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Introducing Railways of North America

One of most long-awaited expansions of Railways of the World, the popular and spectacular looking medium-weight train game, is Railways of North America. Why? Because it promises something that RotW fans have been waiting for a long time: official rules for playing a grand-scale transcontinental game that includes both the eastern US and western US map.

While the transcontinental game is certainly part of the appeal of this expansion, there's much more here that makes Railways of North America of interest to the Railways of the World fan. As any enthusiast of this series knows, being able play on different maps is always a great deal of fun. With this expansion we get a brand new Canada map, one which promises to be particularly good at lower player counts like 2-4 players.

So let's open the box and dive into this expansion to find out what we get, and how it plays!



COMPONENTS

Game box

Here's the front cover of the game box, which mentions Sean Brown and Rick Holzgrafe as co-designers. Rick Holzgrafe is a well known BGG contributor, and is especially active in his work with respect to RotW.



The back of the box shows us what the map of Canada looks like, and introduces the basic concept of this expansion, along with a list of components. It notes that as a bonus the game includes materials and rules for combining the East and West US maps for a transcontinental game.



Special mention should be made of the box - it's not a thin box like many other Railways of the World expansions, but is extra deep, so that there's extra room for storing extra expansions, such as the additional mini-expansions that were made available via the Kickstarter project for the game.

Component list

Inside the box we get two sets of components, first of all components for playing the game on the Canada map, and then some extra components for playing the Transcontinental game, which doesn't require the Canada map.

Canada game
● 1 Canada map
● 12 Railroad Baron cards
● 46 Railroad Operation cards
● 6 Major Line cards
● 1 Rulebook



Transcontinental game
● 12 Transcontinental Railroad Baron cards
● 6 Major Line cards
● 1 Score track
● 1 Track Tile sheet
● 1 Rulebook



Note that the major line cards for the transcontinental game are on the reverse side of the major line cards for the Canada game, and the instructions for the transcontinental game are in the second half of the main rulebook.

CANADA GAME

Map

The main board doesn't hog as much table space as some of the other Railways of the World expansion maps, but it shares their quality looks and finish. The dimensions are 36 inches by 15 inches, so it's just as wide as the Europe/Great Britain maps, but half the height. It features a beautiful map which mostly shows Canada, although it includes Alaska and Seattle as well.



Unique additions to this board are the "snow line" (marked with snowflakes) that runs across the middle of the board - track building costs above this line will be $1000 higher due to the extra challenges of the cold climate in the north of the map. Also the hexes near the cities in the north and the east of the map feature ferry symbols - these are ferry hexes and require a new Ferry Line card (from the Railroad Operations deck) to build there.


Map detail: Snow line and Ferries near St John

It really is a beautiful map that is hard to find fault with, except perhaps the omission of a reference chart for major lines.

Railroad Operations cards

This expansion features an unusually large deck of 46 Railroad Operation cards, comprised of the following:

3x Starting cards (The Railroad Era Begins, Passenger Lines, New Train)
6x Service Bounty
6x Hotel
4x New Industry
4x City Growth
4x Government Land Grant
4x Tunnel Engineer
2x Perfect Engineering
2x Coal-fueled Engines
1x Boomtown
5x Mine
5x Ferry Line

Starting cards: These almost the same as those from the base game, with "New Train" (4 points for being the first to upgrade to a level 4 train) replacing "Speed Record" (3 points for being the first to make a 3-link delivery). These are the same starting cards that are used in the Western US expansion. "New Train" first appeared in the original Railroad Tycoon, but because it was too similar to "Speed Record" (the same player usually earned both) it was superseded by "Passenger Lines". Just as in the Western US expansion, "Passenger Lines" is easier to claim than in the base game and nearly all other expansions, now only requiring delivery of three different coloured goods instead of four (see discussion here).



Mine: The Mine and Ferry Line are also starting cards and are available throughout the game. The Mine is a new card that costs $10,000 to take, and lets a player immediately add extra cubes to a grey city - they keep drawing cubes until they get one that matches previously drawn ones (which is discarded). Effectively you'll get 1-5 different coloured cubes, depending on what you draw. You can't mine the same city twice.

