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The Union Pacific is one of the largest railroad companies in America with rails connecting many of the largest cities. To further enhance its range, it has arrangements with smaller companies to use their rails. This allows the Union Pacific to serve even more cities. The map shows the ten smaller companies with their starting cities and possible track sections they may build. Each track section connects two cities and has spaces for one or more trains. The number of spaces indicates how many companies may build track along the section. The players are shareholders of the railway companies and fight for the stock majorities in the companies. They also develop the railway systems by building track for the companies. By building track for the companies they have large holdings in, the players attempt to earn large dividends and end the game as the richest player.
Alan R Moon
Rio Grande Games
Players: 2 - 6
Time: 60 - 75 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,400 grams (estimated)
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.
Average Rating: 4.3 in 34 reviews
Before Ticket to Ride, Alan Moon was trying to discover the railroad to success with Union Pacific and other rail-inspired games. Although T2R seems to be an ever-growing empire among train games, Union Pacific is a highly overlooked (today) gem that needs to be rediscovered.
Although a few elements, such as the draw cards to select from and the placement of plastic trains on a board seem to resemble T2R, the comparison is quickly lost in a more strategic game play. The game is not about connecting routes, but about amassing stocks in companies that you have a vested interest in on the board. With many options of what you can do within a turn, it becomes evident that you must carefully consider whether you are better off building rails on the board, or laying out more shares of stock to ensure that you are the primary shareholder. It isn't always an easy decision as the cards that results in stock payoffs (of which there are four in the game) could be turned over at any moment. With play money exchanged instead of points given, it is also harder to know who will eventually win the game -- and the results are often close.
The stock splits are reminiscent of Acquire, the card play has a Monopoly feel, the unexpected nature of the Union Pacific counter adds a Tikal gameplay quality to the game, and the trains look and feel like Ticket to Ride (except in many more colors). And yet, Union Pacific is entirely original and exceptionally entertaining on so many levels.
I only hope that the game catches on again while the railroad game fever is high or we may see this fine vehicle go the way of the Iron Horse.
UP is one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. If you're looking for something that is challenging yet easy to learn then this is the game for you. Random cards makes the game different every time you play. Beginners can learn in one game, yet strategy is learned over time.
One of the top 10 games ever made.
The first time I played Union Pacific, I was immediately hooked. I had to order my own copy the next day. I haven't played many German games yet, but so far this one is my favorite. The game is easy to learn, yet fast-paced and strategic, the perfect game for my fledgling gaming group. I hope to enter the Union Pacific tournament at the upcoming Euro Quest game con. I highly recommend this game for spielfrieks and non-German gamers alike! You won't be disappointed.
Four key things make this game very enjoyable to play. 1) The play is brisk as each turn is short and quick. 2) The game can unfold unexpectedly so your tactics have to be fluid to adapt to the changing situation. 3) There is very delightful tension in knowing that a dividend payout is coming but not knowing when exactly it will come, so that you must constantly choose between a conservative or bold action--and the tension mounts with each turn. 4) There is risk and opportunity in developing specific rail companies--the risk that another player may capitalize on your hard work, and the opportunity to 'muscle-in' on another another player's company, capitalizing on his/her hard work. Finally the rules are very simple and quick to learn...easy enough that my six and seven year old daughters (game enthusiasts) love to play. This game deserves more attention than it gets.
Union Pacific is amongst my favorite games, second only to Puerto Rico. Every turn you are faced with the decision
1. to invest or
2. to build onto your favorite choo-choo and take one share of stock from
-- 4 you can see,
-- 1 you can't see, or
-- Union Pacific
Whatever you haven't invested before the next dividend card comes up doesn't count, so whenever a card is turned up, it's a real hair-raiser. You want to invest but in doing so, you reveal a lot to your rivals, and you also want to build onto your favorite choo-choo before some rival blocks your path. There is usually at least one share of stock you want amongst those you (and everyone else) can see, but you also want to maintain the majority of Union Pacific.
The tactical decisions are intense. This is the aspect that is missing from games such as Acquire, which I personally find incredibly boring.
With so many reviews of this game, I was hesitant to add my $.02. But, as I frequently make use of reviews published here, I thought perhaps it was time I try to add something to the discussion. So, here goes.
Union Pacific is fun on several levels. It is enjoyable for adults as a light strategy/investing game. But, what makes this game especially good, is the fact that my wife and I can play with our 7 year old and 9 year old.
The rules are not overly complex, and the kids get a nice introduction to some light strategy. There is something for everyone. My wife and I can compete for the UP stock and the kids enjoy 'cornering the market' on other stocks. They quickly caught on to augmenting the companies in which they are 'invested' and start to comprehend blocking other companies with their placement of trains. Finally, the board and bits are pleasing to play with, too. To sum up, what impresses me most about this game is its simultaneous accessibility to players of all ages.
So, if you are looking for a game you can play with your kids and enjoy it, give this one a try.
