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Ender Wiggins
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Introducing the Railways of the World Event Deck

I've long been a big fan of the Railways of the World series of games. The base game first appeared as Railways of the World in 2005, and is one of the very best medium weight games for modern gamers, brimming with theme and complemented with attractive over-produced components. The expansions offer great alternative maps to play on. If you're looking to get familiar with this awesome pick-up-and-deliver train game, start here:

mb The Railways of the World Series: Introducing the family members of the ideal medium-weight train game

I'm certainly not alone in my enthusiasm for Railways of the World. James Eastham and Steve Ellis are big fans of the series as well, and have previously collaborated to design a card game spinoff (Railways of the World: The Card Game). Now they've teamed up again to create another addition to the series, namely Railways of the World: Event Deck. Given my love for the base game, I didn't need any arm-twisting when the opportunity came along to try this! More goodies to try with Railways of the World can only be a good thing, right? So if you're a Railways of the World or Railroad Tycoon fan, and you're wondering what this Event Deck is all about, what you get, and how it plays, this review is for you!

COMPONENTS

So what do you get with the Event Deck? Well it's just a shrinkwrapped deck of cards.


The cards in shrink

So what's underneath the shrink? Inside are 55 cards. The reverse side features artwork similar to Railroad Operation cards used in the main game, but is labelled "Event Deck". The cards have a quality linen finish and feel, and should stand up well over time.

Contents

If we break down the cards included, we find that we get:
• 50 Event cards
• 4 blank cards
• 1 instruction card (double sided)


Everything you get with this event deck

Event cards

There are 50 Events cards altogether, and despite a small amount of duplication, there's a remarkable amount of variety across the cards. For the most part each different event also features different artwork - which also helps add to the appeal. To illustrate, let's show a few examples. Here are some events that affect bonds:


Events affecting bonds

Here's a variety of events that affect the use of engines in one way or another:


Events affecting engines

Other events affect track building costs, bidding, urbanization, and much more - in fact, almost every aspect of the game.


Examples of different events

Altogether there are 32 unique Events (15 of which have duplicates), along with 3 "No Event" cards.


All 32 different types of Event cards (arranged alphabetically)

Blank cards

Four blank cards are included so you can even add a few of your own custom Events, should you be really keen.


Extra cards for making your own events

Instruction card

The rules are very short, and included on a single double-sided card.


Both sides of the instruction card

GAME-PLAY

Rules

So how does the Event Deck work? Somewhere on your table you'll need to make room for four piles of cards - the Event Deck, a Future Event, a Current Event, and a Discard pile - as follows:


Using the Event Deck during a game

At the start of each turn, you'll move the card in the "Future Event" pile to the "Current Event" pile, while drawing a new "Future Event" card from the Event Deck. The card designated as "Current Event" has an effect that turn, while the card designated as "Future Event" will have its effect on the next turn - meaning that you do get some time to prepare for it and plan around it, trying to use it to your advantage, or to avoid disasters.

Some cards are labelled as "Future Event" (e.g. some natural disasters). These have an immediate effect when they are placed in the "Future Event" pile, rather than the "Current Event" pile, reflecting the fact that you can't prepare for them - just like in real life!


Natural disasters

That's all that there is to it! You can use the Event Deck with the base game or with any of the expansions.

Other Event decks

The idea of adding an Event deck to Railways of the World is not entirely new. Already in 2007, BGGer Scott Di Bartolo (manowarplayer) proposed his idea for an Event deck to be used with Railroad Tycoon. You'll find a full explanation of how he came up with the variant in an interview with BoardGameNews (reposted on his blog here). For more information and details, read the discussion threads here and here, and download the files for Event Decks I & II here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/24471/rrt-event-deck-z...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/25918/rrt-event-deck-i...
A new Event card was to be selected and read whenever someone reached a multiple of 10 Victory points (10, 20, 30, 40 etc...).

Scott's first Event deck was specifically designed to increase the interaction in the typically "dead" areas of the Eastern US map (i.e. the south), while his second Event deck provided additional events to liven up games. They came about after seeing many of the various "fixes" that had been posted to try and inject some life into the dead parts of the board, and were an attempt to achieve this in a better way by not fundamentally changing the game's existing mechanics. As a result, many of these events involve placing cubes on specific cities on this lesser used part of the map, or give incentives for making deliveries there. His second event deck did include more general events, such as Boomtime! (decreases track costs by $1,000 per hex), New Equipment (increases cost of building in mountain hexes by $1,000), and The Depression (remove two empty city markers from the amount needed to end the game). Roger Bordelon (TsarRiri) took some Scott's ideas a step further by incorporating some of these events as part of the Railroad Operations deck (see his post here).

It appears that the designers of the new Event Deck were not aware of these homegrown efforts (see the post by Steve Ellis here), and made their Event deck independently. The mechanics are also different, and I like the fact that you can see an event a turn before it becomes active, so you can prepare for it. Scott De Bartolo's Event deck was also very specific to the Eastern US map, and attempted to address a particular problem with that map, whereas the new Event deck is more generic, and can be used with any expansion map as well. It's great to see fans of the game coming up with ideas like these, and sometimes even succeeding in getting them published!

CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

More variety? The Event deck definitely adds more flavour to the game, the question is going to be whether you want this or not. Compare it to adding spices to a meal: the game tastes fine without them, but adding them does give a different flavour. The events give new tactical possibilities, and give each turn a slightly different feel from turn to turn, which some people will like. The fact that there are so many different events, and that they all have an impact on different aspects of the game (e.g. bidding, engines, track-building costs, deliveries, etc), is a real plus. In this respect the events successfully make small changes that injects a variety of new elements to the game. They also seem fairly balanced between good and bad, and the effect they have is large enough to make them interesting, yet small enough to prevent them from being game-breaking. There are a couple of cards that help keep a potentially runaway leader in check, e.g. Misfortune ("The leader on the scoretrack loses one point") and Bailout Plan ("The player or players in last place gain a cash bonus equal to $1k times the number of points he/she trails the next player"). In most games you'll only go through about a quarter of the deck, so it won't quickly feel "samey".

