Rails of Europe
AKA: Railways of Europe
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It is mid-19th century Europe. The railroads that first appeared in England are now appearing on the European mainland. Wealth and prestige await the person who can tap into the resources and demands of the continent. Do you build through the mountains of Southern Europe, or across the expanse of Western Russia? If you are fortunate enough, maybe you can sign a charter agreement with a strategically located town or even a capital. A continent awaits the Rails of Europe.
- 1 30x39-inch game board
- 10 railroad baron cards
- 29 railroad operation cards
Average Rating: 4.5 in 1 review
When one designer continues to design games in the same series, it's a neat thing to watch; as the games get better and better. I'm in the camp that Railroad Tycoon took the great game Age of Steam and made it more accessible to most folks, adding in great components and more fun. Railroad Tycoon wasn't perfect, but I still wanted to see some expansions for it - especially as Age of Steam seems to be the most expansion-oriented game ever. Finally, Rails of Europe (Eagle Games, 2008 - Glenn Drover) has been released, which is technically an expansion for Railroad Tycoon but can almost be called a slight upgrade as well.
Rails of Europe does an excellent job at tightening up the board a bit (as well as the obvious fact that the map changes to Europe) and adds a few other changes that make it slightly superior to the original game. I can play either game and be satisfied, but I certainly prefer the European version. Rails over Europe is hopefully the first expansion in a line of games that takes the Railroad Tycoon system and improves and expands it.
So what's in the expansion?
- The map is Europe, a noticeable change from the original game map, which was the Eastern section of the United States of America. More importantly, the board is about 2/3 the size of the original board, which while still covering a large amount of the table is slightly easier to manage. The board is also a single piece (less shifting!), although it still folds inward with those annoying little "valleys" that it creates. Extra space is included on the scoring track, making it easier to move the scoring pieces around. There's a lot less wasted space on the board (although Great Britain is sadly ignored). The board is a little clearer with regard to colors, as it is easier to tell blue and purple hexes apart. At the same time, in poor lighting, the blue and black hexes can be occasionally confused. The map has much less of a sprawl than the previous one did, and there is no "high income" zone, like the far northeast in the first map. Everything is evenly spread out, with more mountains, and fewer connections.
- Railroad Barons are dealt to each player (the same as the original game), but this time players are dealt two and can choose between them. While they are very similar to the original Tycoons (points for the most links, the most consecutive links, etc.), having the choice is nice - especially if one of the Barons is a play style you don't wish to use. If you don't like either one, well, that's tough luck; but one of them should be interesting and possibly enough to build a strategy around.
- Major Rail Lines are handled completely differently than in the original game. Instead of players waiting until a specific Railroad Operation card is turned over, they can complete any of the five major lines (all listed on six convenient Major Line cards). Players simply have to connect the two cities on the cards (not an easy task) to score the points. Since players can start attempting to connect the cities from turn one, this (along with the Baron cards) helps determine a player's strategy.
- The game comes with twenty-nine new Railroad Operation cards, which take the place of the original deck. Many of these are very similar to the original cards with a few interesting additions. City Charters choose a city (a smaller one), and the player who takes that card is the only player who may build a link into that city. As you can imagine, if these cards show up early in the game, the demand (especially in a five player game) is quite high. Capital Charters are similar to hotels, except that they give a player one point for every link built into a particular city. These are extremely powerful, which is why they are limited to only one per player. At the same time, they allow for some interesting player interactions, as other players may deliberately build tracks in such a way as to limit the number of connections into a city. Tunnel Engineer cards cut the price of a future build in half for mountains and ridges. Considering how many mountains are on the map, this card is also quickly snapped up when it appears.
- Interestingly, the rules about "following" rivers are no longer in place. Instead, if a hex has any water at all, it's a water hex. This makes the game simpler, I suppose; but we still play with the rules from the original edition.
Players will need the money (if you haven't replaced it with superior poker chips), trains, tiles, and other physical pieces from the original game; and everything fits fairly well into the original box, although I have no idea how future expansions will fit.
The rules are fairly simple and short, although a few things could have been made clearer. For example, the rules about major lines are under the "Strategy" section, which could easily be missed by folks who don't want to read that section. Teaching the game is simple; it's the same thing as Railroad Tycoon - most changes are minor. Regardless, the game feels like a much-polished version of the original game. While I enjoy Railroad Tycoon quite a bit (it's knocked Age of Steam rather far down my list of enjoyable games), I think I prefer this version.
If I want to play a wide, sprawling game, with six players (since the expansion only covers up to five), then the original game is what I'm looking for. However, a tighter, faster, different animal emerges with the new map (twenty-six fewer cities), and the major links and simplified rules go a far way into making this expansion practically Railroad Tycoon 1.2. Fans of the original will easily enjoy the expansion; and hopefully, it's the first in a long line of expansions to come.
"Real men play board games"