This is an ecellent, challenging, and fun game that the whole family can enjoy. The decisions you have to make each turn lead to loads of strategy and attempts to outsmart your opponents. The fact that you can hold your cards, and play complete suits of a single railroad means that you can lead the players to believe that you are building in one direction, and then turn the tables on them. One of the best Alan Moon games I have played.
In my group, three games have always been played over and over: Acquire, Rail Baron, and Airlines. We liked the game Airlines, but were bothered by the bugs in it. (The dividend cards come up too randomly, making it like playing Acquire with too many random elements.)
Alan Moon's game of Union Pacific fixes this and adds the major railroad (airline), which adds another element of decision making and tension. While it is a bit more luck dependent than Acquire, it is a blast to play. This game is now our favorite, and those who like Acquire and Airlines should quickly add it to their collection.
I remember how excited I was when Union Pacific was first announced. A stock acquisition game by Alan Moon with a train theme! Could it possibly get any better than this?
Then I remember playing the game for the first time. It looked great--all the different colors of trains spreading out across the board, the shares of stock in matching colors--and it played great. Everyone who participated in that first game bought a copy for themselves.
What we didn't know then was that Union Pacific would become the single most played game of all the many games we owned, and that more than three years later it would still be going strong as a regular pick at games night. There is such a wonderful blend of speculation and luck in this game, such a terrific balance of ease of play and satisfaction when your plans work out, such a fine combination of speed and depth, that we have played it over and over while other games, which--in theory, at least--we like just as well, sit around on the shelves and get played just one or two times a year.
Right at the time the game was published, Alan Moon made a suggestion (circulated in the newsgroups) that the Union Pacific stock be acquired only by trading a share of stock from the hand for it. We have always played the game this way and like it so well we're convinced it should be in the rulebook this way. Not only does it solve the problem others have reported of there being a big run on the Union Pacific stock at the beginning of the game, it also creates an additional puzzle for the player of which shares of stock in his hand he can afford to do without--a key part of the speculation that makes the game so interesting. Is this share of stock in Sioux Falls Royal Blue really going to be worth less to me over the course of the rest of the game than the share of Union Pacific I could trade it for? Or: Which valuable piece of stock dare I sacrifice in order to trade for that one last Union Pacific in the stack?
When preparing the stock card deck with the dividend cards, we divide the deck into four roughly equal parts and shuffle one dividend card into each, so as to have four roughly equal periods of play before each payoff. (We also reserve half a dozen stock cards to put on top to make sure there won't be a payoff before every player has had at least one turn.) However, there is enough variation that surprises still happen! Every once in a blue moon, the dividend card in one quarter of the deck is the last and the dividend card in the next quarter is the first, so there are two payoffs at once.
We also take Alan Moon's advice to allow players to trade in track cards once all of that sort of track has been filled on the board. Otherwise we follow the rules as published.
Union Pacific plays well for every number from 2 to 6. Sometimes the luck of the draw will give the game to one player or another, but we accept that in a card game (even a card game combined with a board game!). More often, the final scores are very, very close, and there's plenty of 'Oh, if only I'd done that one thing different!' to go around when it's over.
The game is surprisingly easy to teach, even with people who don't know a lot of games--on your turn, you either place a train and take stock, or you meld stock already in hand--it is always interesting to play, and obviously I would be hard pressed to name a game with better replay value.
For my money, Union Pacific is one of the top five games of the last ten years.
I admit that I am a 'tweaker' of many of the games I own... and UP has some opportunities for such modification.
To add (I hope) to the dimension of tension to this game, our group has experimented with the following variation:
First, when constructing the 'draw pile', I create a 'buffer' zone of 8 cards instead of 6 (after dividing the remainder into 4 equivalent stacks) but only make 3 piles including a dividend card. The remaining share cards plus the dividend card are set aside for the moment.
We also have introduced something like the 'Special Powers' in Acquire; tokens were printed and provided to each player as follows:
- TAKE 2 SHARES - On a given turn, a player, after playing a track card, can take 2 shares from the display (two from the face-up choices or one each of face-down face-up or two face-down cards - but NOT two Union Pacific share cards).
- TAKE A SHARE & INVEST - A player can, after playing a track card, take a share card AND invest.
- ADD TWO TRAINS - A player can place 2 trains on the board instead of one, using the same track card.
A Player can use one Special Power token per turn (they may not be combined).
As for the remaining share cards, after the 3rd dividend card is exposed, the balance of the share cards PLUS any cards that have been discarded or exchanged for UP shares are shuffled together; a buffer of 2 cards per player + 1 is set aside and the last dividend card is shuffled into the remaining card(s) and the buffer group set on top. Play continues until the 4th dividend card is exposed.
We have enjoyed this variation since it allows everyone to get a little bit greedy at a particular moment in time without disrupting the mechanisms of the game. The last bit, with the last group of share cards being arranged adds a little spice to the end game.
This variation can allow some more interesting train placements that can interfere with growth of a given railroad as well as stimulate more tension among the shareholders of the various railroad companies. Try it and send me an email with your opinion!
