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Subject: Boxcars vs. Rail Baron vs. Boxcars: How do they compare? rss

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Dan King
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My new Boxcars game came today. Since my wife gave me an original copy of Boxcars for my birthday two weeks ago, and having by luck acquiring a parts copy of Rail Baron which was only missing some plastic parts, I am now able to compare all three versions together.

The new version of Boxcars is packaged in a bigger box than Rail Baron, but smaller than the original Boxcars game. The new game measures 11.5"x11.5"x3". Rail Baron is one of Avalon Hill's "bookshelf" series and is the standard 8.5"x11.5"x2". The original 1974 Boxcars is a whopping 19"x11.5x2". The weight of the three games is close, with the new game being heaviest, and the 1974 version the lightest. The game boards are close in size with the new version the largest at 33"x 22", and the 1974 Boxcars the smallest at 31.5"x18". All three boards have the same 28 railroads, and the same districts. However I was disappointed to discover that the districts were not differentiated by colors like both the earlier versions. For these old eyes, that will take getting used to. Although Jay has stated, and it is mentioned in the rulebook, that changes were made to the PRR, I don't see them. The PRR is routed the same in all three versions, and the B&O still doesn't connect to NY. On a casual scan, I see no differences in any of the rail routes. I did notice that the map in my game is different in design than the one in the picture on the box, and the pics on BGG. My map has pics of all the deeds on the board. I like it. All three boards are mounted on heavy chipboard with the 1974 game being a bit lighter thickness.

On to the game parts. This is where the new game starts to shine. All the components, including dice are wood. The engine tokens are similar to the ones in Mayfair games, and I wonder if they are from the same supplier. There are three engines for each player, with actual tokens replacing the cards Richard Hamblen introduced in Rail Baron for engine upgrades. The upgrade feature is not used in the original Boxcars game at all. The deeds in the new game are on heavy chipboard, as is the destination chart. Both the new game, and the AH game use a dice driven destination chart that was another change introduced By Hamblen at AH. The original game employs a spinner instead of a chart. Money is smaller than the original, and about the same size as the AH Rail Baron version.

The rulebook in the new game is well laid out with color illustrations. One major difference in the rules in the new version concerns buying railroads. In the new game, all user fees must be paid before purchasing a railroad. This is in stark contrast to the other versions, and eliminates the strategy of buying an expensive railroad, then auctioning a smaller railroad to pay user fees. Bravo! I will note here that this can be negated with the optional lending rule. Other notable differences in rules involve rail movement and auctions. In the original game, auctions can be held any time a player wants to sell a railroad. In the AH, and new Boxcars versions, auctions can only be held to pay user fees. As in the original game, but not in the AH game, you can backtrack on a rail line, though not on the same turn.

In summary, all three versions are very similar and can be played with any version of the rules or map. Overall, I think the new map is the most visually attractive, and features an additional map of the UK on the back, for a shorter game. The AH map has the next best graphics, with the original game last. The new game has a six-fold one piece board, while the AH game has three bi-fold boards, and the original game has a tri-fold one piece board.

So should you buy the new Boxcars game? Let's look at the pros and cons.

Pros:
Better graphics
Better designed board
Better deeds, and destination chart, chipboard, instead of cardstock
Wood engine tokens instead of generic plastic pawns.
Nicer rulebook with color illustrations
Cheaper than what either of the other versions usually sell for

Cons:
No color separations between regions, only lines
Superchief tokens are too large for some areas of the map, hard to tell what dot it is on
Very large payoff chart, a handicap for smaller tables

