Monday, September 12, 2011

Board Game Review: Railroad Tycoon (Railways of The World)

So, today I'll throw a little discussion about one of my favorite games, although probably one of the least played at only about 5 or 6 plays and that is... Railroad Tycoon! A much heavier game than those I've reviewed thus far, but definitely one of great interest to me.

Railroad Tycoon is a very heavy Euro-game that is designed around route building, economic engine building and pick up and deliver mechanics. I say that this game is one of my favorites for a reason. It is large, beautiful and thought provoking. It takes a lot of thinking and while I"m not a huge fan of super deep euro's somehow this one took my hook line and sinker from the 1st play. When I say large and beautiful I mean it. With a board that measures in at about 36x45 inches it is BIG! To give an exmple:

And since that doesn't quite give you the full impression here is a picture for reference with people in it playing...

That's a big damned board! The game takes place on the east coast of the United States at the beginning of the railroad era. You take the place of a railroad baron starting up a company to make your fortune and be famous. There are a number of railroad baron cards dealt randomly at the beginning that give specific bonuses of you complete there objectives by games end. One of the most thought smashing bits of this game is the economic engine. Everybody starts out with $0 in the bank. The only way to get money to build things and start is to sell shares in your company; each share being worth $5,000 dollars. The problem being that you can never buy these shares out and at the end of each turn you must pay dividends of $1,000 for each share issued. That means that if you for some reason haven't earned enough money over the course of a turn to pay your shareholders their dividends you must sell more shares taking on more in-house debt and pay more dividends later to cover your dividends now!

Its a rough world starting a business... Each turn consists of 3 phases during which you can build, deliver or grab a card. The cards that are placed in play vary in their goodness. Some are super awesome like getting to build 4 tracks for free (a track costing $2,000 on open ground means that if you spend an action to take that card you've essentially earned $8,000 dollars. Super cool! After you've connected some cities via routes that you build you can then deliver goods cubes from one city to another city that matches the color of the cube you are moving. This is the winning mechanic of the game. Every delivery is worth a victory point on the track, and the higher the victory points, the more money you earn at the end of each turn. There is a point as in any real life business of diminishing returns. When you hit 50 VP's you actually start earning less income. It's crazy awesome! You want the points, but at some point you are almost forced to slow yourself down. Like I said. Heavily thought provoking.

There are a ton of cubes all over the board, but as you start emptying cities the game draws closer to the end. The game plays 2-6 players and the end condition (cities emptied of goods) is less for the fewer players and scales up for more; 6 players having to empty 16-18 I believe, I can't remember 100% right now. Players as one of their actions can for $10,000 improve a gray city that doesn't have a color assigned yet though thus giving it more cubes and extending the game to try and help them garner the points needed to compete. Its a good mechanic I think. I say that this game even though it is great and everyone I've played it with has loved it makes it to the table rarely is for a reason. Out of the 5 or 6 plays I've played, its always been with 6 players and those games generally take 2-1/2 to 3 hours to complete. When your playing with 5 new people who must learn the game you can bet pretty heavily on the 3+ mark. That said, I still love it and try desperately to get it to the table at every chance.

My wife has no opinion on the game as her back is in pretty pore shape and she wouldn't be able to sit for 3 hours at a table to play it. I think she'd be cool with it, but I don't think this would be on her top 10 for sure. Especially because of length. The copy titled Railroad Tycoon is actually out of print as well; and has been for I think 6 or so years. A year ago it was re-printed by Eagle games titled "Railways of The World".

The reprint is just as beautiful, but some definite improvements have been made. The board has been trimmed down; not a lot, but some. The victory points track which in Railroad Tycoon is part of the main board has been removed and given a board of its own to help keep track better. Some new cards were printed and some changed and the colors are generally more vibrant. A downfall of this game is the price tag. MSRP is around $75 which is pretty damned expensive for a game. Still, I think its amazing and worth every penny. That said I traded a $50 board game for it on the geek. Woohoo! If you can get a play of this game in I highly recommend it. Its not for everyone, but damned its good.

The links for the geek!
Railroad Tycoon (The out of print one)
Railways of The World (In print)

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