The game flow is recounted very well in the Counter article above, so there's no need to mention that. The joy is that, unlike the granddaddy Acquire, this game has a prettier exterior. It doesn't matter that you're not really running rails any more than you're purchasing hotels in Acquire, you still get to manipulate stock markets, squeeze out opponents, and play with neat train pieces.
The only slight flaw really shouldn't be attributed to this game, but rather to the entire mix of European imports. Often, in the rush to get an English rules set out, translation errors are made. So, avid players of this game will ask which rules 'edition' you're using. I think the game plays just fine with the rules as written, but others differ in their opinions, causing a problem (particularly at conventions and tournaments) whereby one player is operating under assumptions which are different from others, and often different from the printed rules. But if you're considering this game for playing at home and with others who have not been 'tainted' by differing versions of the rules, you shouldn't go wrong.
Union Pacific is one of those games that has been coming out of my closet very regularly since I purchased it at initial release. Along with Medieval Merchant, it is an excellent choice for a fairly quick 6 player game. (I have never tried the game with less than 6.) Since the mechanics have been so abundantly and elegantly covered elsewhere on this page, I won't delve into them. If you haven't played the game, read the Serendipity review before this one.
The game does an excellent job of forcing painful choices within a simple rule system. The player is constantly balancing the urge to draw share cards (enhancing their ultimate earning potential) and to play them (enhancing their scoring for the next round). This is the same tension that drives Reibach & Co. and Freight Train (two other fine Moon designs) and, to a lesser extent, Stimmt So! from Dirk Henn. The game also supports a reasonable memory element, asking you to focus on which players may be holding shares which will place them in contention for your payoffs, but elegantly balances this against a moderate chunk of hidden information (what share cards players held initially, and what shares they have discarded to obtain Union Pacific shares).
I have heard a couple of complaints from other players, neither of which have borne out in my 6 player experience. First, I have heard people say that board play is irrelevant and that railroads can't be bottled up. In almost every game that I have played, I have seen at least one railroad have its expansion plan through the southeast seriously curtailed. Second, I have heard people complain that amassing Union Pacific shares is the guaranteed path to victory. In my games, the player with the greatest UP holding has typically sacrificed too much to get there, and winds up in second or third.
A couple of last notes. I never have played this game with some sort of 'even distribution of Wertung cards' variant shuffle of the share deck, and never will. In my one and only game of Airlines, Wertung cards popped up close togehter, creating VERY weird game conditions. I also don't recommend the variant that lets people draw UP shares--the UP shares tend to go too quickly early in the game.
I would heartily recommend this one to anyone looking for a moderate complexity 6-player game with a 75-90 minute playing time. And if you and 4 friends want to drop by and play, I'm always game.
This game takes elements of many flawed games and produces a game in its own right that has all the makings of a classic. Like Airlines, Lowenhertz and Venture there are divdent cards which appear randomly and influence the flow of the game. Like Acquire, you a trying to be the first or second largest stockholder. Like Settlers, you are extending your property and trying to block others at the same time. It ends up being a lot of fun to play. I disagree with those who say it lacks the stategy of Acquire. In Acquire you need to pull the right tile and have money at the right time, this game is a series of hard decisions.
I believe that it will still be a favorite 50 years from now.
Let me start by saying I've never played Airlines (the predecessor to this game). Having said that... Union Pacific is a great game and one I always look forward to playing when it hits the table. Players strive to invest in railroad companies while also building track for these companies. Each player receives money for each railroad company in which they hold a majority of investment shares and lesser money for having the 2nd most shares. Each company pays off with an amount proportional to the number of tracks (trains) built. In addition, there is a global railroad company called the Union Pacific (UP) which does not pay off based on track built but rather scores money for the investors in greater amounts as the game progresses. Often the winner of our games is the one who invested most wisely in UP stock - scores between good players are often very close. The game has a nice feel as you wait with tension for the dividend cards to show up (these trigger scoring rounds and are distributed in the master deck of investment cards) and there is always a sense of urgency to get your investment cards on the table where they will potentially reap rewards for you.
Anyway, the mechanics are very easy to learn, the game play moves quickly and every UP game I've played has been quite fun. The board and components are excellent and the rules very clear. I've played UP with family and friends as well as people in my game group and it's proven very popular. I've played more than a dozen times with every number from 2 to 6 players and I find the game works best with 4 or 5 players although it's still good with 3 and 6 (a little bit of downtime on the latter). This is by far my favorite Alan R. Moon game and I highly recommend it!
This game flows very well, plenty a room for stategy without the mind busting decisions of [page scan/se=0042/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Modern Art or games of that genre. Simple, clear rules well illustrated! It also reminds me of the old 3-M classic Venture and the new German game [page scan/se=0074/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Lowenhertz. You never know when the dividend card is coming. It has an addicting quality to it. Obviously play tested well to get the bugs out. Possible the only game this year that will be of note ten years from now!
