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To begin with let's have a quick reminder of the main game/

  

RAILROAD REVOLUTION designed by Marco Canetta & Stefania Niccolini  illustrated by Mariano Iannelli
Published by WHAT'S YOUR GAME     for 2-4 Players aged12+    90-120 minutes    priced around £45.00

The playing area, the folded board, is a map of the USA with 15 Cities and adjoining Rail Lines printed across it. There is a track along the bottom of the board that represent the various Telegraph Offices which give in-game bonuses as well as end of game Victory Points. The right side of the board has three tracks which are used to multiply three different progresses you are making. Experience has shown us, rightly or wrongly, that these tracks are used sparingly during the first three-quarters of the game and then as the end game is looming players scramble to move their pieces up the tracks in an attempt to grab last-minute VPs. I am not suggesting this is a good tactic but it seems to be one that we have adopted and no amount of playing, even with different players, has managed to get us out of it.

The Rules book is 16 pages of colour coded sections, highlighted variations for less than 4 players and boxed and illustrated clear examples. If you look on the "What's Your Game" website you will find the rewritten rules book with variants on playing (Page 11 and Page 12) that you can print out. If you don't wish to reprint the complete rules booklet read through it comparing it to the new version and then cut and paste the differences into a programme like MS Word or MS Publisher and then print out only the differences. These can then be cut and carefully inserted into the relevant places of the original rules book.

There is a terrific, one of the best I have seen, video presentation of the game here: RAILROAD REVOLUTION

  

Set in 19th Century America after the passing of the Pacific Railroad Act when the United States opened itself up to the competitive spirit of several Railroad Companies. America began to expand with Homesteads and Towns springing up, all needing to be reached as quickly as possible by rail and by telegraphic communication. RAILROAD REVOLUTION is a game about building the railway across the States, expanding the communication possibilities by balancing your Building, Money and Shares in the Telegraph. This is an intelligent game with an average (board game) price tag but a much higher than average value in playability and replayability, and top quality components.

RAILROAD REVOLUTION has an interesting take on the mechanic regarding finances. There are $Dollar chips valued at $50, $100, $500 and $1000 which are used as cash and then there are $150 dollar Telegraph Share chips which are gained in various ways and can be exchanged on your turn; they trade both in and out at face value making them as good as cash.

    

Apart from being a financial balancing game this is also a worker Placement game. Each player begins with 4 White Meeples (workers) and there is a supply (bank) of Purple, Orange, Grey and Turquoise meeples/workers. On the player boards there are four sections, Station, Railroad, Western Union Telegraph and Trade which are associated with a specific mandatory action, and each of these has five optional other actions. To complete the main action in a section the player has to put one of their workers in that section, the colour of the worker used determines which of the five optional actions may be activated. In each section the use of a White worker has the same optional action - Promote a worker (either one from your board, including the one who activated the effect, or one from your off board supply) to Manager and place them on one of your Milestone cards (these are basically Task tiles) but there is a slight catch. When you Promote a worker you must still have a minimum of four workers still available to you (again either on the board or in supply). This, and the use of the exchange a worker ability is always a very important part of a player's strategy. A well thought through set of rules means that every "what if?" moment is covered (at least we haven't found any anomalies after several times playing). If you need to Promote a worker to Manager to fulfill a MIlestone (and gain its large quantity of VPs) you can use any colour to act as the White worker, though obviously if you do use a coloured worker as a White worker then you cannot also use the action associated with the colour.

The Milestones (tasks) are in five sets, A1 A2 B C and D, and each player begins with a randomly dealt A1 and A2. When a player completes a Milestone the Manager worker is returned to the game supply (not back to the player) and the player takes a new Milestone, well actually they take the top three Milestone cards, select one and put the other two to the bottom of the deck from whence they came. Then new Milestone is taken from the next letter along, so if you complete an A (1 or 2) you take a B etc, making it possible, but very unlikely, that you could complete 8 Milestones. If you manage this you will almost certainly win because the VPs for each Milestone is high.

    

Although you begin with 4 White workers and there are four Action Sections on your player board it is not one worker for each section; you may use each section as many times as you have workers. The game isn't played in set rounds, each player activates one worker/board section, does everything associated to that section/worker and then it is the next player's turn. The First Player marker never moves it is just used at the beginning of the game to determine who gets which Set-Up Tile (and randomly associated worker) and then who starts the game play. As play continues the players will grow their workforce past the original four and this doesn't usually occur in a uniform manner so after a while the players will most likely each have a different number of workers available. Once a player has all of their workers on their board, at the end of their turn they take them all back to their supply and have them to use again, thus the game keeps in perpetual motion.

The three tracks on the right of the board are multipliers. Specific symbols allow you to move your marker N number of spaces which you can use all on one track or between the three tracks as you wish. As you reach each waypoint your marker is on a multiplier and it stays on the same multiplier until you move it to the next waypoint. You only score these at the end of the game and this is why we spend much of the last quarter of play doing our level best to move our markers to the most advantageous positions. There are so many things to think of and consider while playing RAILROAD REVOLUTION and with the random set up there aren't any (as far as we know) short cuts or specific moves you have to make or actions you have to do to have a chance of winning.

One of the other strengths of RAILROAD REVOLUTION is that there are always options for the players. Tiles that are randomly placed on the Cities and in the Telegraph Stations at the beginning of the game each offer a reward of some kind, usually at a cost; when this game talks of cost it usually means you have to pay Cash, Shares or even workers, according to what you are doing, and where you are doing it. But the unusual and really good thing about these tiles is that they remain where they are placed throughout the game so that they are there for all players to use them. Each City and each Railway space and each Telegraph space can have a maximum of one of each player's pieces on it, thus there is no blocking anyone from reaching any city on the board.