More goals? The mechanics work fine, although I think it's simpler to just use two piles: shuffle the deck and turn it face up, with the top card being the Future Event, and then at the start of each turn put the top card onto the top of the second pile being the Current Event. I do like the fact that you get to see events a turn before they come into effect, to help with planning. I've always enjoyed the short-term objectives and incentives offered by the Railroad Operation cards, which for me help make every game different by creating short-term goals, and the Event deck has a similar effect on the game.

More randomness? While Railways of the World isn't anywhere near as unforgiving as its parent Age of Steam, it's still a strategy game. The fact that there's a random event from turn to turn is going to be frustrating for some gamers who lean towards the luckless style of eurogame. There's good reason the Event Deck wasn't released for Age of Steam - it would likely be a huge flop with the target audience of that type of game! But for Railways of the World it feels just right - there's already a certain measure of randomness in the Railroad Operation cards, which is mitigated just enough by the auction, and the Event deck adds a similar degree of variability and uniqueness. While it does come with a certain amount of luck of the draw, it is also mitigated slightly by the fact that in most cases you get one turn's advance notice of a forthcoming event.

More frustration? There are going to be some gamers who will only be frustrated by the injection of more luck. For example, if you've carefully planned your current turn so that you can upgrade the following turn and make a couple of long deliveries, your plans may go awry if events like Resource Shortage ("No engine upgrade"), Major City Unrest ("No goods movement starting or ending in a Red City"), or Fuel Shortage ("Deliveries are made at your engine level -1 for this turn") turn up. On the other hand, there will be new opportunities to take advantage of, like Convention Season ("Players receive a $1k cash bonus for each hotel he/she owns"), Free Trade ("Cubes delivered this turn may pass through a single city of the matching color en route to the final destination"), Land Rush ("Any build on only open terrain may include a bonus hex"), or Major City Demand ("Each red goods cube delivered earns the player an instant cash bonus of $1k"), and these give tactical options that you can try to capitalize on. Whether or not you find these kinds of events appealing will come down to your preferred playing style - while some can't stand the thought of having small wrinkles affecting their carefully made events, others will love having new strategic options and things to consider, even if at times the events bite them.

More spice? The Event deck is really designed for people who have played the base game multiple times, and are looking for additional elements of spice, or for casual gamers who don't mind the idea of random events and feel that having additional elements to think about makes the game more fun for them. Hey, some people don't like spicy food, others love it!

Recommendation

So is Railways of the World: Event Deck for you? Overall I wouldn't consider it an essential upgrade, and your level of enjoyment with this expansion will depend on the reasons why you find Railways of the World endearing in the first place. If you're more of a serious gamer, you might just not care for having to deal with the occasional unplanned speed-bump interfering with your strategy. But if you're more of a casual gamer, the variability and tactical opportunities and trials afforded by these events might just be what you like. Certainly its flexibility for use with any of the maps is an advantage that will help get more mileage out of it, should you decide that this is for you. As far as I'm concerned, more Railways of the World goodies is nearly always good, and this Event Deck is no exception, even if I don't use it on a permanent basis!



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Richard Diosi
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Nice review as always sir.

I just picked up this expansion but haven't tried it yet. I consider myself a serious gamer but still do enjoy speed bumps that mess with my plans during a game of anything. I have a feeling this expansion will be a hit for it's ability to throw things off kilter (or align your strategy perfectly) as the cards do their whimsical thing.
 
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J Chav
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Our first go was a rough one for my wife. It seemed every event came into effect at just the right time she wanted to do whatever it was limiting her to do.

Granted she also made a lot of bad mistakes early on.

Maybe I should have waited until my wife's third instead of her second game to teach her the new events?
 
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Flying Dutchman
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Nice work my friend. Your reviews on this series always make me wish that I liked these games!
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Ender Wiggins
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jtemple wrote:
Nice work my friend. Your reviews on this series always make me wish that I liked these games!

Typical of the Wallace design underlying this game system is a strong economic component, which drives both the theme and mechanics - is that what holds you back?

If you gave it a fair chance, now that you have the benefit of a solid experience of multiple years of serious gaming since you first tried it, perhaps at this more advanced and well-developed stage of your gaming career you would find yourself liking this series!
 
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Judit Szepessy
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Quote:
Your reviews on this series always make me wish that I liked these games!
Quote:
If you gave it a fair chance,

I can help with that! Would be my pleasure!
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William Simonitis
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One of our RotW group just moved up to that part of Canada for college. I know he reads the Geek, so there is at least one other fan up there!
 
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Steve Ellis
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Another great review and it seems like you really understand and clearly communicate the type of player it was designed for. Thanks again for your excellent review!
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C. J. Robinson
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I have a copy of the original Railroad Tycoon and i am intrigued by the "homemade" event decks referenced in the review. My problem is that I am not particularly skillful at printing out and creating a deck of uniform cards. Any tips or tricks on the best way to go about it?

Of course Ender's review has convinced to get the commercially produced deck from Eagle Games in any case.
 
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francie berger
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Outstanding review! I just received my event deck, read through the cards, and cannot wait to incorporate it into a game. I love Railways any way you slice it, but this will add a neat twist to the game!
 
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Brian Walker
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Thanks for taking the time to do this.
 
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