This game will be played in 50 years and will be hailed as a classic. My Settlers and El Grande game will be gathering some dust for awhile. Great depth, a lot of color, good chances for skillful play.
I played this game at Origins '99, where it has been getting a lot of play. Mr. Moon adds to Sid Sackson's concept in Acquire. Building is trickier in this game, and the player has less control over what stock he or she gets. A player also must decide when to build, and when to show his or her stock, because stock remaining unshown does not score, and scoring comes when it is least expected. This game will play differently every time. I highly recommend this game.
Alan Moon has created some well received games, but I think this one may be among the best. A direct descendant of his popular AIRLINES (a game I'm not familiar with), UNION PACIFIC is a smooth playing adventure for 2-6 players. Don't let the railroad theme scare away the non-train aficionados out there; everyone that I've showed this title to has been captivated by the design. The components are attractive, playing time is reasonable (about 90 mintues), and the sheer enjoyment factor is off the scale.
What I've noticed about UNION PACIFIC is that it appeals to the family-fun gaming crowd as well as to the strategy gaming groups. This is what I call a 'no-headache' style game; the decisions required are plainly spelled out for you, but which route to take requires careful consideration.
With a nice mixed batch of railroads to ponder, the variety of paths available to lay track, and the plethora of investment strategies that pop up, UNION PACIFIC is a game that never gets dry.
After the first session, it vaulted to the top of our play list. I enjoy it more every time I play.
There are a lot of good games floating around out there, to be sure. Well, UNION PACIFIC is just not a good game, it is also a great one. So get on track, play this game, and have a blast doing so. UNION PACIFIC, and Rio Grande Games (as usual), really deliver the goods!
Alan Moon has provided us with another gem. Union Pacific is a fabulously well crafted, and unique, addition to the plethora of railroad games. The game is an improvement on an old Moon design called Airlines, and has no relation to any other famous series of railroad games: Rail Baron, Empire Builder, or [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx. However, as a gamers game, this one may top them all.
The players are shareholders of railway companies and compete for the stock majorities in each of the eleven companies. The choices a player has within their turn are small in number, but vast in strategy. Do you build or invest? Building consists of playing a track card to match a specific rail line that you wish to expand. The more expansive a companys rail line is, the more valuable its stock becomes. This can also prevent other companies from expanding along that same line.
Your playing hand of cards will consist of three track cards, and any number of share cards of the various companies, however, when the random scoring rounds appear, only stocks you have invested in (played in front of you) count for scoring. So, holding on to a ton of stocks does squat. But, during the turn you do invest, you cant build and expand your railroads! The decision to build (and where) or invest (in which railroad) will provide continuous teeth-gnashing second-guessing the entire game.
Scoring is done in cash dividend payments to the top two shareholders only, so there is much jockeying for position within each company. The exception being the Union Pacific railroad, which is not represented on the board, but whose shares are worth mega-bucks as the game progresses. The winner is the player with the most money.
Diversifying and monopolizing are keys to success, but the other players wont let you do it for long, and those darn random dividend scoring cards always seem to appear just before you were going to invest! A great game.
I've always been a fan of railroad style board games. Over the years I've collected many, starting with AH's Rail Baron, Mayfair's Empire Builder series, etc. In my opinion Union Pacific is one of the best. While my family prefers Ticket To Ride, I find Union Pacific to be more challenging and more interesting in repeated plays.
Previous reviews have already stated the obvious similarities to Ticket To Ride and Acquire so I won't repeat them. But this makes UP more strategic than T2R. It is easy to learn but provides the player challenges with not being able to do all you want to each turn. Half of the fun(and frustration) is trying to figure out what the other players are going to do.
So enjoy T2R and it's many versions, but if you want a more challenging railroad based game, you would do well to consider Union Pacific.
While Union Pacific has been around for years, it's only recently that I've had the chance to play it, and I find that it lives up to its reputation.
The components are of first class quality, from the beautifully rendered cards, to the little colored locomotives and outstanding game board.
Like other top-rated German games, the game mechanics are rather simple, but there are multiple strategic options (which may change as the game progresses), and each requires deft tactical card and/or board play. The timing of stock plays and picks, as well track laying, must take the unpredictability of the scoring rounds into consideration. Tension starts on the very first trun, and builds as players anticipate others' plays and the appearance of the next scoring round in selecting their own options.
In three games, the best I've managed is a second-place finish (and two weak finishes), but the fun and challenges of Union Pacific encourage me to keep coming back to work on my strategies.
I highly recommend this game. It's simple enough for children and families, and challenging for serious gamers.
I originally bought this game because my husband grew up playing Acquire, a game I find fairly annoying. I was looking for something I'd be willing to play more often that might feel somewhat like Acquire to him. (Well, actually, I bought [page scan/se=0572/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Airlines for this purpose, and followed up with Union Pacific later when it became available.)
I didn't quite get what I bargained for--my husband likes Union Pacific well enough, but not as much as I'd hoped. He finds the randomness in the acquisition of stock irritating, in the same way that I find the randomness in building annoying in Acquire. Ah, well.