Ferry Line: Taking one of these cards is the only way to build track on a Ferry hex. Building on a Ferry hex is free, but you need to take one of these cards as an action earlier in the game to do so, and each card can only be used once.



Boomtown & Coal-fueled Engines: These two cards first appeared in the Western US expansion. Coal-fueled Engines reduces the cost of an engine upgrade by half in a future action, while Boomtown is the same as New Industry, with the restriction that new goods cubes are not added.



Service Bounty & Hotel: The Service Bounty cards give bonuses for the first player to deliver goods to a city, while Hotels work the same as in the base game, giving their owners income for deliveries to their cities. Hotels are in Juneau, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Seattle, and Vancouver, while Service Bounties are for Echo Bay, Goose Bay, Iqaluit, Repulse Bay, Sydney, and Yellowknife.

Other cards: City Growth, New Industry, Government Land Grant, Tunnel Engineer, and Perfect Engineering are all already familiar from the base game or previous expansions.

Railroad Baron cards

These twelve Railroad Baron cards represent the long-term secret objectives that players begin the game with. Several of them are specific to the Canada map, e.g. 8 points for connecting Ottawa and Iqaluit, or 2 points for each link that your railroad owns from Vancouver to another city. They're all marked with a Canadian maple leaf to distinguish them from the transcontinental Railroad Barons included with this expansion.



Major Line Reference cards

The six player reference cards feature the four major lines in the game: Calgary to Quebec (5 points), Winnipeg to Repulse Bay (5 points), Seattle to Juneau (4 points), and Ottawa to St John (4 points).



Rules

The rulebook is a four page booklet. Page 1 introduces the game, page 2 gives the rules for the Canada game, and pages 3-4 explain the Transcontinental game.



Game-Play

Game-play for the Canada map follows the regular Railways of the World rules, including reduced cubes for 2-3 player games. The number of empty city markers used to trigger the game end is as follows: 9 for 2 players, 11 for 3 players, 13 for 4 players, and 15 for 5 players.


Complete set-up for two player game

As mentioned already, the Canada map does introduce some new elements specific to this expansion. Building track north of the snow line costs an extra $1000 per hex (as noted here, this cost is added after resolving the reductions from cards like Government Land Grant and Tunnel Engineer). And the only way to build on ferry hexes (which are free to build on) is by claiming a Ferry Line card earlier in the game.


Ferrying around cubes in Eastern Canada

As usual, at the end of the game players get bonus points if they satisfy the conditions of the Baron card they selected at the beginning of the game.



TRANSCONTINENTAL GAME

As an extra bonus, this expansion comes with some additional items and rules to facilitate playing a transcontinental game using the East and West US maps. You'll need the base game plus the Western US expansion to do this, but there are some extra items included here to assist with this.

Track Tile sheet

First of all, you get a sheet with track tiles - you'll likely need the extra track in view of the larger scale of a game over two maps.



Score Track

You also get a new score track, to use instead of the one from the base game.



Now there's been some confusion about this score track and how it works. It's identical to the regular score track, with only one small difference: the income for 98 and 99 points is $10,000 instead of $9,000.



This is really quite insignificant, but perhaps more important is the designer's intent about how wrapping your score works, which is a change from the base game. In the regular game, the intent is that when you get over 99 points, your score marker wraps and your income drops to the levels listed at the start of the score track (see this post and the next post for an explanation). With the transcontinental game, the intent is that when you get over 99 points, your score marker wraps, but your income does not drop to below $10,000, and will start to rise above that again when you get to 109 points (see designer Rick Holzgrafe's explanation in this post).

Transcontinental Railroad Baron cards

These twelve Railroad Baron cards are long-term secret objectives that are appropriate to the larger scale of a transcontinental game. For example, one card awards 10 points for making a 9 link delivery, another card awards 10 points for connecting New York or Charleston with San Francisco or Tacoma; another card gives 9 points for winning 3 or more Major Lines (at least one on each map).



