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Subject: Review ... well, reactions really rss

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Yehuda Berlinger
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I love a good train game, and I had some good hopes for Railroad Tycoon, having heard that it was a "nicer" version of Age of Steam. Now, despite everything I'm going to write next, I did like the game.

However.

I'm appalled. Appalled at the production and development of this game. Let's start with the physical problems.

The game is freakin' big, and there is no reason for it to be that big, large areas of the board are simply not used. The boards didn't fit on my table, which resulted in them being bumped all the time.

The board comes as three sections, and they managed to cut words, cities, and round marker circles right down the middle, so that those areas of the board were constantly shifting and unsteady, right where you needed to read information or place items.

The cities were so small that when you placed the marker cubes on them, you could no longer read their names, and therefore find the cities. Furthermore, the colors of the cities didn't match the colors of the cubes. A yellow cube went to a yellow city, but a blue cube went to an indigo city, which looked more like the purple cubes, which actually went to the lavender cities. And the indigo cities looked almost like the black cities.

And speaking of colors, unlike Through the Desert where they managed to use five colors for the camels and five different ones for the players, here the user colors and cube colors overlapped, which caused confusion.

Information on a board this big should be written at various angles and rules summaries printed on all sides. Instead, the writing was small and facing only one way on one side of the board, totally useless for all but the rightly situated player. What's wrong with player aids for each player?

The game had ridiculously overproduced plastic pieces that went on the board only to mark areas that were now empty (and obscured the board), undoubtedly raising the price of the game by a considerable amount. Yet they didn't include a round marker to go over the three round mark spaces on the board! We had to use a spare track hex for that.

The trains were more overproduced plastic which toppled frequently and served no other purpose than to mark the tracks, where simple train meeples would have worked better. If they were going to make something so fancy, why not at least give the trains space to hold the wooden cubes?

Like many other games with hexes overlaid on natural maps, their natural terrain not only made it more difficult to read the writing, but to figure out what type of terrain some of the hexes actually were. Is this a mountain? A plain? It's got a bit of both in it.

Each space in the scoretrack could only hold a single piece, which made it useless for five players. The cost of upgrading a train from 1 to 2 is printed on the side with the 2 on it, rather than the side with the 1 on it; in other words, instead of "this is how much you need to pay to upgrade to the next train" you get "this is how much you had to pay to have upgraded to this train, said information being in the entirely wrong place".

I could go on, but really.

For the most part, the game is a classic build track and deliver cubes game, which is what I like. Unlike Age of Steam, you can't completely wipe out at the beginning of the game. However, we had some issues both with what was there and what wasn't there.

What was there: The bidding for first player was a flawed mechanism. Only the top player pays, and then the round goes clockwise. As a result, if you only want to ensure that you go before someone, you can bid high enough to make that happen and then drop out without paying anything. A bidding for turn order mechanism makes more sense here.

While there are a few ways to get cubes onto the board midgame, for the most part it seems that the cubes are all put out and then empty. Once they are emptied from the congested area, it appears that the game is going to peter out. That was the feeling that we got, and the reason that we decided to end the game at that point.

However, I think we were probably not entirely right about this. Binyamin pointed out that he had a number of high-link movements in the wings. Also, we never got to the Eastern links or most of the delivery bonuses (we did some). I think the game fell victim to the large amount of time it took us to get to this point and some bad group-think. As a result, I am happy to assume that this problem will go away.

Furthermore, Age of Steam's strong point isn't the cube renewal aspect, anyway.

The rules don't cover some obvious situations, such as when a card like "first person to connect to so-and-so gets points" flips up way after this has already happened. I believe this is a FAQ, however. And there was one card which read "take two additional actions", which looked like it would be a Bad Thing if those two actions were to allow you to take two more cards (or even one more card).

I can't tell how the strange income reduction mechanic works, since we didn't reach it, but it looks just as artificial and non-sensible as the backwards movement in Age of Steam.

What was not there: There is far less screwing with other people than there should be. It was almost serene, which was a little dull. The role cards of Age of Steam are greatly missed. The event cards from Empire Builder are also greatly missed.

But, despite all the above, and the likelihood that we will be changing some of the rules asap, the game is still a rail-building pick up and deliver game, which is just great fun. I enjoyed myself, although I didn't have to think overly much.

