short on S & T (strategy and tactics), but long on process. You have one goal; connect your five cities. What makes it compelling is that while your opponents have the same goal, you can't see how close they are or aren't to beating you. Adds an air of heightened expectation that has a tendency to keep you coming back for more. It's a great game for '%&*&#*(&#%*' reactions when someone else connects one turn ahead of you.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Kitty
easy and fun game, but...
May 25, 2003

This game is very easy to learn and understand, not the best strategic game kind of still very fun to play. Although the suggested number of players is 2 and up, it's really not too much fun playing with less than 3 peple in the group because the chances are the places are going to be really scattered and hard to connected and takes way too long to even share tracks by connecting them. But for a group of 4 and up players it can be a lot of fun. It's a great game to play with kids too because of it has easy concept and less skill required. So in general a cool game for everyone to enjoy.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Fun Game, Easy to Learn, Replayable and Mensa Approved
April 23, 2003

I first played TransAmerica at MindGames 2003 in Houston hosted by Mensa. This game was one of the winners of the Mensa seal. The game is a lot of fun, even my wife loved it. Easy to learn, easy to play, and high replay value. I highly suggest this laid back game. Simple but thoroughly enjoyable.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Pj
Maybe it's TOO balanced?
January 15, 2003

In a nutshell, TransAmerica is a fun, easy-to-teach family game; however, it leaves much to be desired as a real 'game.'

A previous reviewer nailed the problem with TransAmerica: it's more an activity than endeavor. Unless you are a total moron, each round of this game is painfully close in score, which leads me to believe that the design leans more heavily on balance than play decisions.

I took this to a family gathering at Christmas, and it was a great way to socialize, have a few beers, and do something together. The board also looks very cool when it is completed.

Buy it if you want a fairly mindless social activity; don't if you are looking for a game that requires real play decisions and strategic planning.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Amnon
Maybe I don't get it
December 24, 2002

This seems more like an activity than a game. There isn't anything you can do to block your opponent, and your best move seems pretty straightforward. You have very few inputs to control the outcome of a match. You pick a starting point to start growing a network that will connect your 5 cities, but anywhere on your connection plan will do. You can decide if you want to start nearer or further from your opponents, and this will effect when you can merge networks. The only other input you have is deciding when to merge networks with your opponents. Luck of the draw seems to have a big effect, and accidentally helping your opponents can be a problem too. It definitely feels like a game of luck with two people. Maybe if I played with a group of experts I'd see where this was more of a game.

The components are top quality.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Ruth
All age fun!
November 19, 2002

Friends bought TransAmerica 10 days ago, and have played it every day since! Starting off two players, then teaching the kids - 5 and 7 year olds! I played with the kids the other day - and they know what to do - better than I, though I had already played it with the other adults! When the gamers get together the game still works, creating the tension, and tactics just like a real gamers game. Not many games cater so well to both markets!

Great lunch time game to have at the office!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
An Excellent Game, but not quite a classic
November 10, 2002

This is a simple game to learn and can be played by young children as well as adults. This is a really great game to introduce children to the gaming community. This will be one of the first games that I teach my daughter. Another key win is that the time to play does not really change much with additional players.

For an adult game there is a nice mixture of luck and skill. You pick 1 city in each of the 5 areas at random and then place your starting location anywhere on the map. Your aim is to then connect the cities together. So you can be somewhat at a disadvantage by city selction, but over the course of several rounds this usully works itself out.

Now when your network connects with another players you can then use their network to build off of. So even if you have a wayout city like Boston, if someone else builds a route to Buffalo it is easy to connect. There lies the skill, maximising the use of other peoples track. It is often a game of chicken, do you try and build your far away cities or let the other players do the work.

The main luck in this game is thought to be the cities you draw. However it is actually the cities you draw in relation to the other players cities. You can have games where you draw the worst cities but then the other players keep on joining the cities close by allowing you to easily complete your network. On the other hand you can draw great cities but the other players stay clear of them and you loose horribly. The fact that this is a simple, quick, supports high numbers of players and is a good mix of luck and strategy makes it a 4 star purchase.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Like poker, the novice will say it lacks depth, but BEWARE!
October 25, 2002

This game is truly a masterpiece. It can be played in seconds and while it appears simple, the fact is that every move counts! It is a game of deciding where not to play as much as where to build. Novices waste moves building where others are sure to build. Laying one or two rails can mean winning or losing. Worthy of its awards, It will probably be around for a good long time, while other games which are being heralded by gamers will gather dust in various thrift shops.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Look elsewhere...
September 25, 2002

After reading the glowing reviews, I was expecting a fun little game. What I discovered was a game which required no thought and was won by the person who drew the best city cards to link together.