Major Line Reference cards



These six player reference cards are on the reverse side of the major lines from the Canada map, and feature four new major lines for the transcontinental game: Billings to Chicago (4 points), Denver to St Louise (4 points), Albuquerque to Memphis (5 points), and Fort Worth to New Orleans (4 points).

Rules

The last two pages of the expansion rulebook explains how to play the transcontinental game.



Game-Play

I won't explain all the nitty-gritty of the transcontinental rules, since I'm personally not inclined to play this larger form of the game. But the basic gist of it is as follows: You combine the Eastern US and Western US maps to form a single map of the continental US. Play starts on the Eastern board, and continues on that board only until the last empty city marker is placed on that board. At the end of that full turn, the Western board is opened up for play.

Between the Eastern and Western phases of the game, players have opportunity to return bonds to the bank at the cost of victory points, if they wish, at an increasing cost (2VP for the first bond, 3VP for the next bond, etc). Only at this point is the Western US populated with goods cubes, and the empty city markers are also removed from the Eastern board and will now be used in the West. At this point the deck of Railroad Operation cards for the Western US will replace the Eastern US deck that was used for the first part of the game.

Play now continues on both boards, and links can be built between them. Note that the Western Link feature is not used at any point of the game. The game end is triggered in the usual way when the last empty city marker is placed on the Western board.

MINI-EXPANSIONS

In conjunction with the Kickstarter project for the Railways of North America expansion, several mini-expansions were also made available, and there's room for them in the box. I don't personally own these, but for the sake of covering everything, here's a short overview to introduce them. Basically these are beautiful plastic miniatures that look the same as the empty city markers, but match the player colours, and have a new game-related function.



Fuel Depots: These were introduced in the Western US expansion, and can be placed on a city to represent a refueling point - you can bring a cube there and then continue delivering that cube elsewhere on your next action.

Hotels: These serve as visual reminders of which hotels are owned by players, as determined by the Hotel cards in the Railroad Operation deck.

Mines: These work in the same way as the Mine cards. They can be used at a cost of $10,000, and enable additional cubes to be added to a city - the marker is placed on the board as a visual reminder that that city can no longer be mined.

Switch track: This is a new concept that hasn't yet appeared in a RotW expansion. At a cost of $5,000, players can place a Switch of their colour on a track connected to a city, and effectively use it as a "Y" connection to build another track from that connection in a different direction.



CONCLUSIONS

The Canada game

The name: Maybe this is nitpicking, but I really wish this expansion had been called "Railways of Canada". Yes it does come with transcontinental rules for the really keen, but as far as components are concerned this is first of all about bringing the Railways of the World experience to a Canadian map, even if there are are a couple of American cities on it too.

The map: I love new Railways of the World maps to play on, and it didn't take much arm-twisting to convince me of the virtues of adding another RotW map to my collection. The board is very good quality, and looks super attractive on the table. What I like about this one is that it's especially well suited for less players. I'd compare it to Railways of Mexico in terms of the player count it is optimal for. Just like the Mexico map, the Canada map works great with 2-3 players (use the standard rule of reduced cubes with this player count), and even 4 players. Initially I was concerned that a two player game might see little interaction, with one player focusing on the west and the other on the east, but in reality you can't really afford to ignore your opponent, and the short and long term goals like service bounties and major lines encourage competition and interaction from the outset.



The snow line: Most Railways of the World expansions introduce something new to the game, and this one is no exception. Building above the snow line is more expensive, but not to the point where it's impossible to do. There's some nice service bounty bonuses that can be had by building track in the north, and one of the major lines requires building here too. So there are benefits to be gained, which offset the higher track-building cost in this area, and it's a nice element that makes this particular map feel somewhat unique to its Canadian setting.

The Ferry Line: I like the idea of the Ferry cards; they don't cost anything to build, which is nice, but they require an action to take, effectively slowing you down by forcing you to build a link over two actions. It's a nice little twist that's unique to this map and changes up the game just enough without having too much impact.

