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Subject: Railroad Tycoon: Quantity and Quality rss

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Hunter Shelburne
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After a comfortable win tonight, I was prompted to write a review over one of my favorite games in my rather small collection.

This is a review based on a few solid sessions, with pretty much the same group of players, fluctuating with a couple. This is not a comparison to the equally praised Age of Steam game, and I do not want discussion of the comparison to take place; this is a review of Railroad Tycoon, and it can most assuradly stand on its own two feet against pretty much any game I have played.

Although I have owned this game for a few months, I am still surprised at how meaty the game feels when I liftit. And by meaty, I mean HEAVY, and that is a good thing. I like to know that the 50 dollars I spent on a game has purchased my some quality stuff. So lets get to the review!

Box

By far the most beautiful box art in my collection, with an interesting, high quality texture, and ample room inside for all components. I will let the lack of tray pass considering the immense board that would either crush an insert, or make the insert a hassle to get in and out. I just use Ziploc bags, and I find them quite servicable.

Rulebook

Following the high standards set by the box, the rulebook does not dissapoint. It adds easy to read rules (I teach the rules in about 15 minutes prior to the game [one player has been drunk on 2 occasions and learned the rules]) with some high quality diagrams in full color. It doesn't add a lot of fiddly little rules interactions, and keeps it short and concise. We have had a few rules discrepancies, but with reading of BGG threads, coupled with re reading of rules, its clear after the plays we have under our belt.

Components


Board

I understand the common derogatives for the board, but for me, its almost all positive. The board size is not only NOT a problem, its actually a bonus for me. I have never had a game that looks as impressive sitting on a table. The artwork, the elegant scoring track, and the placement of the natural features were all highly impressive. The main gripe I have heard is the blue/purple City problem, which is fixed with online paste ons, but I haven't really had the problem to begin with, so thats not a problem. I have also not experienced the warping problem with the board, but I also have this weird habit. I don't know if its just me, but I like to:

Play a game

Fold the board

Put it up

Usually prevents a lot of warping problems a board might have. Another problem I experienced was the size of the scoring track. They recommend using the mini trains to track VP, but there really isnt alot of room, so we use colored cubes, and that solves the problem nicely. My last gripe is the overall waste of space in the lower southwest of the map. But this is not major, as it has been used occasionally, and it can be fun to try something different from time to time.

Miniatures

This incompasses the mini Trains, wooden cubes, and Empty City markers. PLastic first, these are great quality. On the board, they are impressive to look at, and there were no mismade tokens, and their were ample amounts of colored trains for each player. We ran out of empty city markers in our last 5 player game, but it made no difference as we were well over the "endgame" amount at the time. Some coplain about the size of the empty markers, but usually for us, once cities start to empty, we know what color the empty cities are, and don't need to move the markers around. Plus, the endgame looks mighty impressive with towering structures all around the map. Wooden cubes are standard, and that means great. Nice uniform boxes of assorted colors. Grip here is lack of red cubes for the Western Link action, but that hasn't been a problem since our group saw how well the first Western Link strategist did (Hint: Not well). And let us not forget the ever present Black Train Turn Marker. Beats the hell out of all other Wooden Trains in this modern age of wooden train tokens.

Tiles

All very servicable, nothing glamorous, just some well produced track hexes for flat land and hills, and some easily distinguishable New City markers. Western Link tiles are rather bland, but get the feel of the action across, with the ominous railroad spike connecting the metropolitan East to the rugged West.

Cards and Money

Money is standard Monopoly style money, color coded, Eagle insignia, nothing special, but not bad. Train cards are rather nicely illustrated, with pertinent information listed boldly, and the cardboard stock gives them a little different feel, though not necessarily something great. Just servicable. The Stock, Tycoon, and Railroad Management cards are where these components shine. Nice glossy, textured, playing card finish. Well illustrated, portrait photo style pictures of the Tycoons, and all easily readable to boot. These cards have everything I've wanted to see on card components in a game. Absolutely fabulous.

Gameplay

This is where I am glad I give games a lot of plays before I give my opinion. Had I done a review after 1 or 2 plays (as a lot seem to do), I would have said that this game fails in the time to fun ratio. But after a few readings of the rules, this game has been cut from a 3.5 to 4 hour game full of boring, predictable endgame, to a fast paced, 2.5 hours of not so simulation fun, lacking the analysis paralysis that I saw the first few plays degenerate into. The Action sequence is superb; it offers a great challenge to plan ahead and strategize on track building and goods delivering. The only two experiences that have been the same were in my only 2 wins, where I set up a small web around the Florida, Georgia and Tennessee regions. However, even those endgames came out differently. And just winning through great planning isn't even why I like the game so much. Its seeing the other stategies playing out around me, reacting, and seeing what everyone else ENJOYS about the game. One person in my group just likes to build track in certain areas of the US, 2 other friends in my past game had a daring last chance drive to finish a Line from New Orleans to Minneanapolis, with the underdog somehow getting a crazy series of tracks to get the additional points.