On the other hand, what I did get is a game I like a very great deal. Because I enjoy games of the civilization-building genre, the notion of building rail lines appeals to me. I find that the semi-random nature of stock availability adds excitement to the game by making it possible for majority control to shift unexpectedly, and yet the availability of Union Pacific stock in exchange for stock you don't want prevents a player from owning a lot of stock that's of no real value to them.
I find that in almost every turn, there's a tension between expanding a rail line and laying down stock in preparation for the next dividend payout. There's almost never a turn where I feel that I'm just making the obvious move.
Union Pacific is one of my favorite games, and although the rules aren't trivial, they're also not so complicated that the game can't be taught to non-gamers. I've played Union Pacific with many family members and friends who don't play games regularly, and almost everyone has enjoyed it. I highly recommend it!
Every so often, I read a game review and sit back and think, 'Huh?' The reviewer apparently played the same game that I have, but came to an entirely different conclusion. Sometimes I have panned a game that someone else gave a rave. Other times the tables are turned. This is a situation where several reviews have maligned a game that I think deserves more consideration.
Union Pacific is definitely a railroad game. Yes, it has some of the same feel as Acquire, but that only works to its benefit. It abstracts much of the history of railroading and its robber barons and makes a very playable game that gives more of an overview than an in-depth look at our rail system.
There are many railroad games on the market which more closely approximate the specifics of various regional rail systems and their histories. Quite frankly, I don't have the time or the interest to learn the nuances of these games. Union Pacific gives me just as much of a railroading feel as an [page scan/se=0428/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]18xx game without devoting an entire day to the effort. Union Pacific may be railroading lite, but it definitely has an identity as a rail game.
There is a luck factor to the game, but it is no more luck-driven than Acquire. It merely keeps the game from becoming too processional in nature. There was little certainty in the good old days of rail expansion, and so it is here.
My other favorite rail game is the somewhat similar, somewhat different Stephensons Rocket. While Union Pacific has a wilder, woolier feel and a higher 'fun' factor, Stephensons Rocket is a more thoughtful but no less entertaining exploration of the British rail system. I recommend both.
Players are trying to expand railroads and obtain stock in the companies. Every time you expand the line of a railroad, that railroad increases in value. When you expand a railroad, simply take a share in one of the companies and try to convert those shares into big cash payouts. This game plays quickly, involves simple but agonozing decisions, has very simple but nice art, and has a nice dose of luck to keep gameplay from being overanalyzed. It also includes a neat scoring system that means you never know exactly when rounds will be scored, thus producing a great deal of tension as to what you should be doing. (Do I lay down stock now, or pick up just one more share of Miami Southern in hopes the score card won't be revealed this round?)
Alan Moon makes very good 'middleweight' games which I find to be a lot of fun. Middleweight games are especially nice because they tend to be fun to play with both families and gamers, and I think Union Pacific is one of those. Anyone could enjoy this game. It almost has a bit of the feel of [page scan/se=0027/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Bohnanza--the same sort of tension choosing between a couple of different cards hoping it will turn out okay in a few rounds. Given the popularity of Bohnanza, I would recommend this one as well. It has the same sort of weight to it, and has colorful little trains to boot!
Alan Moon fans will love this one (and probably already have it), gamers should like it (think Acquire-lite), families should like it because it's easy to learn and gameplay is simple, fun, and tense. I don't know that I enjoy this game with 2 players, but 3-6 really does work well. I like this one a lot and recommend it to nearly anybody.
I agree with most of the listed reviews that UP is a fun quickly learnt game which doesn't bore soon. The fact that you don't use your money doesn't bother me much, in fact I think it would only make the game less accessible. I can play this game with my Grandma and still have fun. Make it more difficult and it will lose its speed & charm, in my opinion this game is one of the best, it will last a long long time in my Top 10. Gotta love it.
The mechanics have been covered by other reviews so I will cover the good points.
- Yes, Union Pacific has Acquire game elements but there are no mergers. All of the stock cards are free. These are 2 big differnces. There are more railroads than hotel chains in Acquire.
- Like all of the other good games, you face hard choices: When do I build? Where do I build? When do I invest? What do I invest in?
- Union Pacific is easy to learn and play. I love playing Acquire but Acquire is so intense that I feel burned out after one game. Union Pacific is more relaxed.
- Some people have complained that the game has nothing to do with Railroads. Take the game for what it is: A building-investing game. You don't shuttle goods. If you want to shuttle goods, play Empire Builder. Do people put down Empire Builder because there's no stock market?
- It is hard to distinguish between the four track types.
- If the game goes on too long, there's not a lot choces for building.
In conclusion, well worth the money if you want a good playing game with lots of toys. I've paid $30 for games that played in 5 minutes and didn't have the same components.