Like most games of this sort, there is a nice curve you need to follow from beginning to end; invest in the beginning, switch to point making in the middle, make points at the end.
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Andrew Rae
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Well one mans trash is another mans treasure. Although the board would never fit on my table I think this si a remarkable ferature of the game. I love the big board, the size of it makes it such a a collectable game. So you may hate the board while I love it. Each to their own I guess.

In terms of only using one part of the board I am quite surprised. I had heard the same but found that poeple suceeded in the North east, the south east, the middle of the board and the West - north west. So although there was a big hole in the south west most of the board is used. Perhaps you played with a small number of players or do not yet have the skill and experience to make the most of other spots on the board. Yes one part of the board is more lucrative objectivelty, but throw a couple of players in tight proximity in that corner and there are plenty of other spaces that will yield better returns.

I'm sure you will enjoy future games.



 
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David
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I think the problem is that the game could have been much, much better. It's got too many flaws and no they are not charming ones either.

I have enjoyed playing it in the past, but it definitely lacks class.
 
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John W
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citylife wrote:
Well one mans trash is another mans treasure. Although the board would never fit on my table I think this si a remarkable ferature of the game. I love the big board, the size of it makes it such a a collectable game. So you may hate the board while I love it. Each to their own I guess.
Actually, no - the oversized board is not a subjective game component, with your "love" equaling his "hate".

Objectively, the more space a game takes up, the more limiting in accessibility it is. If I made a game where the board took up 10 sq feet, a fan saying "I love the huge board - it makes the game more of a treasure" does not invalidate the true statement that a "10 foot board where 1/3rd of it is unused is a waste of space and increase in game cost."

This was an excellent review, pointing out many negative aspects of a fun enough game - I am continually surprised at the rationalizations that RT fans make for the blatant component mistakes, though.
This game needs a new edition to fix the obvious, common-sense mistakes, BAD.
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Hunter Shelburne
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reapersaurus wrote:
citylife wrote:
Well one mans trash is another mans treasure. Although the board would never fit on my table I think this si a remarkable ferature of the game. I love the big board, the size of it makes it such a a collectable game. So you may hate the board while I love it. Each to their own I guess.
Actually, no - the oversized board is not a subjective game component, with your "love" equaling his "hate".

Objectively, the more space a game takes up, the more limiting in accessibility it is. If I made a game where the board took up 10 sq feet, a fan saying "I love the huge board - it makes the game more of a treasure" does not invalidate the true statement that a "10 foot board where 1/3rd of it is unused is a waste of space and increase in game cost."

This was an excellent review, pointing out many negative aspects of a fun enough game - I am continually surprised at the rationalizations that RT fans make for the blatant component mistakes, though.
This game needs a new edition to fix the obvious, common-sense mistakes, BAD.


Its not that some of us rationalize it, its that some of use just haven't had a problem with it. Large board? I like it. I play with my dad, his eyesite is getting rough, and he also enjoyed the board. Color between cities hasn't been a problem, since I play in a well lit area, and the board size itself is fine because I have a large kitchen table. Also, the feel of a grand scale game really comes through on the board, and I whole heartedly think that had the board NOT been that big my game group would not have been as keen to try it out as their first railroad game, but they were intrigued by just how big the game itself was.

I guess the cost thing is an issue for many, but I got mine cheaper, so that wasnt a problem. I'm not trying to say you're wrong, I'm just saying don't lump all the supporters of the larger board into one big category of ignorant people making stupid rationalizations.
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Al Johnson
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I love the game - probably more than Age of Steam (which I also like). But I cannot defend the size of the board or the color choices. The board is the main reason this board seldom gets played - it is just too big that people can't sit around it with their cards or whatever. That's too bad because I still think it's play flaws are minor.

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Bill
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reapersaurus wrote:
Actually, no - the oversized board is not a subjective game component, with your "love" equaling his "hate".

Objectively, the more space a game takes up, the more limiting in accessibility it is.



This statement is not "objectively" true at all. There are many instances in which small size games are more limiting in accessibility.

The example cited about playing against an opponent with limited vision is one such example. I have encountered others. As a language teacher I would love to have a massive Scrabble board so that the entire class could play the game in a large group activity without needing to be huddled impractically around a normal sized game board.

The question of ideal board size is very subjective. I recently played a game of Il Principe and was frustrated by a board so small that the pieces didn't fit the spaces on the map. I also played Tigers in the Mist recently and would have enjoyed the game much more with a map blown up to double the original size. People with any sort of serious vision problem would find those games not simply annoying (as I did) but functionally inaccessible to them.

