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Union vs. Central
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Store:  Card Games, 2-Player Games, Strategy Games
Theme:  Train
Format:  Card Games

Union vs. Central

ziplock edition

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 180-480 minutes 2

Designer(s): Dieter Danziger

Manufacturer(s): Winsome Games

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Product Information

  • Designer(s): Dieter Danziger

  • Manufacturer(s): Winsome Games

  • Year: 1999

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 180 - 480 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Weight: 308 grams

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.3 in 3 reviews

Very good or very bad!
September 24, 1999

This is just an add-on to the very thorough previous reviews. My friend and I have played this game only once (last night). After 4 hours of play (even allowing for newbies), we had been through the deck twice but neither of us had been able to build any track beyond our initial terrain. There are two facts that the other reviewers have not stressed. First, most of the events can only be played once and then their card is permanently removed from the game. Second, disasters are far easier and less expensive to play than their remedies. From this, any real gamer understands that the early part of the game will force him to endure catastrophe like Job. The experienced player will probably realize that the other guy's disasters are his most precious resource and must be metered out precisely to keep said opponent smacked silly as long as possible. My friend and I missed this nuance and entered into a twilight of delight in seeing just how much we could pile disaster upon one another. The result was a straight up in your face pounding that had no outcome except the joy of doing it which we found considerable. We quit only because we had to get up early the next day for gaming.

After repeatedly telling me not to get this game for him, my friend then said he had to have it anyway; I did not offer to sell him my copy.

For the gamer with stamina, the intricacies and subtleties of this game offer a lot. I suspect players who really give it a try will rate it a 1 or a 5 with no middle ground.

A final caution, the lowly bandit event that removes one resource a turn is the nastiest of the events and, of course, is not ever permanently removed from play.

A long, tough road, but worth it!
August 11, 1999

You will not find a better two-player railroad game anywhere. The decision making angst, the player interaction, and mostly, the atmosphere of actually building a cross country railroad, makes this an unfolding adventure. (This is quite an accomplishment for a card game with four pages of rules!)

The components of UvC are typical lackluster Winsome - graphically blah with a kit-type feel. But, also typically Winsome, a ton of fun for your gaming buck. You receive a 4" x 6" plastic, flip-top box with two identical sets of cards and 150 plastic chips that you must first stick commodity (Goods) labels on.

The entire sequence of play revolves around each player selecting one of four actions to perform:

  1. Dump all four cards in your hand, or
  2. Production of goods at home and locally along the rail line, or
  3. Transport the goods to where you need them by train, or
  4. Placement of a card from your hand on yourself or on your opponent.

Each turn moves very quickly, but be prepared for a loooooong game. The system of rail construction, whereby you must realistically transport all necessary materials to the site, while fending off disasters your opponent gleefully plops on you, will generally permit you to build about two rails per hour of play. And since the game ends at rail lengths of 8, 12, or 16, you can see that this is quite an investiture of time. Also, there is somewhat of a micro-management of Goods to contend with, which may turn off some people, and a couple holes in the rules which Winsome ironed out for me quickly.

Regardless of the above misgivings, if you are into rail games, economic development, a small slice of American history, or a game where you can really nail your opponent, Union vs. Central is a top choice. Just try building a railroad over a forested mountain while being raided by bandits with your workers on strike!

If you have the time, this game is a hidden gem!
July 05, 1999

Having been spoiled by the gorgeous recent crop of German titles, the plain components of UNION vs CENTRAL initially failed to impress me (no frills or fancy artwork here). However, once my opponent and I started to play (easy to do; there's only 5 pages of rules), we quickly became addicted to the resource management and many strategy options that were offered to us.

Playing like your typical German style game, agonizing decisions are presented to the players with every single card play. Do I lay down a card to hamper my opponent, or do I use it to increase my own position? What is the best time to place a card from my hand? Should I dump my cards to draw a new hand? Do I produce goods (Steel, Coal, Lumber, Food, Water, or Workers), or move trains this turn? Well, since you can do only ONE of the above functions per turn, the dilemmas are constant.

On the down side, UNION vs CENTRAL takes a fair amount of time to play (3-8 hours). Further, players have to be resilent to stay in the game as there are a ton of cards that your opponent can play to hurt your position. But don't get discouraged since you'll soon be back on 'track' soon!

Speaking of the cards, there are a large variety of period-effect (Derailment, Land Grant, Indians, US Marshalls, Drought, Immigrants, etc.) items that give this game a tremendous feel. No thin veneer of a theme here; you can almost experience the joys and frustrations of actually building a rail line across hostile terrain.

Turns play quickly, the game is tense and balanced, and the replay value should be very high. Victory is determined by producing and transporting goods to certain locations, then constructing buildings and rail tracks to stretch your line a certain length (which is chosen before the game starts, so you can go the short route, stick with medium path, or play the extended campaign).

If I was pressed for time, and only had one opponent available, I'd pick LOST CITIES for a quick play. But when I do have the time for the long haul, I'd definitely choose UNION vs CENTRAL to satiate my gaming desires. Rich and rewarding, this title is a hidden gem.

Especially appealing to rail gamers, strategy aficionados of all types can still enjoy it bunches.

This was my first Winsome game, but you can be sure that it won't be my last. All Aboard!

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