Unlike a lot of the copious quantity of reviews of Union Pacific here, this one will be from the point of view of someone who knows almost nothing of the pedigree of the game. I have not played Acquire or Airlines and so can't comment on Union Pacific's similarities. This isn't a problem as far as I'm concerned, and the game definitely stands on its own merits.
The map that you play Union Pacific on is quite arbitrary and doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to real American railroads of the time. (If this bothers you, there are plenty of historically accurate railway games around that will appeal to you more.) Indeed, you could probably put much the same connections reasonably onto a map of Europe or almost anywhere else. As a result, the game is just a little abstract - unless the railway theme appeals, in which case it's definitely about railways!
The different railway gauges - all usually mutually incompatible - are nicely handled in the game play, with some lines only able to use some gauges. The board is also very easy on the eyes, and the range of colours of the plastic train pieces good enough to make each distinctive. The tray that all the pieces are stored in is perhaps the best use of gamebox space I have ever seen.
The mechanics of the game play are amply described in other reviews, so I will just comment that Union Pacific is quite easy to learn (the rule book is delightfully clear) and has depths that are not obvious at first but remain to be discovered through game play.
Union Pacific is entertaining and has replay value. Definitely worth getting.
Our group has been playing UP for several weeks. First, kudos for the marvelous components and E-Z-2 Use box that simplifies banking, parts sorting and a need for 43 ZipLoc baggies!
Yes, this game has the Acquire theme underneath it...build and expand RR chains while 'investing' in the ones you have high hopes for. Investing in this game takes the form of 'melding' cards from your hand to the table-in the original rules players do not 'buy' shares per se. Each turn you can play a track card, adding a train to a route and then pick (in the Alan Moon tradition) one of 4 up cards (stock certificates) or take a 'mystery' card (from the face down stock) or take a Union Pacific share (UP builds no track, but it is assumed in the game story that UP can use its competitors track for shipping). The other alternative in a player's turn is to 'invest' by melding either 1 or more of one RR company or 1 each of two different RR's.
Dividends are paid when one of four dividend cards are exposed from the face down share stock (I recommend using the less random variant of placing these dividend cards so as to allow everyone some time to do some expanding and investing). Whoever has the majority of a railroad company gets the big bonus, second majority gets 50% of the bonus (rounded DOWN!). 3rd place gets the same as fourth-zippo! If you are the 1st and 2nd majority holder (i.e. no one has any shares invested) you get the big and little bonus! This is worth striving for early on.
The game is not deep...you can also attempt to shut out some companies from areas of the board, thus reducing their profitability by placing trains in such a way as to seal off available routes...this can be entertaining and can cause a shift in strategy by those players holding controlling interest in one of the routes that has 15 or more trains available for expansion.
The game ends after the 4th dividend round. Those with the most $$$ wins. The Union Pacific plays an interesting role in that the bonuses while starting at 0 at the beginning of the game, increase at a fixed pace and also pay out to 5 places! Focusing your own or an opponent's attention towards the UP can help you get control of another chain...maybe(!).
This is a great relaxed game...not too cerebral (which is the only reason I did not award 5 stars) easy to teach newcomers and always good for laughs when one's attempt to hold out 'investing' until the last minute is thwarted by the earlier than hoped for appearance of a dividend card. You cannot go wrong with UP for great entertainment, beautiful components and a box design that other games would do well to emulate.
Yes, it's alot like Acquire, but without as much control or strategy. When we first played it, no one had played before. I played again a month later with some people who'd been playing since and it was interesting how style had changed. Early on, getting Union Pacific stock was just one option; after a month it became the main goal. UP stock doesn't score during the first round, but first round scores are typically smaller than the margin of victory. Unlike Acquire, where you have some control over when scoring occurs, in UP it is by random card draw and the winner of a round is usually whatever player has displayed stock shares most recently. It is rare that the type of rail cards in your hand limits your play; it might be interesting to play without them. The more people in the game, the better. Not very interesting with just two, but with 6 there's very little chance for strategy because the board changes so much between turns.
Rio Grande games has done another fantastic job! We just finished our first game and all the players agree that it is great game. The components and board are high quality and the box (which is used during the game to store the money and components) is very well designed. Great job Rio Grande! As far as the game itself, we felt that it resembled Elfenland (another Alan Moon game), Durch Die Wuste, and Acquire, which are all favorites in our gaming group. While I'm a huge Empire Builder fan, I like the fact that this game can be played in 90 minutes or less rather than 3-4 hours.
With all the heavy praise for this game, I got nervous that it wasn't in my collection yet and was soon going to be hard to get so I jumped and got the German version.
5 of us played it (all serious gamers) and all of us found it lacking. First, it's yet another train game that has virtually nothing to do with trains. Second, many of the elements of the game felt forced or contrived.
Most notably, no one had an easy time dealing eith the concept of each rail line being limited by the type of track they can lay. It just isn't intuitive.
The money is nothing more than points and you'd be better off with a pad and pencil (a classic example of forced use of a concept for no good reason).
The end result was a game that obviously had some nice redeeming features but that felt overly complicated for what it really is. I will be selling my copy the next time I trim down my collection.
