Roller Coaster Tycoon
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Do you have what it takes to create the heart-pounding excitement of an amusement park? Compete against your opponents & build the biggest and best park. Own the rides & attractions, then compete to get the guests on 'em. If you control the rides & attractions that the guests love, you'll collect points every time they take a ride.
Most of the mass-market games that you see on toy store shelves have Hasbro written somewhere on the box. These games, although occasionally enjoyable, tend to be luck based and lacking in originality. When I purchased Roller Coaster Tycoon (I couldn't resist the buy-one-get-one-free offer at the local toy store) I expected a game typical of Hasbro.
All my suspicions seemed confirmed when I opened the box and had to start popping out cardboard pieces (tons of them) and assembling 3 cardboard roller coasters. Here we go again, a lot of eye candy with virtually no substance.
Imagine my surprise when I sat down and read the rules. This was not typical Hasbro fare. We have bidding, blind bidding, and game pieces that don't belong to any one player. That's when I knew I was in for something different.
Roller Coaster Tycoon is primarily a bidding game. When to go high, and when to drop out are the primary decisions that you need to make. Also there are decisions on where to move the guests when rolling. All of this makes for a more strategic game than most mass-market disasters.
Yes, the components are colorful and cartoonish. Yes, it takes a few minutes to set up. Yes, there is still some luck involved. But all in all this is not a bad game.
Roller Coaster Tycoon is my favorite computer game. There are definitely flashier games out there - games that probably have much better artificial intelligence out there, etc. - but Ive always liked the idea of running my own theme park. Even when I create a theme park that terrifies guests, causing me to go bankrupt - I still have a good time, and when I do well - my enjoyment increases that much. When I heard that Roller Coaster Tycoon was being changed to a board game, I had mixed feelings. I was pleased as punch that my favorite computer game was coming to the board game scene, but at the same time extremely nervous because Hasbro was the company producing the game; and they certainly have a poor reputation for producing games that are any fun to play.
However, like several games in the newer line of Hasbro, Roller Coaster Tycoon (Hasbro, 2002 - Craig Van Ness) is actually fairly fun to play! It certainly will never go down in the annals of board gaming history as a game that changed the landscape with incredible mechanics and deep, interesting play. However, for a mass-produced game, I was heartily pleased with the game - it is fun to play, especially for kids and teenagers. There is a large luck element in the game, but some auction mechanics and strategy or where to move, help move this game to a rank higher than most roll-and-move games.
A huge game board is set up, with twenty-attractions scattered around the board next to a duel-circular track. Most of the rides are just pictures on cardboard - these are placed around the board, face down on the spot where the attraction will go. Seven guest tokens, one of each color, are placed on start, and two Closed signs are placed on the River Rapids space and the Wooden Roller Coaster space. A month marker is placed on the March Year 1 space on the time track. Paper money is sorted out and placed next to the board, with each player given $2,000,000. A deck of Attraction cards, one for each attraction, are shuffled with two dealt to each player and the remainder forming a draw pile. Each player reveals their cards, turns the appropriate attraction markers and places two of their player pieces next to the entrance of each attraction. The players then place the remainder of their player pieces in front of them, while paying the bank the cost of their starting attractions (listed on the attraction cards). All players then decide whether or not they want to hire a handyman and/or a mechanic - both costing the same amount (depends on how many players there are). If they hire either or both, they take the corresponding marker for each and place it in front of them. A player is randomly chosen to start, and then play proceeds clockwise.
The first thing a player does on his turn is to draw an event card and follow the instructions on it. The event cards are varied, but include these things:
- Moving guests. Guests are moved to the bathroom because they need to utilize it, go to the hot dog stand because they are hungry, etc.
- Auctions. The top Attraction card is flipped over, and the players auction it off in a round robin style, with the player whose turn it is making the first bid. Once a player passes, they are out of the auction, and when all players have passed but one - that player gets the attraction - turns the attraction over and puts one of their markers near the start. (Three attractions: the two roller coasters and the Whoa Belly - are three dimensional, and are placed on the board when won).
- Double auction. The same as an ordinary auction, but two cards that are auctioned off together.
- Blind auction. The same as a regular auction, but players bid before seeing the card.
- Double blind auction. The same as above, but with two cards.
- Collect money. The card states an amount that all the players receive. Some cards give money only to the active player.
- Closed Signs: The player may move the two closed signs to any attractions (they MUST move them to different ones).
- Advance One Month: The player moves the month marker down one space on the month track. There is often another instruction - many times a penalty for the player if they dont have a handyman or mechanic. The player then draws another Event card.