Let's face it, every board has a range of size that most would consider ideal. Below that size it is hard to read, handle pieces etc. Above that point, it is awkward to fit on a table etc. The question of where the ideal size lies is ultimately quite subjective.
 
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guttedgeek
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meowsqueak wrote:
I think the problem is that the game could have been much, much better. It's got too many flaws and no they are not charming ones either.


I'd love to hear what the flaws are...I thought it a fabulous thrill ride of a game and look forward to playing it again soon.

I am however holding out for AoS3...probably my most eagerly anticipated game...I do hope the legal nonsense doesn't delay it too much longer.
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Andrew Rae
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[/q]Actually, no - the oversized board is not a subjective game component, with your "love" equaling his "hate".

q]

Are you trying to say I cannot love the big board and remain rational? Are you are saying I am 'wrong' to love the big board and that 'objectively' it is bad because it is limiting to people with small tables? Heck tumbling dice is limiting to people with no hands, I don't see them changing it. Sorry but I didn't know my preference could be wrong. If it's all the same to you I might just choose to continue to like it. Thanks.

Irrespective I think you're right and they will change the size for the future editions for commercial reasons. Clearly there are more people like you than there are like me. I've got no problem with that. I don't think the game is perfect, but I don't think the big board is bad either. That is my opinion, you are welcome to yours.



 
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David
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guttedgeek wrote:
I'd love to hear what the flaws are...I thought it a fabulous thrill ride of a game and look forward to playing it again soon.


Mr Berlinger has already listed most, if not all and pretty accurately too - at the top of this thread.

I don't think anyone is saying it's a bad game (in fact I think it's quite fun) - the comments are on the production quality issues.

City colour and board size/warping were the two main issues for me. The map design is also poor in my opinion but that's in different class.

 
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Meowsqueek: Can you define "class" for me in relation to this game? I suspect you equal "class" with the brainburning aspect of "AoS" and "Reef Encounter". Could you elaborate on this point?
Thanks!

 
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David
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To be extra confusing (unintentionally I assure you) I've actually used the word twice in this thread, and each time in a different context with a different meaning.

The first time I was using it in the colloquial sense of 'quality' - especially in regards to the quality of the game components. E.g. a "classy" game... a bit vague I know. I guess the game leaves a bit of a sour taste for me. A 'classy' game (in my opinion) would be one that is beautifully executed with few (if any) flaws. It would be elegant and beautifully produced, with sublime gameplay. E.g. 2-player Caylus or Battle Line.

The second time, I used it in terms of classification, or distinction. I.e. different types. I realised I missed a word there - "a" prior to "different". The map *design* falls into a different type of issue, not that of production quality.

Hope that helps.
 
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Jason Cheng
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I think a lot of what you said are valid, but shouldn't be so glaring as to dampen one's enjoyment of the game.

In regards to the physical components, the board is huge, and I often wonder where I'd be able to put it if I ever get to play this at home. However, it does depicts the entire eastern half of US in detail, and to decrease its size would mean that everything else would have to be smaller (the hexes, the tiles, etc), personally I'm not too keen on fiddling with tiny components. As for the coloring, I guess now it makes sense why there was a discussion during the game setup about using markers to color some of the cities on the board, but didn't AoS also suffered from printing mistakes on its map as well? I will agree that the empty city markers are pretty ugly, those brown things are a sight for sore eyes.

About the game mechanics, the bidding for first player is pretty standard. Since everyone gets the same set of choices with no limited roles to pick from, therefore, going first or last in most cases don't have a significant impact, unless of course you are competing for a lucrative card, or to build a route/ship a cube first. As for the income reduction on the VP track after the half-way point, my take is that so the leaders can't just continue to issue shares and run away with the game. AoS prevents that by limiting the maximum number of shares at 15, since there's no such thing in RT, it decreases your earning as a result, so that even though you may be way out sitting pretty at 90 VP, you still have to have a way to pay for the debt you've incurred to get there.

In terms of screwing with other people, I thought in some ways there were more conflicts than AoS, especially since the selection of cross-track rail tiles are considerably more limited in RT. Nor does one get the benefit of the option to build or ship first like in AoS, so that if you did lose in the bid for going before a competing player, you're just out of luck.
 
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Mark Crocker
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Played once. I never expect to play it again. Love it, or leave it? I left.
 
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