Railroad Tycoon: The Boardgame
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Can you build a railroad empire from the ground up? Take the role of one of history’s railroad barons and see if you have what it takes to become the next Railroad Tycoon in Eagle Games' Railroad Tycoon: The Boardgame.
Railroad Tycoon with its massive board and beautiful components is a streamlined version of the critically acclaimed Age of Steam by Martin Wallace. One of the best games from 2005, it translates the computer game into one that will reach a wide audience. A tremendous variety of options and strategy allow players to build a network of trains across the East Coast of the United States, transporting goods back and forth to earn the most money. High interaction is evident in this game for up to six players, and every game is different due to interesting Tycoon and Operation cards. Railroad Tycoon is a game that reaches both to strategic gamers due to the vast amount of tactics involved and to folks who simply want a fun, social time.
This game was highly recommended on several websites, and the owner of a game store that I frequent, upon discovering that I was interested in rail strategy games, while giving the thumbs- up to several railroad games that I had questioned him on, recommended Railroad Tycoon as 'the game to get'. My son bought this game for me at Christmas, so this is "the game I got". AND WHAT A GAME IT IS!!!
The first thing that you are struck by when looking at ‘Railroad Tycoon’ is the HUGE gameboard depicting the eastern half of the United States. You almost expect to find a blurb stating ‘Actual Size: Scale -1 mile + 1 mile’ somewhere on there (OK, so I exaggerate a bit, but it is quite large).
The quality of the game components is also outstanding. The plastic miniatures are pretty cool (and sturdy), and the brightly colored wooden blocks representing ‘goods’ are pretty indestructible. While cardboard counters would have sufficed, the wood and plastic pieces make it a lot easier on the eyes (especially those of us who are nearsighted). The cardboard track hexes are also quite sturdy. The massive gameboard allows for bigger hexagons (a really nice feature), and has a printed block that lists the actions that can be taken as part of a turn and the cost for building track over different kinds of terrain. And then there is the instruction manual, which contains a scant ten pages and is printed in color. It is clear, concise, and well organized. The only minor detail that was a bit of an annoyance was that the ‘blue’ cities appear a bit on the purplish side on our gameboard, which wouldn’t be a problem if there weren’t also purple cities. So we just got used to the dark purple being ‘blue’ – not a major issue.
The game itself is not difficult to learn. Usually, by the end of one or two turns you can get the hang of it. You start out with no money and have to issue shares of your railroad company in $5000 blocks. You draw a Tycoon card to play as one of several railroad magnates, each of which has his own objective. A few other action cards are displayed, cities are stocked with goods, and you’re set to go. You use the money that you get to buy track, upgrade your train engine and urbanize towns, among other things. The idea is to create links between cities and deliver goods along those links. A turn consists of three phases: the auction phase, the action phase, and the income/dividends phase. The auction is to determine who the first player is for the turn, and the income/dividends is pretty routine. The action phase needs a little more examination.
The action phase consists of three rounds. Each player, in turn, performs one action per round, so in total there are three actions for each player per turn. An action is one of the following tasks: Build track; Upgrade your engine; choose a card; urbanize a town; deliver goods or; build a Western Link. Developing a strategy for which actions you do (and when to do them) is the deciding factor in succeeding. But don’t think that the same strategy will work all the time. The cards that that are revealed and what goods appear in each city are variables that keep each game fresh. The game can usually be completed in about 2 hours. It ends when a predetermined number of ‘Empty towns’ (dependent on the number of players) appear on the board. The winner is the person with the most victory points, which combines the action points you get during the game, any bonus points for completing the objective on your Tycoon card, and subtracting the number of shares you’ve taken.
You may say "Gee, that sounds a bit complicated… but is it any fun?" The answer is “YES! YES! YES!” This game is positively addictive. My son and I played back-to-back games (about 3-1/2 hours) on the first night and could’ve gone again if it wasn’t close to midnight! We immediately began thinking of people that we could teach it to. Though we’ve only played the two-player version as of this time, I think the game appears that it would be even more fun with more players (the game accommodates up to six players), each having conflicting strategy and objectives.
My only regret it that I have only two thumbs to put up, because I’d give this game three thumbs up if I could!
Although always enjoying boards games, I have most stuck to card games because of my love of thoughtful strategy over random success/failure. However, I am also a bit of a railroad buff and have enjoyed the computer simulation versions of Railroad Tycoon. So I grabbed the chance to join my friends when they got a copy of Railroad Tycoon. After playing once, I began looking for my own copy.
This game is so well thought out. It has great features that will
please railroad buffs:
1) The geography is realistic. Building from Washington to Ohio has similar financial perils to those that hindered the B&O.
2) Chicago is given appropriate prominence as the great link to the West.
3) The old "Water Line Route" of the New York Central can clearly be seen.
4) Most games will feature some congestion in the Northeast Corridor as people vie for the easy pickings of the densely packed cities.
5) The pain of paying stockholders when you are low on cash and desperately need to expand to survive.
6) The secret ambitions of the notorious railroad barons.
7) The size of the board gives you that feel of building an empire.
The only elements of randomness are added perfectly. The initial placement of goods makes each game unique, and the random appearance of the action cards is just before the auction, so you have to be willing to pay for your advantages!
This game must have been play-tested before release, because it is hard to find any faults. Also, it is cleverly designed so that even without the randomness, no one is out of the game. I have seen some great comebacks!
This game is worth the higher cost. The pieces are all well done and the game is sure to be a classic. Enjoy!
This is only the second railroad themed game I've played (the first being Ticket to Ride) and I was engrossed right from the beginning. We decided to play the simplified rules being all beginners (3 people), and it was extremely enjoyable!
The board is colossal! You need a huge table to play on. Coffee table will not do. We didn't even extend our track to the west side of the board. We found it wise to build tracks next to our opponents because sometimes they would have to use your track to deliver a cube. It was very important not to go overboard issuing stock for cash.
The parts are superb - plastic engines and wooden cubes are hefty. Hexagonal track is just right.
I can't wait to play this game again!