After drawing an event card, the player rolls two dice - a six-sided die and an eight-sided die. The color on the eight-sided die (any color if the player rolls a wild) is the guest that the player must move - and the number on the other die is the exact amount that guest must be moved. The player can pick the direction, and which way the guest turns at an intersection, but must move the entire distance. If the guest lands on an attraction that someone owns, points are awarded, otherwise (including if someone owns the attraction, but a Closed Sign is on it) nothing happens, and the players turn is over. Otherwise, the player who owns the attraction receives some guest tokens equal to the value of the attraction (from one to five), as does the player who is moving the guest. This means that if the player whose turn it is manages to move the guest to one of their own attractions, they will get double points.
When the month marker reaches the end of the Month track, the game ends immediately. Each player receives one guest point for each $100,000 they have, and then all players total up their guest points - and the player with the most is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: Good grief, there are a lot of bits in this game! Even after bagging everything, the box still seems extremely crowded, and initial setup isnt quick. As it is an American game, everything is cardboard, and while I would have preferred some things differently (such as a track for points as opposed to little coins and wooden player entrances instead of cardboard strips) - its still pretty impressive. The attractions themselves are extremely attractive, with the two coasters and the Whoa Belly being the pinnacle of the lot. Three-dimensional figures mounted onto plastic bases - they were certainly a pain to put together, but look pretty spiffy once completed. I added glue because the stinkin things kept popping out of their bases, reminding me of Pitchcar. All counters are double sided, which is extremely nice, and I especially liked how the face down attractions fit onto the board in an almost camouflage way. Speaking of the board, its a giant one - and one that really invokes the theme park. The cards are extremely clear, and are of good quality. Its a shame a game that came with such great components didnt include a plastic insert, but other than that, I was heartily pleased with the amount of components I got for the rather low price.
2.) Rules: The rules were not horrible, printed on six pages, and did include some illustrations (albeit in black in white). The formatting was not what Id prefer, but pretty standard for a Hasbro game. Teaching the rules, actually, was incredibly simplistic, and anybody whos played a roll-and-move game will pick it up instinctively, even though the game play is much more than that.
3.) Roll-and-Move: Some people instinctively duck for cover when the Hasbro name is mentioned, and for good reason - a majority of their games, for lack of better wording - suck. Much of this is due to the lackluster fun in rolling the die and moving your piece around the board, awaiting the inevitable conclusion of a boring game. Roller Coaster Tycoon at first seems to emulate that same idea until people suddenly realize that, hey - the tokens can be moved by anybody, and none of them belong to any of the players! Now, of course, this concept is nothing new to fans of German games, but it is unique to those who only have touched American rubbish. At the same time, I dont think Euro-gamers should shy away.
4.) Hasbro: Sure, the strategy in the game is not the same as El Grande or San Marco, but there is still more than your average Hasbro game. I dont think that Ill ever bring this out in my die-hard gaming group; there are too many games that are better. BUT, the game offers enough strategy that it can act as a gateway to get your everyday person into the wonderful world of gaming. Hasbros games have recently started including games such as this, and one can only hope for better things in the future.
5.) Strategy: The strategy in the game is not as minor as it might appear. Besides typical auction strategy (although its a little risky with the blind auctions), knowing what guest to move where can be quite important. Is it better to give myself two points, alone - or to take four points, while giving Bob four points also? These decisions arent mind-boggling, but they arent always automatic, either. I will grant that some decisions, like buying the handyman and mechanic (very similar to the insurance policies in the Game of Life) are no-brainers.
6.) Computer Game: The game certainly looks like the computer game, using the same graphics, and having some of the same entities (handyman, guests, etc.). But all of that is really only a small connection, as the game play - especially the auctions, isnt much like the computer game. I cant see people liking one, and disliking the other, however - so the game could even be a portal for computer gamers.
7.) Fun Factor: The game is a lot of fun. The thrill of winning an auction, the ability to snag an expensive attraction, the stealing of others guest points, and the Event cards - all add up for a fun time. I doubt youll see too many session reports on the internet, but dont be fooled- this is a game the general public will enjoy.
If you have contact with a lot of people who are not a big fan of designer games, this may be an excellent choice for you. It certainly isnt a bad game by any means - as it is visually stimulating and has fairly good mechanics. That fact that its fun, based on an extremely popular computer game, and easy to learn help, also. No articles on strategy will be written about Roller Coaster Tycoon, but I wouldnt be surprised if several lists of How I became a Gamer have it at the beginning of their list.