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Mr. Bunny
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Chicago Express – Review
(Originally posted on BoardGame-Reviews.com)

Chicago Express is a train game currently published by Queen Games. Originally, it was known as Wabash Cannonball and was released in a limited format by Winsome Games.

Chicago Express:

* Designed by: Harry Wu
* Published by: Queen Games
* Number of players: 2-6
* Playing time: 60 min
* Player ages: 12+

A Quick Overview

Chicago Express pits players as investment tycoons attempting to maximize their returns in this stock market manipulation game.

Players take turns to purchase shares, develop land and expand railroad networks of four (or five) railroad companies. Once a railroad company reaches Chicago, the ambitious Wabash Cannonball comes into play.

After each round is over, the railroad companies issue dividends to share owners. After the last dividend is paid out, the richest investor is the winner.

Do you have what it takes to become the next wealthy railroad tycoon?

Game Play

On a player’s turn, they have available a choice among three actions:

* Auction a share
* Develop
* Expand railroad

In the game, there are 4 primary railroad companies, B&O, C&O, PRR, and NY Central and each has a limited amount of shares.

Auctioning shares is the primary way to put money into company coffers which is necessary for expansion. Other ways are to develop woodland areas.

Shares are also the means to receiving dividend income from the companies.

Developing other areas such as cities and mountain terrain increase the value of railroad companies.

And finally, expansion allows companies to attempt to reach Chicago.

Observations

I have played Chicago Express in both of its incarnations. Personally, I prefer the austere Wabash Cannonball look to Queen’s Chicago Express look.

Regardless of which you prefer, I think this is an excellent game!

For train enthusiasts who don’t wish to play several hours worth of a single game, Chicago Express provides an appropriate experience in about 60 minutes.

Game play is fast, decisions have significant impact on your financial standing and money is tight!

Wabash Cannonball listed the minimum age requirement as being “29+” but I have taught this game to younger players (11 & 13). The younger players have some difficulty in deciding what a good move is but that didn’t dampen their gaming experience.

What I have found about this game is that no two games are ever exactly alike and that is a great bonus.

I have played this game with all player ranges. I think it scales well for each of the player counts though I do prefer a 3-4 player game.

Also, I have found that players who played a single game immediately want to play another game of it right away. That, to me, is a sign of a great game.

Chicago Express definitely is a step up from lighter “train-themed” games such as Ticket to Ride.

While the full-flavour of 18xx games are richer and provide a greater breadth of stock market manipulations, Chicago Express does carve out a niche for itself in this economic manipulation genre.

I highly recommend it!
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Matt Olson
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usagi-san wrote:
Wabash Cannonball listed the minimum age requirement as being “29+” but I have taught this game to younger players (11 & 13). The younger players have some difficulty in deciding what a good move is but that didn’t dampen their gaming experience.

I have a theory, which has next to no research other than gaming observations, that most young people struggle with games such as this, because they concern taking into account other people's motivations and strategies.

I have found, that in games of multiple solitaire, the teenagers I have played with can win consistently. However, in games such as CE, Imperial or Power Grid, where you must be concerned with all other player's intentions, options, motivations etc, they struggle to compete.

Becoming employed, getting married and having children immensely increase one's capacity to consider other people. I wonder if there is correlation between this and one's ability with such games?
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Jay Sheely
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Hmmm, our 3 plays were all exactly alike. I don't remember the details but I do remember not being thrilled with the gameplay.

Owners of Red drove straight to Chicago. Auctions were usually lopsided. I wish I could remember more so someone could tell what 'traps' we may have fallen into. Anyways, there wasn't enough to keep me interested and after the 3 plays, I had had my fill.

Although, I liked the mechanisms and trigger-dials a lot. I traded it for Hannibal.
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Matt Olson
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Man or Astroman wrote:

Owners of Red drove straight to Chicago. Auctions were usually lopsided. I wish I could remember more so someone could tell what 'traps' we may have fallen into. Anyways, there wasn't enough to keep me interested and after the 3 plays, I had had my fill.

There are many ways to prevent this from happening; this is a game of negotiation among other things. You could buy into red and send expand it away from Chicago; you could attempt to block it with another company (form an alliance with other non-red members to do this); you could seduce the weaker red member away from helping the stronger get to Chicago; auction a third red share when the other 2 red players aren't in a position to buy it (even if you yourself can't buy it); divert red player's funds buy auctioning shares in their other company interests.

This game is an onion.
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J C Lawrence
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Man or Astroman wrote:
Hmmm, our 3 plays were all exactly alike. I don't remember the details but I do remember not being thrilled with the gameplay.


Read the Joseki articles and then come back.
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Mr. Bunny
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Man or Astroman wrote:
Hmmm, our 3 plays were all exactly alike.


I am sorry that your games ended up this way In a lot of the games that I have played, it was quite rare for red to make it to Chicago.

But if you didn't like it, then you didn't like it. Perhaps you may give it another go.

Happy gaming.
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Jay Sheely
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I am curious to play again although I've never seen another copy (in stores of course but never at a game night).

Mainly, I just didn't want the game in my collection as I'm trying to just have what I consider highly rated games and nothing on a 'lower tier'. Still working to that end.

But yes: would play, would explore, would likely enjoy.
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