In closing I say Well done! Thank you Rio Grande Games, and Thomas Erickson Jr. For bringing this classic game back. It is a great addition to the Rio catalog
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Jay Tummelson
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Thanks for your review. As for the PRR balance changes, you will need to look at the destination tables. Tom moved one entry from the NE to the SE, as I recall.
Thanks
Jay
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Tim Thorp
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Excellent review; I plan on getting a copy. I would have listed the UK map in the "Pros" column. Maybe we'll see expansions for different regions?
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Dan King
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berserkley wrote:
Excellent review; I plan on getting a copy. I would have listed the UK map in the "Pros" column. Maybe we'll see expansions for different regions?
It is. That is part of the"better designed board"
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Dan King
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riogames wrote:
Thanks for your review. As for the PRR balance changes, you will need to look at the destination tables. Tom moved one entry from the NE to the SE, as I recall.
Thanks
Jay
Yep, spotted that. If the colored die is odd, and the white dice are eleven, on the new chart, that region is southeast, on the RB chart, it is northeast.
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Richard Bingle
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After a quick read thru the rules to the new Boxcars, another difference I see between Rail Baron and the new Boxcars rules involves changing "lines" at non-dots/non-cities.

The Rail Baron rules:
Quote:
In certain places on the board, rail line(s) of the same or different rail line companies intersect other than at a dot. As long as the token travels along the rail line of the same company it may change lines at this type of intersection. It may never switch from a rail line of one company to the rail line of another company except at a dot. Cities (black squares) count as dots.


The (new) Boxcars rules:
Quote:
In certain places on the board, rail lines of the same or different rail line companies intersect other than at a dot. A Train may change lines at this type of intersection. Cities (black squares) are counted the same as a dot.


The Rail Baron map had three such non-dot intersections on it (UP/CB&Q and SOU/L&N and B&O/C&O).

It may seem like a subtle/trivial change, but it can definitely make a difference between making it in to your destination and not making it in...
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Dan King
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A very good point, but since the maps and deeds are identical, you can use any set of rules, or combo. I predict it will still be acceptable at Rail Baron tournaments with a standardized set of rules. It will also work with the RB variants.
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Richard Bingle
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muskrat39 wrote:
A very good point, but since the maps and deeds are identical, you can use any set of rules, or combo. I predict it will still be acceptable at Rail Baron tournaments with a standardized set of rules. It will also work with the RB variants.


True. And it isn't nearly the game changer that allowing rails to be re-used each turn (Boxcars) rather than each trip (Rail Baron)!
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John Mellby
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A significant change was that the Northeast region is now less likely
to appear. If I recall correctly (I can't find my Rail Baron copy)
the NE used to be odd, 8-12, and now it is odd, 8-10 and 12.
Not a major change, but since the NE was such a dominant
region those railroads were always the first purchased.

Maybe this will shift the balance enough that we can have
viable strategies to other regions.

BTW, yours was an excellent review of the changes.
Thanks very much.

John
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Togu Oppusunggu
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The review is hard to read because there's no space between the paragraphs. Can the OP edit it so that there are spaces between the paragraphs? Thanks very much.
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Dan King
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Done
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Lawcomic
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jmellby wrote:
A significant change was that the Northeast region is now less likely
to appear. If I recall correctly (I can't find my Rail Baron copy)
the NE used to be odd, 8-12, and now it is odd, 8-10 and 12.
Not a major change, but since the NE was such a dominant
region those railroads were always the first purchased.

Maybe this will shift the balance enough that we can have
viable strategies to other regions.

BTW, yours was an excellent review of the changes.
Thanks very much.

John


This is a huge change. I am not complaining, and it does seem to eliminate (or at least temper) the Northeast strategy.
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John Cousins
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The original idea behind the region statistical distribution was to approximate the rail traffic / population within each region as of the early 1900's. The chances of rolling each region was:

20.8% - Northeast
19.4% - Southwest
15.3% - North Central
12.5% - Southeast and South Central
11.1% - Northwest
8.3% - Plains

I think that this was pretty representative. The most likely trip rolled would be one from the Northeast to the Southwest. Hence having connectivity in both the NE and the SW was crucial. The new game, with the NE/SE switch has the following probabilities:

19.4% - Southwest
18.1% - Northeast
15.3% - North Central and Southeast
12.5% - South Central
11.1% - Northwest
8.3% - Plains