The Mines: The idea behind the Mine is very thematic, and I really like the risk/reward concept of not knowing how many cubes you're going to get - it's what mining is all about! It's quite expensive though, because $10,000 is equivalent to the cost of Urbanizing, although Urbanizing comes with the added advantage of upgrading the city with a coloured New City tile, giving it the potential to make deliveries there. The benefit of a Mine is somewhat similar to the "City Growth" cards (which are free if they come up), although admittedly a Mine could score you 5 cubes instead of just the 2 cubes awarded by a City Growth. The Mines are a nice idea, but given their high cost we haven't seen them used extensively, although they can be useful in the late-game where you're hoping to draw some cubes for long deliveries in your existing rail network.

Other cards: Overall the Railways Operations deck has some great cards; Boomtown & Coal-fueled Engines (which first appeared in the Western US expansion) are a good addition, and there's some nice Service Bounties which can tie neatly with your long term strategies. I always enjoy the impact that the Railroad Barons have on your overall objectives, and there's some interesting Baron cards to choose from too.

The errata: How the Snow Line works in conjunction with Government Land Grant and Tunnel Engineer isn't explained in the rules. Also the icons on the Ferry Line and Mine card are incorrect; the Ferry needed a "later use" cards-in-hand icon, and the Mine needed an "immediate use" red X icon (see discussion in this thread, and also here and here). These are unnecessary errors that really should have been picked up before the game went to print; additionally the Mine card should also have stated on it that it costs $10,000 to take, otherwise it gives the impression that it's free to take like Urbanize. Fortunately these are small details, and once you know how to use these cards it's not a big issue, so they're minor things that won't prevent you from enjoying the expansion.



The Transcontinental game

I've already mentioned that I'm not inclined to play the larger form of the game which combines the Eastern and Western US maps, so I can't say much about this from personal experience. However, certainly this possibility is one that many RotW fans have been looking forward to try for a long time, so having an official rule-set that endorses it comes as a great boon to many gamers.

Regrettably, however, making the transcontinental game come together hasn't gone entirely smoothly. The Railroad Baron cards for the Transcontinental game weren't included in every copy of the game, but only for backers who chose this option, and the printed rules for playing without these cards are vague. In addition, four new Service Bounty cards for the Transcontinental game that were a Stretch Goal bonus were accidentally not printed, and Kickstarter backers will be belatedly getting these in the next months, although fortunately this only has a minimal effect on the game. But there have been quite a number of rule questions about the Transcontinental game, and you'd be well advised to check the official thread where co-designer Rick Holzgrafe is actively engaged in addressing any outstanding ambiguities, and where you should find answers to everything you need to know:

Errata and Frequently Asked Questions

Clearly, the Transcontinental game has had some teething problems, but that's not to say that it's been entirely unsuccessful. With the help of the errata and the FAQ, dedicated players are sure to find a way to make it work, although I haven't seen too many session reports documenting experiences with the Transcontinental game just yet.



Recommendation

So is Railways of North America for you? Sure it's good to get some official transcontinental rules at last. But the main reason for picking up this package is to get the Canada map. More Railways of the World is always good, and I'm just pleased to be able to play on a different map, particularly one that excels with a lower player count as this map does. It's not entirely without flaws, but if you are primarily interested in getting this to play on the new map, you won't find much to complain about - it's another great addition to the Railways of the World!

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EndersGame wrote:
The errata: How the Snow Line works in conjunction with Government Land Grant and Tunnel Engineer isn't explained in the rules. Also the icons on the Ferry Line and Mine card are incorrect; the Ferry needed a "later use" cards-in-hand icon, and the Mine needed an "immediate use" red X icon (see discussion in this thread, and also here and here). These are unnecessary errors that really should have been picked up before the game went to print; additionally the Mine card should also have stated on it that it costs $10,000 to take, otherwise it gives the impression that it's free to take like Urbanize.


