Helcon 2008 review, part 2: Preußische Ostbahn

Continuing my Helcon review, see part 1 here, there’s also part 3 and part 4.

Preußische Ostbahn box

Preußische Ostbahn. Another Historic Railroads System game from Winsome, fairly closely related to Wabash Cannonball. However, this one’s billed as “German family game”. Indeed, the game is a lot more gentle — yet still quite a challenge.

This time the railroads are building in Germany. There are eight different railroad companies, each of which has a special characteristic based on its history. Köln-Mindener, for example, was focused on paying dividends, hence it can only spend $5 on track-building each turn. Each railroad has three shares and a bunch of track cubes.

The turn order mechanism is the key to this game. Each round players put cubes in a cup. The player in lead puts in one cube, the second puts two cubes, third three and so on. Then cubes are drawn from the cup, one for each player, and put in order on the player order track. That’s how the turns are taken. If you’re first (and there are more than three players), the odds are pretty good that you won’t take a turn. For few rounds… This is a really nice mechanic, if you can tolerate not taking turns for a while. Of course, the important thing is to guarantee success even when you don’t get turns.

Turns can be used in three ways. You can pass, expand a railroad or sell shares. Expanding costs money, increases the railroad income and triggers dividend payments. Every time two railroads meet for the first time a general dividend payout is triggered, with the railroad doing the connecting build paying double dividends.

Shares are sold in auctions, just like in other Winsome games. The order is somewhat limited: every company must sell their second share before any can sell their third (the game begins with an auction of the first share of each company). The game feels more gentle than Wabash because the shares won’t dilute. Buy a share and you get the full value of the share added to your personal income.

I played the game twice, once with four players and once with three players. Both times there was lots of money in the game, with winning scores up in approximately $400. Strange enough, the four-player game was actually richer: the winner had $472, while I won the three-player game with just $391.

In the first game I thought we had a runaway leader, as one player had huge dividends. He did win, but I was second with $421, so the difference was smaller than I expected. The winner paid too much for some shares, that’s why, I think. The strategy is somewhat hazy for now, but apparently the players in lead should invest in the companies owned by the players who are behind, since those companies will see plenty of development.

The game ends when each company is directly connected to at least two different companies (or everybody agrees that’s not possible). I like the end condition, it seems fairly natural and has enough control.

I like Preußische Ostbahn a lot, perhaps even more than Wabash, at least now, because Ostbahn is simply more fun to play.

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One response to “Helcon 2008 review, part 2: Preußische Ostbahn”

  1. Yeah, I probably payed too much for some shares in that four-player game. I usually don’t analyze things too much the first time I play a game, better to keep it going and try things and see what happens. Great game, I liked it a lot!