Its those experiences that make this game a worthwhile experience, and gives me a solid, meatier game to feature at my table. It is not like my other games, that can come out every night for a few plays, but when I want an EXPERIENCE as much as I want a game, I will always reach for Railroad Tycoon.

A solid 9 out of 10 for me. Could turn out to be the best 50 dollars I have ever spent.
 
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Hunter Shelburne
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Looking back, I really wish I had recorded some stuff for a session report. Oh well.
 
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Pat Wiles
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Ok, I'll be honest, only played this game once so I'm not fully versed in the nuances of the game, but one thing about the game bugged me. The tycoons you get at the beginning of the game bothered me. It seemed a little unbalanced that some of the tycoons bonuses could be controlled by the individual player and some of the bonuses relied on other players' choices (the one I'm specifically thinking of is the one that you get a bonus for having the least loans at the end when everyone is required to take loans at the beginning). Now that being said, what is your take on this part of the game since you've obviously played it more then once?

I'm just wondering if upon repeated play does this mechanic work itself out or is that just the way it is?
 
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Hunter Shelburne
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PaKaWN wrote:
Ok, I'll be honest, only played this game once so I'm not fully versed in the nuances of the game, but one thing about the game bugged me. The tycoons you get at the beginning of the game bothered me. It seemed a little unbalanced that some of the tycoons bonuses could be controlled by the individual player and some of the bonuses relied on other players' choices (the one I'm specifically thinking of is the one that you get a bonus for having the least loans at the end when everyone is required to take loans at the beginning). Now that being said, what is your take on this part of the game since you've obviously played it more then once?

I'm just wondering if upon repeated play does this mechanic work itself out or is that just the way it is?


I'm glad you mentioned that, as I so stupidly left them out of my review. Well, I assume its not by choice, but subconsciously, as they haven't ever really impacted alot. They have made the endgame a bit tighter than normal, but for the most part, either people don't get the bonus, or people focusing too much on keeping the conditions for their bonus intact are usually too far behind to matter.

I actualyl took a vote at the beginning of our last game on who wanted to use them, and although they said yes, a few grumblings were heard. So I don't really have a negative view of the tycoons, per se, but I don't know how much they add in the long run. The main Tycoon that I saw COULD be a problem was the Chicago link guy, which one of my friends got. However,w e had played the game enough that when he built 2 links out of Chi-town, someone went over and got the rest, so the effect was minimal at best.
 
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Glenn Drover
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The Tycoon mechanic was added to give extra flavor, but mainly to prevent a player from being able to calculate the exact winning points. This sort of "calculator" approach to games makes them a mathmatecal excercise and takes the mystery out of them. The idea in adding them was to add a small unknown to the endgame. The small number of victory points is rarely enough to swing the balance except in the closest of games. If it is the differennce between victory and defeat, the player whop accomplished his goal has otherwise played a very strong game and deserves the win.

I like the added mystery of not knowing, but if you don't, it is very easy to play without them. It certainly doesn't detract significantly from the game.

 
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Hunter Shelburne
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Budley wrote:
The Tycoon mechanic was added to give extra flavor, but mainly to prevent a player from being able to calculate the exact winning points. This sort of "calculator" approach to games makes them a mathmatecal excercise and takes the mystery out of them. The idea in adding them was to add a small unknown to the endgame. The small number of victory points is rarely enough to swing the balance except in the closest of games. If it is the differennce between victory and defeat, the player whop accomplished his goal has otherwise played a very strong game and deserves the win.

I like the added mystery of not knowing, but if you don't, it is very easy to play without them. It certainly doesn't detract significantly from the game.



It adds something thats for sure, its just that when everyone knows the tells for different Tycoons (building from Chicago, keeping like 1 stock and just delivering, randomly building links near the endgame) it is almost a detractor. But it does add another level of gaming to the it, bluffing what Tycoon you hold, or strategizing on hating out tycoons.
 
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Jon G
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I find the tycoons add the endgame uncertainty that Glenn mentioned, and also push players to take different strategies than they have in the past. I like 'em, and try to formulate a strategy that includes the tycoon goal. That said, we usually leave them out when teaching the game.

Conversely, the weak points of the tycoons are that they are unbalanced: I rarely have a problem making Pullman or longest network, while most cash and least shares can really hurt your game if you're not in the NE (perhaps awarding half points for ties would help); also they penalize people for not playing a style they're not in the mood for (usually because they "did that the last three games"), or one where the cube are unfavorable.

My wife, for instance, hates the least shares tycoon, and invariably begs for a different card. As a result, we usually give everyone that option, though you have to accept the second tycoon no matter what.
 
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