Those symbol errors were caught before the game went to print. When they were posted on the Kickstarter, I sent them a message saying the symbols were incorrect based on how they were supposed to be played. I was told it was just preliminary artwork and that it would be correct in the release. Well, you can see how that turned out. shake
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DoomTurtle wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
The errata: How the Snow Line works in conjunction with Government Land Grant and Tunnel Engineer isn't explained in the rules. Also the icons on the Ferry Line and Mine card are incorrect; the Ferry needed a "later use" cards-in-hand icon, and the Mine needed an "immediate use" red X icon (see discussion in this thread, and also here and here). These are unnecessary errors that really should have been picked up before the game went to print; additionally the Mine card should also have stated on it that it costs $10,000 to take, otherwise it gives the impression that it's free to take like Urbanize.


Those symbol errors were caught before the game went to print. When they were posted on the Kickstarter, I sent them a message saying the symbols were incorrect based on how they were supposed to be played. I was told it was just preliminary artwork and that it would be correct in the release. Well, you can see how that turned out. shake

Indeed. Editing was sloppy with RoNA.

I like Railways of Canada as a better name as well.
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Really well done (as always), Ender - I don't take your outstanding efforts for granted, and I thoroughly enjoy reading (and re-reading) your reviews covering the Railways series!

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Well done, as usual, Ender.

One thing you could have mentioned (if you agree) is that the Canada map is more difficult to play (IMO) than the usual RoTW map. This is because of the added snow costs and (mainly) because several cities have a limited number of exits. Playing this with 5 can be a tough experience where your carefully laid plans go to dust because you get blocked out, and I'd be careful to introduce new players to RoTW with this map. Also, all service bounties are to grey cities, so not easily accessible.
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Have played two Transcontinental games.

The first was disppointing - it just felt like playing two games, one after the other with a little bit of overlap where the maps met.

We created our own rules for the second game (mainly all take a full turn in the east, then all a full turn in the west with other minor changes) and found it felt much more like a we were playing one BIG game, with each of us running an eastern and western division of our company.
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I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
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Alas the errata continues.. The city of St. John is in New Brunswick.. The city of St. Johns is in Newfoundland. The map and the Major Line cards are wrong. It is a common error (ask an east coast travel agent) but should have been caught prior to printing.
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Gregarius wrote:
I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
This was the first thing I noticed when I played my first game. It wasn't a big deal, but there was a couple of occasions where I almost forgot to pay extra for hexes above the snow line.
It seems like it would have been pretty easy just to have given these hexes a "snow blown" effect during design. My only guess is that the "extra coloring" to make those hexes look snow covered was probably to pricey.

One day, when I'm feeling "artsy" I will take some white primer and a small sponge and very finely "snow blow" those hexes. Should look great after I'm done.
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Phadrus00 wrote:
Alas the errata continues.. The city of St. John is in New Brunswick.. The city of St. Johns is in Newfoundland. The map and the Major Line cards are wrong. It is a common error (ask an east coast travel agent) but should have been caught prior to printing.


Does them being wrong mean the major lines are unusable or does the route on the map work even tho the town names are swapped? For an American who doesn't know Canadian geography can I just use the names as printed and everything works ok?

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alenen wrote:
Phadrus00 wrote:
Alas the errata continues.. The city of St. John is in New Brunswick.. The city of St. Johns is in Newfoundland. The map and the Major Line cards are wrong. It is a common error (ask an east coast travel agent) but should have been caught prior to printing.


Does them being wrong mean the major lines are unusable or does the route on the map work even tho the town names are swapped? For an American who doesn't know Canadian geography can I just use the names as printed and everything works ok?

Looking at the images above, they will work fine.

He is just saying they should have printed it as St. John's instead of St. John on the map and cards. But they should work fine.
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DocD wrote:
Gregarius wrote:
I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
This was the first thing I noticed when I played my first game. It wasn't a big deal, but there was a couple of occasions where I almost forgot to pay extra for hexes above the snow line.
It seems like it would have been pretty easy just to have given these hexes a "snow blown" effect during design. My only guess is that the "extra coloring" to make those hexes look snow covered was probably to pricey.