The game has little to do with railroads. It's just a boring collect 1 share of a stock per turn game.
Many of the decisions are obvious, and luck has a big part.
With so many excellent games out there, why play this?
Union Pacific is fun to play for a while, but it has many problems that quickly become obvious. We have played it a lot and tried numerous fixes, none of which entirely worked. I am retiring Union Pacific from my active list.
1) The mapboard is close to irrelevant. In every game people attempt to cut off other railroads as part of their strategy, but I have only seen this work once.
2) The track types and track card mechanisms matter once or twice during the game. The game is much faster and less tedious if you play without the track cards and types altogether, and balance has never been skewed towards smaller railroads in the games we've played without the track cards. Combine 1) and 2) then ask why play with the mapboard at all other than aesthetics? You could just as easily make 10 piles of colored trains in the middle of the table, and it would be easier come scoring time.
3) See the Counter review about the problems inherent in the random drawing of the dividend/scoring rounds.
4) There is one best strategy for winning. While I have experimented with many strategies and seen many more, the strategy of picking one of the largest railroads and consistently placing those trains while maximizing attempts to accumulate that stock always wins. When everyone does this, the scores are very close. Yes, there are other decisions to make, but they are all lower order choices.
5) You accumulate money but never spend it. Is this any fun? This is what really sets this game apart from and below Acquire. Consider the far larger number of elements in Union Pacific and the fact (my opinion, anyway) that they are not utilized or are not significant to gameplay.
I think that this game is a huge rip-off of the age old favorite -- Acquire. Maybe people with train fetishes will prefer this to the time tested classic (Acquire), but I think that the novelties introduced in this copycat are trivial or even detrimental to the gameplay. Most significantly, there is too much randomness added to this game with those sudden-death dividend cards. It makes this game like musical chairs, where a single player in the right position will take a huge lead because the dividend cards come up consecutively (happens more often than one would think). Go play Acquire instead!
If only railway timetables could be as readable as this game's rules, trains as attractive as its colorful locomotives, and staff as informative as its detailed cards! Players invest in any of 10 railway companies, which have various numbers of shares and trains. Most can only build on certain types of track. On a turn you can play a track card and place a locomotive, then take a share card into your hand; or you can put company shares onto the table. Share value increases with the number of company trains in service. However, when Dividend Cards are drawn from the share stack, only the players with the highest and second-highest value of shares of cards on the table are paid; cards in hand do not count. Further challenge is introduced with Union Pacific shares. This corporation is not represented on the board and its shares do not score in the first round, but they increase dramatically in value later, potentially benefiting up to five players. Some investment in it is almost essential, and timing is critical. U.S. inventor Alan Moon's game more than makes the grade.
In the beginning, so we're told, the game was called "Nine Railroads". But during its development the trains became planes, and the game became Airlines. Airlines is a great game, good enough to be knocking on the door of the Counter Hall of Fame, but it is a flawed masterpiece. So now, Alan Moon has gone back to his original and worked on it to produce Union Pacific, "Airlines II". Can one improve on a masterpiece?
For those who don't know Airlines, it's a share dealing game, with players trying to get majorities in nine airlines, whose share prices rise as they expand their flight networks. The central dilemma in the game comes with the player's choice each turn as to whether they wish to expand an airline and take a share as a reward, or to play out shares onto the table. There are four scoring rounds during the game, the first three triggered by "Wertung" cards shuffled into the deck of share cards, and the fourth at the end of the game, but only shares on the table count towards a player's majority, so players keep having to decide whether they should collect more cards and drive up the value of the airlines they have shares in, or to get some shares down on the table, in one company per turn, and so stake a claim to the company's dividends, while at the same time committing themselves, and setting themselves up as targets.
Airlines owes a lot to some earlier games, particularly Acquire, but introduced several new mechanisms into the games scene, particularly the Wertung cards, triggering scoring rounds, an idea that has been used several times since, both by Alan and other authors. But the game's strength, can also be a weakness. Try as one might, there always seemed to be a tendency for the Wertung cards to stick together, and many a game of Airlines has been ruined by the fact that two or even all three Wertung cards appeared together, so causing whichever player had the best cards on the table at that point, to rocket ahead in the ratings. Additionally, the rules for expanding are quite fiddly, with each "flight card" carrying both a number and a type of line, one of five, which dictates which routes an airline can use. The idea was to limit the possibilities of expansion for some of the airlines, those with fewer shares, so that there is a balance between the ease of getting a majority in a company and the potential value of that company. Finally there is a "sabotage" rule which allows players to block routes for airlines that they don't have. This has a purely negative effect, and is very unpopular in Germany, so much so that many players refuse to play if it is being used.
