Emmerich am Rhein
Big train on a fragile looking bridge. Image from Wikimedia
From the years 1850 and on rail transport was booming in the United States. Total rail road mileage grew from 9,021 miles in 1850 to 30,626 miles ten year later in 1860. This new way of transport was crucial to American growth. Transport by train was available year-round and it was cheaper than transport per steam boats that cannot transport on frozen canals in winter.
Many rail transport companies were founded. Some industrialists like J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould became wealthy through rail road ownerships.
Growth of American Rails from 1850 to 1860. Image from voteview.com
In the game American Rails players take the roles of investors in the Eastern part of the United States in the year 1851 and on. By investing in railway transport companies they try to enlarge their wealth. The player with most money at game's end is the winner.
In a game of four or five players there are six companies where the players can put their money in. In a three player game one company is removed from the game.
All companies have different numbers of maximum shares and connection cubes. These numbers are nicely displayed at the game board.
Game board, Quined edition. Image from bgg user aqwerty
In the game the companies will generate income by presence in cities. On all cities two numbers are printed. When a company has a monopoly the income for that company will be the left number, usually higher than the right number which is the income for all the companies present in the city if there are two or more companies in that city.
The income in a city can be raised by developing the city by placing a black house on it. This cannot be done for all cities. As long as the city has no black house with a red stripe through it or already a house on it, the city can be developed.
A company's income is displayed by a cube in the company's colour on the income track around the game board.
The income can be increased enormously by connection two cities with the track symbol of it. There are three such cities: New York, Atlanta and Chicago. For each connection the company's income is raised with ten dollars.
Spending the company's money
Money invested in the companies will be used to expand the network. The map will show cities, open land, forests and mountain ranges. Building in forest and mountain terrain can be expensive and there can only be one company present in such areas. In cities and open land building has variable costs. First company pays less than later companies.
The payouts from the dividends is how the players will earn their money. At the end of each year all companies will pay dividend to their share holders. The income of the company then will be divided by the number of shares and rounded up paid out.
In this picture you can see the money of the companies direct in front of the board, left, close to the remaining cubes of the company. Picture taken at Spiel 2013 by bgg user ravinck
All players receive fifty dollars as starting capital. At the start of the game one share of all the companies will be auctioned, minimum bid is ten dollar. When a price has been set for a company, the money bid goes into the funds of the company. Then the company chooses one free city as it's starting base by placing a cube without any cost on that place. The income will be adjusted accordingly. The winner of the first share takes the first place on the turn order track and chooses a next company to auction.
Each year consists of three rounds in which each play selects one action. Each action can only be taken once and it is executed immediately. The player order in the game is always from top to bottom from the previous round. In the picture displayed above player white has the first choice. If he, for instance, takes the bottom action, he will have last choice in the next round.
Detail of the game board with the player actions in the three columns. The top action is pass, then develop city, fund money in a company, take money or build two track cubes, build three cubes, auction a share and build four cubes. Picture by bgg user ravinck
The players have up to seven action to choose from per round, though an action can only be taken once per round. The actions, in order, are:
- A player may pass, he is then guaranteed first the next round.
- A player can develop any city without any cost. The companies present in that city then will have higher income.
- A player can put five dollar out of the bank in any company's funds.
- A player may take two dollar from the bank, all other players have to pay two dollar to the bank or in a four or five player game, the player may build two connections.
- A player may build three connections.
- A player may auction an additional share of any company.
When players build connections they may take any combination of colours as long as the players owns at least one share of that company.
The game ends after a complete year if in that year the last shares have been auctioned or if the a certain number of stocks of cubes or houses are two or lower. The number is the same number as the number of players. Alternatively the game ends after seven years of play.
Components and rulebook
The rulebook is great! In the Quined edition it consists of only four pages per language and I like the paper used. The same thick paper is also used for the money which is okay with me. The money is a bit dark coloured. I think this matches the era. The game board looks really nice, a pity that there are a few errors in the names on it.
The five player colours maybe looking a bit too much similar. I guess this is inevitable as there are eleven colours in the game. The components are good.
Maybe I hoped to see another map on the other side of the game board. Though the map already offers enough variation in game play, still it would be fresh to play it on a different map.
Right on Track
This game is awesome! It offers a lot of interaction in the auctioning. If you are the only owner of the company and an additional share gets into auction, you may want to defend your investment. Or do you want to expand the company together? The game offers a lot of meaning full decisions. And by building rails at the right places you may deny access to key cities for certain other companies.
Preparation time and explaining do not demand a lot of time. In the rules the game is fairly easy and it offers great depth and challenges. Negotiating strategies and agreements is part of the game and gives it a lot of dynamic.
This is great pick up by Quined Games who saw the brilliance in the game Tim Harrison developed and published on his own. I highly recommend American Rails.
If you are interested In reading more of my reviews, click here.
- Last edited Sun Nov 3, 2013 10:49 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Nov 3, 2013 3:28 pm
"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation"
Nice review of a great game. This game has become a family staple whenever I make it back to the Midwest.
Mine should arrive during next week!!!
2010 - Vinhos, 2012 - CO2, 2014 - kanban, 2015 - The Gallerist, 2016 - Vinhos Deluxe, 2017 - Lisboa, 2018 - Escape Plan, CO2 Second Chance and Dragon Keepers - Maybe: 2019 - ROTW Portugal and On Mars, 2020 - Kanban Deluxe Edition
Nice review. Excellent game.