I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time now, but with three or so jobs and other commitments, I just haven’t had the energy or time. I’ll have a lot to say.. But here’s for now: Railroad Tycoon is officially really cool.
I’m a fan. Both of Railroad Tycoon, the computer game (I remember a day when my cousin was visiting us and we ended up playing Railroad Tycoon for something like six to eight hours on our Amiga 500) and Age of Steam, which is the game behind Railroad Tycoon.
(No matter how Railroad Tycoon was, I was even more charmed by Transport Tycoon, which had more stuff in it. Now there was a neat game, the only flaw was that it didn’t allow speeding up, which meant long, boring sessions waiting for enough money to pile up for you to actually do something.)
I’ve had my doubts, certainly. For starters, Eagle Games doesn’t strike me as a producer of quality boardgames. Sure, they look good and who knows, maybe the games are actually good — but not for me. Most of stuff they’ve done simply doesn’t interest me a bit. Second unknown factor was the dumbing down of the game — would it be too simple?
Now I’ve seen the pics and read the rules, I can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s going to be good, real good. First of all, at least in the pictures, it looks bloody good. While I really like the spartan Age of Steam look, I really do, I don’t mind a bit of glitter and plastic.
Then, the new features. The turn auction remains, but much weakened — now the only thing that matters is who goes first, which of course makes the auction less interesting. Of course, going first has some major advantages, but if the player on your right is bidding hard to be first, why bother, since you’ll be number two anyway?
Gone are the player roles, too. They are replaced with actions — each player has three actions each turn and those can be chosen from a certain set. The set features some of the actions that used to be roles — urbanization and engine upgrade, for example. Everybody can choose their actions despite what others choose. No more skipping vital engine upgrades because somebody bid more than you!
That’s, of course, a ton of tension gone. Fortunately it’s not completely wasted. There’s going to be lots of grinding of teeth and pulling of hair, as the three actions are going to be a short supply. You see, moving goods is not a separate phase anymore — it’s one of the actions. There’s also an action for drawing cards, and I bet some of those cards are going to be pretty sweet. So, what are you going to do? Upgrade engines, build, urbanize, move goods, pick up a good card, do some of those things twice? Pick three!
So while something’s been lost, a lot has been gained. The new action mechanism sounds simple and engaging. I’m slightly afraid of analysis paralysis, but proper prodding will keep the game moving on, I’m sure.
Even though I’m still a big fan of Age of Steam (the Warfrog expansion #4 is on my Essen buy list), I’m really looking forward to Railroad Tycoon. I’m expecting it’ll add some colour to the game, add some value and provide a different experience. I’m sure it can’t challenge the pleasure of fighting a tough battle over the Irish railways, but maybe it’ll be a gateway experience to draw more people to the world of boardgame railroading?