Railroad Tycoon Session Report
31st December 2005
This was our second game in as many days. I'd got the game on Boxing Day and played it then. Yesterday I played the game with my partner and her parents - none of them had ever played Age Of Steam or RRT, and although my partner Jan plays a fair few games, her parents are definitely not gamers. It was therefore a good endorsement for the game that they asked to play it again tonight.
It was an interesting game. I'd been dealt the Tycoon that made links to Chicago worthwhile, but I started in the northeast just building a couple of very short links before turning my attention westwards. The other three players had seen the northeast provide the runaway leaders in their previous game, and did much the same - everyone grabbed a couple of links there at the start of the game. That, together with a truly grim set of cubes in the area, meant that this time there was little profit on that section of the board.
My other plan was to keep a tight rein on the debt. I had to issue one share just to get things going, but the bonus for the first delivery and building just two pieces of track in the first few rounds meant that I never issued a second. Meanwhile Jan issued shares hand over fist in an effort to grab not only the first three-link delivery and the level four loco, but also the Atlanta to Richmond card that was on display at the start. I let her do this, although it saw her build up an enormous lead. Could it be clawed back?
Apart from that first one, route cards played no part in the game - the only other card that came out early enough was New Orleans to the north, and no-one fancied that. The goods delivery bonuses were snapped up as soon as they were drawn, except Duluth - from the start of the game to the very end, the good citizens of Duluth waited in vain for the iron horse to arrive.
While Jan was building to Atlanta, I was buildng links out of Chicago and quickly established total dominance. This also opened up several 2-point deliveries, and the possibility for a lot of good 3s, 4s and 5s later on by urbanizing one of the greys to provide a market for all the purple cubes around the windy city.
Jan built to Atlanta and kept going, in what was a barely concealed attempt to build the lonhest network. She also developed the first 6 loco, as well as going from the eastern seaboard all the way to the west. Meanwhile both her parents built a series of 2 to 4 link railways scattered around the board, but perhaps missing the focus that is required for really worthwhile deliveries. Jan ultimately stalled because she concentrated rather too much on building rather than delivering, and I'd caught up with her points total by the end even before she lost the 11 points for the shares that had been issued.
The game's end bears some comment. Yesterday, we'd misunderstood the game end conditions, and brought proceedings to a close at the end of the turn in which the last empty city marker (of those used in a four-player game) was placed, leaving everyone feeling that the game had ended far too quickly (in just under 2 hours). Tonight, thanks to better familiarity with the game, we'd played the same number of turns in 2/3rds of the time. We also misread the rule (again) about precisely when it was to end - instead of playing to the end of the turn after the one when the markers were all placed for the first time, we "reset the timer" when some of the empty cities were refilled through card play and urbanization. When we realized our mistake, and that this should not postpone the end of the game, we all decided that we preferred it our way after all, as it meant that the game went one extra turn. It was impossible for any one player to refill enough cities to put off the inevitable permanent exhaustion of the empty city marker supply, so the game only went an extra turn beyond that which the rules stipulated, and as the whole game only lasted 90 minutes everyone was happy with this outcome.
Despite the game going longer than the rules provide for, there were still lots of areas without access to the railway, lots of cubes and lots of possibilities remaining. Significantly, although I could have spent the money to build the Western Link, there was no point - it wasn't required for my Tycoon card, there was no route card available requiring it, and I really couldn't see the benefit of 4 red cubes worth 2 points each when I was already shipping other cubes for 4 and 5 points a time.
Apart from the board issues (colour - which confused one in-law several times despite this being the second game - and warping, which was still evident despite another day under the telly) the only real issue that I have with the game is that certain areas of the board are less profitable than others, a situation that could be ameliorated with different rules and cost for building the Western Link. I'm afraid four red cubes, which have to go to Chicago, seems like a particularly poor return on $30,000.