The only plus side I see to this game is if you had some young children who wanted to play games, they would learn some geography...

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Short, but sweet.
September 21, 2002

If you're looking for great family game, or a quick, fun little filler game between those meater strategy games, TransAmerica fits the bill.

The rules are as so simple, they can be explained in less than 30 seconds. Play is very quick, and there are some subtle strategies and tactics that become evident after a game or two, but nothing so heavy as to cause any 'brain-busting.'

This isn't a true 'rail game' like the crayon-rails (e.g. Empire Builder) or 18xx series, nor even Stephensons Rocket. The theme could be about interstate highways, or commerical air routes, and it would still work just as well. This game is lite, quick abstract strategy laid over a map of the United States.

I might have given TransAmerica 3-stars, if it were not for the fact that our group has had so much genuine fun with it. The game accelerates once rail networks link, and there's actually a bit of a thrill as you race to complete your network knowing that others are probably running neck and neck with you.

Quick, lite, fun, quality components, and replay value. TransAmerica puts it all together.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great fun for the Family!
September 19, 2002

First of all, I want to say that FunagainGames ROCKS! I love this site, the selection, the prices and the helpful reviews.

TransAmerica is a great family game. I'm sure some of the hardcore gamers will dimiss it for its 'luck of the draw' qualities, but for family gamers with kids, this is a must buy.

We played for the first time last night. We had the rules down in less than five minutes and we played a couple of rounds (didn't finish because it was a school night). At breakfast this morning they were begging for more.

The board and bits are well-crafted (the map may even give your kids a little geography lesson). The simplicity of the rules is refreshing. This game will definitely compete with Carcossonne for our affections. I say: buy it and have fun with your family.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Snock-food Rail Game
September 16, 2002

With the recent English edition out, a good game just got in for a more reasonable price. The game couldn't be simpler as players play tracks on a map of the USA trying to connect their 5 cities. Once two or more players connect, those players can build off of the new extended line.

The game is light and fluffy, and has a lot of luck in the card draw. Each player is dealt 5 cards, one from each of five regions, and if you get a good hand, it will be easier to complete. However, several hands are usually played evening it out a bit. Also, the more I play, the better I get at it, so good play (in starting position, and in track placement) can mitigate luck somewhat.

But this game ain't heavy. It's light and fun and is one of the most ideal quick, family games I've ever had the pleasure of playing, because it looks good, plays quick, and has you clamoring for just 'one more game'.

Not the addiction factor of Carcassonne quite, and still a little overpriced, but hard to pass up because this is a game that you'll find yourself pulling out when every you can spare 15 minutes. Maybe the best 15 minute game currently available, and plays 2-6 players!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Brien
Beer and pretzels game? Yes! Fun? Absolutely!
July 18, 2002

TransAmerica arrived yesterday, and we sat down as a family to play it last night. In less than five minutes, we had the rules down and were on our way.

TransAmerica is a game of rail-building in which players must be the first to connect the five cities, drawn at random, in their hand.

Players place a railhead token, then begin laying track from that railhead outward. If a player connects to another's existing track, then both players may share their tracks and even add to them.

The strategy comes from both the initial placement of the railhead, as well as whose railnet you will connect with, and when. The minute you connect to someone else's net, you not only get to use their net to help you reach your destinations, but they get to use yours to help them reach theirs.

Points are deducted from players who don't reach their destinations, and the first player to cross the 'barrier' (no points left) ends the game, with the player having the most points (thus, the most successful player at connecting destinations) winning the game.

The components are first-rate. The board is sturdy, the cards laminated and look like they'll wear well, and the wooden pieces are a plus.

As to game play ... it takes five minutes to read the rules and maybe five more to explain them. Play moves very quickly once players see where their destinations are, and which way they need to build (and to whom they need to connect). You should be able to play a game in under 30 minutes, perfect for that before-bedtime game on school nights.

The strategies in this game are limited, but that's not a bad thing. Where you place your railhead is important, as optimum placment reduces the number of rails to be placed to achieve your goal.

