Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Railroad Rivals by Forbidden Games (Review)

We are constantly looking for board games to add to our ever growing game shelf. I especially like maintaining a wide range of game styles to appeal to any crowd. I love a rowdy evening of Cards against Humanity or Taboo, but when playing with my husband, our preferred style leans more to complex strategic play such as Cosmic Encounter or Pandemic.

Railroad Rivals, by Forbidden Games leans toward what we like, with the added bonus of not being too complicated or for those who aren't avid gamers. The game held a campaign on Kickstarter, earning over 40k more than their goal in 2018, and I was very please to receive a copy of the game for review.

Set up
I will say, and maybe it was just user error, we found the rules a bit confusing before actually playing for the first time.

For example, I read through 2.5 pages of set up rules, placing the pieces as I read, only to come to a “see 2 player rules” on a separate page. Which had us starting over and redoing the necessary sorting and separating for a two player game. 

I can hear my 7th grade English teacher telling me to read all the instructions first - but I still would have liked clear indication up front that a two player game was going to have a different set up.

Game Play and Scoring
The game is inspired by the railroad tycoon era of the late 1800s and revolves around laying tiles to create railroad links, connecting them like Carcassonne or Dominos, as well as acquiring stocks for the various railroad systems you or other players may travel through.

Each turn every player will get a new city tile to lay down, as well as a new stock tile. Rounds begin with bidding existing points to be first player, getting first pick of the tiles (the game even begins with each player having a few points to start)

You can own multiple stocks for each railroad system, and will gain points in the end of the game depending on how often that railroad was used during play, by you or otherwise.

You will also gain points by being the first to move a certain 'good', such as grain, wood, coal or steel, determined by different color cubes. Furthermore, you will gain 2 points each time another player travels a link that you established.

How we liked it
After starting, game-play went smoothly and was simple to follow. The two player version was a bit dull, as you earn points for being the first to move certain goods, however you only work with ONE good with two players so it was no mystery who was scoring higher each round.

Later we played the game with four as well as with three players and it was much more enjoyable. There was a lot more strategy and planning involved with more players, which is an aspect we really enjoy.

Age Range
The box suggests that it can be played with players age 8+. We decided to give it a go with my 9 year old, as we're always looking for games to involve her to hopefully one day have her playing on our level.

While she played fine, she had a bit of trouble understanding and eventually got bored and we had to deal her out of the game. I wouldn’t say that is a knock against the game, just her attention span at that moment. I think the game is perfectly suited for children her age with maybe a bit of educating on how stocks work so they understand why that element is important to the game.

In fact, this game could be a great addition to a history lesson about the era and some basic economics instruction.

Expansion Packs and Alternative Rules
The copy I received has an insert that excitedly declared a previous expansion is now included in the base game, filled with hotels and tower additions.

We have not yet played with that add on, mainly because the insert with the incorporating rules, cuts off before telling you what they do!

I was able to find them online and look forward to giving that version a try.

The game also has an extensive set of rules for playing a solitary game. While I'm not big of solo play games, I feel happy knowing I have them if I am in the mood and no one else is.

Forbidden Games has announced that on February 26th, there will be a new Kickstarter for the next expansion pack entitled Robber Baron expansion, that promises to add even more strategy opportunities!

The artwork is subdued compared to many other games we play, and reminiscent of steampunk and old sepia photos.  The figures look like cartoon drawings. Knowing that the city images are/were real landmarks in the cities mentioned as they were in the early 20th century makes it super cool. The logos for the railway stocks are also authentic to that time period.

The version of the game I own is the standard one retailing for $49.99, which is about average for most quality games. There is a also a premium version that costs $79.99. While that seems like a lot, it includes wooden tiles instead of cardboard tiles, which will have the game lasting possibly decades longer and give it an even more authentic old-time feel! I'd say that's worth it for sure.

Overall Impression
Once you're familiar with the gameplay this game is fun to play and provides strategy without being so complex that new players are lost.  I can see us turning to this many times in the future with both our family and with friends. 


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