£26.00 Standard £56.00 Deluxe
Dean Morris's game of PACIFIC RAILS INC completed its Kickstarter campaign early last year and is currently either on its way to subscribers or has already arrived. You can buy it from many local game stores or direct from Vesuvius Media Ltd.
I imagine most players who have bought this will be pleased with the way the plastic miniatures have been sculpted and produced. I am not going overboard on their detail but, for example, whereas markers like the old wooden Monopoly™ Houses and Hotels would have sufficed, the plastic Station House buildings are visually more pleasing. I like the way that the publishers, Vesuvius Media, have not taken the easy route with the model engines and just provided three of the same mould, instead there are two for game operation and one, smaller and different, as a score marker.
Other resources and markers that appear as cardboard die-cut counters with the base game are available as 3D plastic or resin models ranging from adequate steel bars, logs barrels and coins to eye-pleasing workers on to excellent Top hats and Stetsons.
Having said I like the 3D minis there are a couple of cardboard components that are disappointing (to use the most appropriate, positive and careful word I can think of).The player's start with an engine board that has two carriages in which they carry their resources.
These boards are thin but do the job so no complaints, however, along the way players can complete their train with up to three new carriages (also separate boards) and these boards do not couple up to either the Train or other carriages - the artwork is fine but for some reason the boards don't match up. Of course this makes no difference to the game play but it shows a minor laziness in either the printing department or quality control.
My other concern over the components are the Tunnel tiles. Shown below, I have added the exceptionally fine line-art illustrations (cough, cough) to show the direction the rails enter and leave the tunnels.
To be completely fair to player and publisher, they are quite poor in print, design and clarity. If you look very, very carefully at them you will see that there are train lines on them: some of these lines go directly into the tunnel, some go in at an angle, some come out the sides, all require you to waste time searching for the correct one. For our games when a tunnel is needed we place any Tunnel Tile without checking it to keep the game flowing. After all, a tunnel is a tunnel is a tunnel!
The board is made up of several printed components. The lower half shows the East and West coasts and the game's objective requires the joining up of these two coasts by an inter-linking series of Railway Lines, Telegraph Poles and Stations.
Players begin with one train on each coast and can build from either or both using pre-created track, bridge and tunnel tiles. To reach the other coast it only takes rails from each coast to meet up, they do not have to belong to one player.
The top half of the board is where players make the most of their decisions. There are nine basic action buildings; four of these are for collecting resources, each also has a 'special action' that can be activated if you wish and you have the necessary components to do so.
The central building has two parts where you can place workers. One side lets you spend resources to hire multiple specialists and the other half allows you to lay track on the lower board. There are stipulations to laying track that must be adhered to.
First, you have to already have created the required track tiles and secondly those tracks must be placed to reach a city square - you may never build track without reaching a city and you may never lay track past a city in the same turn as reaching it - your train stops at the city.
The N,E.S.W. buildings each show the silhouette of one of the worker types, these are Foremen! They each have an ability which you can use multiple times as long as you have the necessary requirements; the Foremen also allow you to 'run your train' which means any action associated to your train and carriages can now be activated.
When you lay track you gain Victory Points. If you pass through a city owned by another player they will score points. It is often better to give away a few points to gain more, but not always good judgement to give away more points than you earn (though even that works in your favour some times).
PACIFIC RAILS Inc is a clever 2-4 player worker placement game. It has beautiful components and is fun to play. It is aimed at 14 year olds and above because it requires the planning and thought that younger players may not be capable of keeping up with. There are so many actions possible to choose from that it is easy to mistake it for a complicated game rather than the family strategy game that it is.
The box reckons 45-60 minutes play time but even with the number of times we have played being taken into account we have yet to break the hour mark, as I said previously, there are many options/actions available and quite often you cannot plan them in advance.
Players used to worker placement and building games should be aware (like I totally forgot) that the objective is to lay a track from one side of the board to the other using any previously laid rails. Once a player lays track and scores it then it it becomes public property, only the cities are player owned - Stations and Telegraph poles on the board in cities may add extra VPs to their owners. On my first game I erred by building my own little railroad, attempting to complete the join-up on my own. I lost quite badly as I was too late to notice that the other players had already realised it was prudent to use previously laid lines, no matter who laid them. I haven't done it since.
He's not supposed to wear the hat but it looks kinda cute and funny at the same time.
There are 20 pages of rules, including the covers. Many of these have lots of colourful illustrations and explicit instructions for every action. Laying track is not the only way to score VPs. Lobbying Congress (the Top Hats) is a neat mechanism that costs 1-3 coins and buys special actions, the Top Hats are moved down to these special action spaces. When someone uses an action to reset these to the top space that player gains 1VP per Top Hat returned to its starting position.
Even though there are lots of illustrations and examples throughout the 20 pages there is also a lot of text. If you don't read the rules thoroughly and make sure all players understand their options then you will most probably miss some of the small but definitely not insignificant information contained therein.
There are a dozen additional end game VP scorers that players can aim for. They are useful for gaining a few VPs but don't make them your long-term aim. Go for them only if what they require is within your strategy, that's my suggestion.
Publishers: Vesuvius Media Ltd 38 Pioneer Avenue Nova Scotia, Halifax, B3M 1W8
The Base game box contains the following:
PACIFIC RAILS Inc: completed a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Despite my mini-bitchin' about the Tunnels and the Rolling Stock hook-ups it is a good game for four players who enjoy light strategy play with the visuals and content of Railway games. All of our review players have been happy to play it again.