When, and to whom, you connect your railnet is a key decision, and sometimes, that choice is taken out of your hands by an opponent eager to hook onto *your* net to their advantage. Players tend to 'help' each other by placement of track, and many times, that help isn't voluntary.

Now, to the last point of the review: is the game worth the price?

My short answer is 'yes'. For my money, TransAmerica delivers the game I was looking for: quick to learn, quick to play, player choices, varied play, and fun.

Are there better rail-building 'simulations' out there? Yes. Are there more fun rail-building 'games' out there? Possibly.

But TransAmerica fills the bill for quick, family fun that won't become stale. I think you'll enjoy this game, as does my family.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Coast to coast in three minutes flat
July 08, 2002

It's a tremendously simple concept. Add track to your network, then your opponents add track to theirs. The first to connect all of their cities wins. It's been done dozens of times before, so what's different about TransAmerica?

Probably some of the hype is, well, hype, perhaps from this game's Spiel des Jahres nomination. How TransAmerica fares after repeated playings depends on whether gamers were anticipating something deeper than this simple game. I think the correct attitude to TransAmerica is to treat it as a light filler, along the lines of Mamma Mia! or Exxtra. Perhaps at fifteen minutes for a game (even with five players), people will realize this and not try to make it something it isn't.

So what do you do? You draw five cards, representing your city destinations. Colour coding makes sure that you draw one from the South, one from the East coast, one from the West, and so on. Thus all players have roughly the same distance to cover.

Then everyone picks a starting point on the triangular grid, and you start laying track, building out from your starting point. If your track meets someone else's, it all belongs to both of you and you can grow track from any point, provided you can trace it back to your start marker.

The first player to have all five cities connected to the start marker wins. The other players score negative points based on how far off winning they were. It's all over in about three minutes. Usually you play a few rounds, adding up the scores to determine the overall winner.

In the relatively few playings of the game that I've enjoyed so far, it's happened that the player who started laying the first piece of track won the round about 60% of the time. This is simultaneously a worry and a comfort; the former because it suggests that there isn't really a lot of control that you have over your fate, and the latter because it means that getting a bad card deal at the beginning isn't going to seriously affect your chances.

The fact that the starting player often wins also suggests that one should play as many rounds as there are players, so that everyone gets a shot at going first. For a game this short, who's going to quibble over an extra round?

I can't help but think that there is some deeper strategy to placing track, that makes it smart to sometimes add one piece of track instead of two. I haven't found it yet, though, and perhaps it's not there. This may be more of an issue at the lower end of player numbers; with five (my usual number) the board is pretty significantly changed between my turns.

Whatever. TransAmerica is a fun filler, it's pretty, has good bits, and fits into a small package not much larger than the Kosmos 2-player line.

Rio Grande is reputed to be working on an English-language edition of TransAmerica, but the only German components are the rules and the back of the box. For a game that takes literally two minutes to explain, you really needn't wait for English rules.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
on the right track!
June 15, 2002

I've never played a 'railway' game before as it doesn't really seem to conjure up anything in the imagination that makes me want to play at all. However, when I was taught this game at BSW, I instantly fell in love with it's simplicity and addictiveness. This might not be a game with huge depth. It is a game however, with enough to it, and such simple rules, that anyone can be up and running playing the game in 5 minutes! I think trans america is worthy of a position of a sdj winner!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Short Game, High Marks
May 14, 2002

This game is quite simple, but also a lot of fun. Each player is given five city cards--one in each color-coded region of the continental United States. These cards are not shown to the other players. Your challenge is to build a railroad that connects all five of your cities. At the same time, each player is trying to do the same with their cards. The key is linking to your opponents' rail. Once you have done so, you can then expand from theirs in any direction--nobody owns their own railroad. The round ends when one person has connected all five of their cities. The other players then lose points based on the number of links it would have taken them to complete their routes.

This game is simple to teach, simple to pick up and play, and yet proves a challenge to create the most efficient route to all the cities. The dealing of the city cards provides a randomizing effect, so one player might have the disadvantage of trying to connect Buffalo, NY and San Diego, CA. However, this usually evens itself out in subsequent rounds.

My only major complaint about this game would be the scoring mechanism. It makes for quite a short game. We finished one game in about 10-15 minutes with 5 people. If (when) I purchase this game, I will make a track that allows for a higher point starting position. The game gets high scores for its quality pieces (called 'bits' by the game geeks), simple play, and sheer fun!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

Other Resources for TransAmerica:

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