So, what do you get for your money this time round? Well, the board looks pretty similar to the Airlines board, a map of North America, marked with railroad tracks in four different types, and base stations for each company, along with between one and four marked spaces between each set of towns for the plastic locomotives that replace the small wooden markers used in Airlines both as markers showing where a company flies/runs, and how valuable it is. There are also ten railroad companies, each with a set of shares, and a set of locomotives. These vary from the smallest company with 6 shares and 7 engines, up to the "monster" El Paso and Rio Grande with 18 shares and 23 trains. Then there are 40 track cards, some in each of the four track types along with 4 "joker" cards, which allow building on any of the four. Companies are not allowed to build willy nilly, each has a different mix of track types on which it can build, with the smaller companies restricted to one or two types, while the El Grande can build wherever it likes. Finally, apart from some game money which is just used to keep score, and 4 Wertung cards, there are 20 share cards for an eleventh company, the Union Pacific, which differs from all the the other companies, not least because it has no physical presence upon the board.
Play starts with one engine from each company already on the board, next to its base station. The El Grande starts with 2 engines, so that it has a value of 3 at the beginning of the game, against 2 for each other company. Each player gets 4 normal stock cards plus one for the Union Pacific, and they each start by playing out one card, turning them over simultaneously, so that they begin the game with a ng stock cards, using a position in one company. The four Wertung cards are shuffled into the remaining stock cards using a system that should ensure that play runs on for a reasonable time before the first scoring round, and that they come out at a steady rate thereafter.
Play is very much as in Airlines. Each player draws a track card and must then make a choice. They may choose to play it, placing a locomotive on a space on the board, making sure that it matches the track type on the card, that the company is allowed to lay on that track type, that the site has a connection with the company's base station, and that there isn't already an engine from the same company between those two cities. Once they have done that, they may draw a stock card, either one of the four face up cards or one blind, or one of the Union Pacific shares. If they wish, they may also discard one stock card from hand, and draw a Union Pacific share instead. The discarded share is then removed from play, a useful device allowing players to get rid of shares that they can't use, and get something useful in exchange.
Their other choice is to play shares out onto the table. They may play out as many cards as they like in one company, or, and this is a considerable improvement on Airlines, they may play out one card in each of two different companies. This speeds up the game considerably in the early stages, and also means that there is far more cut and thrust in the control of companies, rather than one player getting an early majority and keeping it, uncontested, for the rest of the game. Once the cards are on the table, the player also discards a track card, which ensures that there is a steady circulation of cards, and no player is stuck with unusable cards.
Play continues like this until a player tries to draw a share and a Wertung card appears. Play is broken off immediately, and each company pays a dividend. The value of each company is the number of engines on the board plus one for the base station. The player with the largest number of shares gets that value in million dollars, the player with the second largest number, half of that value (rounded down). Ties cause the values for first and second to be added and halved, rounded down again if odd. If only one player has shares out for a company, they get the money for both first and second place. The second, third and fourth Wertung cards trigger a similar scoring round. The only difference between the various scoring rounds lies in the treatment of the Union Pacific. There are two major differences in this company, when compared with the others. Firstly, up to five players can profit from this company. Secondly, the dividends paid are fixed. In the first scoring round no one gets anything for their shares, but the dividends paid then rise through the subsequent scoring rounds, until in the last scoring round the leading shareholder gets 20 million dollars, a huge sum in the context of the game. Ties are split in the same way as for normal companies.
Union Pacific can never really be thought of as an independent game. It will always be "Airlines II" for anyone that has played the first game. So, is it an improvement? or just a sequel, preserving the faults of its forerunner? The fundamental problem with Airlines, as I wrote earlier, is the tendency for the Wertung cards to clump together. The rules for Union Pacific spell out exactly how to organise the initial shuffle, so as to reduce the chances of this happening, and it seems to work for the majority of games that we have played. The rules also include an even more complex shuffle routine, which makes it impossible for the cards to clump, and I would suggest that you should use this even though it is bit of a bother to organise. The introduction of the Union Pacific "Supercompany" adds an interesting layer of complexity to the game, with timing being very important. The rising value of the company over the course of the game, means that it's more important to build up positions in the normal companies at the beginning of the game, but essential to have a good share-holding in the UP at the end. The exact point at which you decide to start moving into the UP is vital, and most of our games have featured a sudden run on the company half way through the game, as one player makes the break into the UP, followed by all the others. The other new features are minor, but in every case they simplify matters, and lead to an easier, faster game. The game has been produced to the finest German standards, and looks far better than its predecessor, The plastic locomotives are particularly attractive, and look splendid spread around the board, although the colour differentiation of the share certificates isn't as good as it might be, particularly in poor light. The rules too are particularly well laid out, with masses of colour illustrations of various situations, so much so that I suspect that a non German speaker could probably puzzle out the game just using the pictures. To answer my question then, to my mind this is definitely an improvement on the original, a considerable improvement, and I would recommend anyone that has enjoyed playing Airlines to get hold of a copy of this as well. I doubt very much if you will go back to the old game once you've played this once or twice. As for players who haven't played Airlines, what on earth have you been waiting for?
SWD: This review will also be appearing in 'Serendipity', the pbm magazine that John edits.