One day, when I'm feeling "artsy" I will take some white primer and a small sponge and very finely "snow blow" those hexes. Should look great after I'm done.


Finally pulled the map off the shelf and did my "Snow blown" effect to the hexes above the snow line. Used white acrylic primer and a small sponge. Looks great and took less than 5 minutes.
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DocD wrote:
DocD wrote:
Gregarius wrote:
I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
This was the first thing I noticed when I played my first game. It wasn't a big deal, but there was a couple of occasions where I almost forgot to pay extra for hexes above the snow line.
It seems like it would have been pretty easy just to have given these hexes a "snow blown" effect during design. My only guess is that the "extra coloring" to make those hexes look snow covered was probably to pricey.

One day, when I'm feeling "artsy" I will take some white primer and a small sponge and very finely "snow blow" those hexes. Should look great after I'm done.


Finally pulled the map off the shelf and did my "Snow blown" effect to the hexes above the snow line. Used white acrylic primer and a small sponge. Looks great and took less than 5 minutes.


This thread is useless without pics
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alenen wrote:
DocD wrote:
DocD wrote:
Gregarius wrote:
I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
This was the first thing I noticed when I played my first game. It wasn't a big deal, but there was a couple of occasions where I almost forgot to pay extra for hexes above the snow line.
It seems like it would have been pretty easy just to have given these hexes a "snow blown" effect during design. My only guess is that the "extra coloring" to make those hexes look snow covered was probably to pricey.

One day, when I'm feeling "artsy" I will take some white primer and a small sponge and very finely "snow blow" those hexes. Should look great after I'm done.


Finally pulled the map off the shelf and did my "Snow blown" effect to the hexes above the snow line. Used white acrylic primer and a small sponge. Looks great and took less than 5 minutes.


This thread post is useless without pics
Fixed that for you
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alenen wrote:
This thread is useless without pics
Board games are useless without imagination
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Here are some not so great pics for posters whose imaginations are useless without pics







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droberts441 wrote:
alenen wrote:
DocD wrote:
DocD wrote:
Gregarius wrote:
I really like the map, but I was also disappointed by the numerous small errors.

I really wish that instead of the snow line, they had made the terrain above that point snow-covered. It would make it much easier to see (especially once tiles have been placed) as well as make the map look unique.
This was the first thing I noticed when I played my first game. It wasn't a big deal, but there was a couple of occasions where I almost forgot to pay extra for hexes above the snow line.
It seems like it would have been pretty easy just to have given these hexes a "snow blown" effect during design. My only guess is that the "extra coloring" to make those hexes look snow covered was probably to pricey.

One day, when I'm feeling "artsy" I will take some white primer and a small sponge and very finely "snow blow" those hexes. Should look great after I'm done.


Finally pulled the map off the shelf and did my "Snow blown" effect to the hexes above the snow line. Used white acrylic primer and a small sponge. Looks great and took less than 5 minutes.


This thread post is useless without pics
Fixed that for you
Fixed THIS post for you devil
 
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That looks pretty darn nice!
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Saint John is in New Brunswick. St. John's is in Newfoundland.
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Ender Wiggins
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The four mini-expansions now all have separate entries in the BGG database:

Railways of the World: Fuel Depots
Railways of the World: Hotels
Railways of the World: Mines
Railways of the World: Switch Tracks

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Warren Adams
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Mt Lawley
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EndersGame wrote:
Your idea to use these to mark major routes for the benefit of new players still strikes me as a touch of genius.
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Ender Wiggins
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tallboy wrote:
Your idea to use these to mark major routes for the benefit of new players still strikes me as a touch of genius.

Yes, they'd work great for that. You could also use them as temporary visual indicators to denote cities that have an active Service Bounty.

I bought some flags from spielematerial.de, and they work great for this purpose too.



Here's an example using them to mark the Major Lines on the Mexico map:

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