The NE/SW trip is still the most likely but with a slightly reduced probability. I don't think that the NE deserves to be placed below the SW. Perhaps the probability of the SW should have been dropped instead. However, this is all in trying to provide some historic accuracy which doesn't really impact the play of the game.
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John Cousins
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bingle wrote:
The Rail Baron map had three such non-dot intersections on it (UP/CB&Q and SOU/L&N and B&O/C&O


Actually there is a fourth such intersection (consisting of SOU/L&N) just half an inch SE of Chattanooga.
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John Cousins
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muskrat39 wrote:
One major difference in the rules in the new version concerns buying railroads. In the new game, all user fees must be paid before purchasing a railroad.


This is correct except in the case where the player has earned a bonus roll and arrives at his destination during the regular roll. He can immediately make a purchase as user fees are paid only at the end of his turn (ie. after selecting a new destination, rolling the bonus die and moving the token). In fact the player will not know the complete user fees for the turn until he has made his bonus move.
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John Cousins
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There are two other minor differences between the new Boxcars and Rail Baron:

1. When determining the player's home city at the beginning of the game, the player rolls the dice to determine the region. Instead of rolling he dice again, the player chooses any as yet unchosen city in that region to be his home city. This means that the player has some control over the placement of and later access to his home city.

2. The player cannot choose to sell a property directly to the bank anymore when raising cash for user fees. He must always auction to other players first. The property will go to the bank (for 1/2 price) only if no one bids on the property.
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John Cousins
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And another difference:

In RB a player pays $1,000 to the bank to use his own or the bank's railway line(s) at any time during the game. Hence, the player will pay a minimum of $1,000 every turn. In the new Boxcars, there is no fee to use your own rail lines, so the total fee is $0 if you move only on your own line(s). This makes a huge difference in the early game. When arriving at your destination and choosing what to buy, you need to reserve enough cash to see you through to your next destination. Factoring in some $0 turns means you can spend more money safely and hence get a (possibly) better railroad.
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Robert Fix
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Another question: In Boxcars, can you buy a Super Chief without first buying an Express? It had been a long time since I played Rail Baron, but I thought you had to buy an Express before you could buy a Super Chief.

Also, has anyone seen the recent posting about the big differences in route payoffs on the GB board?
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Shane
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rlfix wrote:
Another question: In Boxcars, can you buy a Super Chief without first buying an Express? It had been a long time since I played Rail Baron, but I thought you had to buy an Express before you could buy a Super Chief.

Also, has anyone seen the recent posting about the big differences in route payoffs on the GB board?
An Express train is not required for purchasing a Superchief in Rail Baron.
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Skip Maloney
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It should be noted that free travel on your own rail lines is a rule variant in play at the WBC Rail Baron tournament every year.
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Carl Marl
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I just played Boxcars for the first time and I can't agree that the graphics are better compared to Rail Baron. Oh they are prettier, but the new graphics are less functional.
- the regions are less clear
- the rail lines for the Illinois Central and the Texas and Pacific, which connect to each other, are the same color and a similar pattern. They are difficult to tell apart!
- the deeds should have stayed as cards so that when you are buying you can hold them all in your hand.

Well, at least the one piece board is an improvement.

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John Picur
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You mention that the B&O "still doesn't connect to NY."

Nor should it. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad never achieved New York City. Its passenger trains ran over connecting lines to Jersey City, never getting to New York. Its own passenger connections were by bus from downtown New York. It had freight connections to New York primarily through Staten Island, but this also did not connect it physically to New York. Barge and carfloat services provided a "naval" connection for freight to the New York harbour area.

Taking into account that the original Boxcars was designed to represent American railroads in the 1950s, the designers made the correct historical choice in keeping the B&O away from a New York connection.

I know that from the gamer's perspective there are many who think B&O is overpriced because of the absence of a New York connection. Possibly so (I don't see it that way), but this is easily remedied by a "house" decision to devalue the deed. Personally, I prefer that the historical accuracy of the lines be maintained.
 
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