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Railroad Rivals

Build stations, buy stock, and ship goods, in a tycoon board game that keeps things fast and simple.

Using historical logos and real life cities, Railroad Rivals taps into the history of railroads, as players compete to create a railroading empire.

Gameplay

Each round is divided into four phases. During the first phase, city tiles and stock tiles are drawn, equal to the number of players. Players then bid for turn order, using their points. The player who went last in the previous round gets to bid first and players keep bidding until all but one player has passed. That player then spends the points they bid and will be start player for the rest of the round. No other player’s turn order is affected.

During the next phase, beginning with the start player, players take turns drafting tiles one at a time. You draft one city tile and one stock tile. Each stock tile is associated with one of the twelve railroads in the game and there are four for each railroad.

Next, beginning with the start player, players place city tiles adjacent to the tiles already on the board. Each city tile has a number on it and a railroad company’s name along each edge. In order to place a city tile, you must connect one of these railroad names with the same railroad along the edge of a city tile already on the board. You then place one of your game pieces, connecting these two tiles to show that you control the railroad between them. If you have a legal tile to place, you must place it. You then draw tokens from the goods bag equal to the number on the newly placed tile and place them on that tile. These are the goods present in that city.

After each player has placed a city tile you move onto the final phase. Beginning with the start player, each player may ship one good token from one city tile to an adjacent city tile if the tiles are connected by a railway. You score more points for being the first or second player to ship that color of token that round. If you use a railway controlled by another player, they also score two points. Finally, you look at the name of the railway being used to ship the goods, and move its token up one point on the stock value track. After each player has shipped one goods token the round ends and a new one begins.

The game continues until the city tile stack runs out, any one player has placed their last city tile, and the round is completed. Players then check how much their stock tiles are worth, earning points for each tile based on the railroad’s position in the stock value tracker, they add these points to their current score. The player with the most points wins.

Railroad Rivals Components

Review

Railroad Rivals streamlines the tycoon genre, and makes managing your own railroad company easy to both learn and teach. Gameplay is not overly complex, and your choices are kept simple, but there’s enough strategy in there to also keep things interesting.

Bidding on turn order is important, since being in first place allows you to take the first action during each phase of the round. Since only first place is bid on, you are also essentially bidding on going second on the next turn, as you will slide down to that spot after someone outbids you for the next round. It’s a nice touch that you get to see which tiles are available before you bid and the fact that you bid with points, keeps things simple. However there’s an optional rule that determines turn order based on the order in which people pass during the bidding that made the bidding process feel a bit more unpredictable and interesting.

Drafting works really well in this game and since each player takes only one stock and one city tile, there is a great strategic moment when you choose which tile is more important and which to grab first. In fact, there are a lot of fantastic moments filled with tough choices, ranging from which railroads to choose when shipping and where to place a tile and spawn goods.

The historical aspects of the game are a nice touch. Real historic railroad names and logos are used. The artwork on the city tiles also have a nice, old-timey feel to them and together with the feel and quality of the game components, there is a really nice retro flavor to Railroad Rivals.

Railroad Rivals is thoroughly enjoyable. If you like a heavy dose of strategy without complex rules, you’re going to have a lot of fun with this. A game night well spent.

Pros: Historical touches, strategic yet not overly complicated

Cons: We preferred the optional turn order bidding rules

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.