  

Another good and useful idea is that the same symbols occur multiple times throughout on different types of tiles and cards etc and on each they mean the same thing so once you have learnt and understood the many symbols there are you can quickly and easily know what each space has to offer and what it costs to visit it. You never put workers on the main central board, only your personal board, Stations, Offices (the same shape wooden piece represents both buildings) and train lines. There is also a first-person award that players get for being the first to build a Station at a City or a Telegraph Office for Western Union. I could keep on saying "and another good thing" over and over. Players have one Train tile to begin with and then can obtain more during play. These give an advantageous bonus but are then flipped over from their full colour side to the grey side, then they have no value. However there is an action on the Trade section of your board that allows you to flip them back. At the end of the game if they are coloured side up they have VP bonuses so it's useful to use them for their bonuses but also to make sure you flip them back in time for scoring - they can be flipped over and over they are not one-shot. Everything about RAILROAD REVOLUTION states that it has been tried and tested many times by games players, not just friends of the designers, before being published. Then it has been polished by WHAT'S YOUR GAME into a game worthy of winning any of the board game awards given. 

The EXPANSION: RAILROAD EVOLUTION

We like RAILROAD REVOLUTION and to be fair we didn't think it could be improved. Marco Canetta & Stefania Niccolini have proven with this expansion that improvement is possible. As an expansion it is the game itself that is extended in depth rather than allowing for additional players (it doesn't) or changing the theme of the game (it doesn't) or using a different country map (it doesn't).

RAILROAD EVOLUTION includes a new game-map-board, expansions to the Player's Personal Boards, Perfromance Tiles, Reward Tiles, Telegraph Tiles (for the new and improved Telegraph system, Wagons, Tenders, a new scoring system and more than subtle changes to the game-play itself.

FINANCIAL THOUGHTS:
At around £20.00 from your local game store this is a more than valuable
, almost priceless, asset to your boardgaming fun. If you think on things from a purely financial viewpoint by paying the additional £20.00 your overall outlay will be around £65.00, but as it is unlikely that you will revert to the original gameplay after using the expansion you will be back to seeing it as a £45.00 game, so it is, in my opinion, better to buy the game and the expansion, play the base game 4-6 times in reasonably quick succession (so mentally you will consider it good value for money) and then add in the expansion and consider that you have bought a new game for £20.00.

 

Of course you still require the original game to be able to play with all of these new pieces and options, but then if you are a regular Train-Board-Game player you are almost certain to already have WHAT'S YOUR GAMES 'RAILROAD REVOLUTION' in your game library. The majority of rules from the original game are still implemented when using this expansion but the rules that have been changed are all explained in the 6 page pullout leaflet that accompanies the new components.

The board itself has been changed mainly to accommodate the new rules for Wagons and Tenders, Performance Track and Telegraph system. Wagons and Tenders being new tiles that once obtained have actions that are activated when their attached train is flipped (not flipped back), a Performance Track that has been streamlined and slimmed and altered include random rewards, and the Telegraph system which no longer has bonus VPs printed on it, instead there are numbered tiles that are randomly placed during setup to make play around them not so obvious for each game.

If you'll forgive the pun, Railroads are always going forwards, evolving as such, and this product complies with that motion. The Telegraph system has evolved so that it is no longer static even though it is still a good source of VPs at the game end as well as a means to gaining bonus actions during play.

One of the innovative ideas that we like a lot is that when you sell off one of your pieces from your personal board, either a Building or a Track, you not only get the money it is valued at (as show on the board) but you also gain a Wagon or a Tender (all Tenders being equal) while all Wagons have different bonuses and effects.

The Performance tiles are collected as your score marker gains higher ground on the track. These tiles have end-of-game VP bonuses depending on the position they hold on the 'new' expansion part of your personal board

  

The new components make this a more than acceptable different version of the original game and for once, unlike many expansions, does not add anything superfluous or alter anything detrimentally, the changes are all for the good; of the game and the playability.

We have maybe one quibble about RAILROAD REVOLUTION that carries over to RAILROAD EVOLUTION and this is that each player rarely/barely influences or interacts with any other player. There are tiles that can be taken which other players might have wanted, or first Building positions that give additional bonus effects which other players cannot get, but in general there is very minimum player interaction. In many games this would be a major problem but for some difficult to explain reason it increases the challenge for each RAILROAD EVOLUTION player to score more VPs.

 

As a family game it is possibly a little 'heavy' on the rules and possibilities per player-turn than one would generally associate with a family game (think the majority of Spears, Waddingtons, MB Games etc). It also being heavy on thoughtful activity/actions it doesn't make for a great game for younger players, with even the suggested 12 years and upward players finding it a hard break from their portable phone games.

With the above in mind I am mildly surprised that there isn't a built-in opposing player to allow for single-player games. You can play it solo and time yourself to reaching the finale, making a note of the length of time it took you to complete the game; then next time you can attempt to beat your previous (or best) time.

To make it more difficult for yourself try placing some 'opposing' pieces on random positions, especially the 'first position' on Stations and Telegraph offices, if you decide for a solo effort.

During lockdown I played it through solo a couple of times and the game stood up mechanically as a single-player device, though I missed the table banter. The quietness did allow me to think clearer and make more thoughtful decisions. I concluded though that even if there is almost no interaction between players it is still better played with 3-4 players.                       

 

Overall the game and expansion are extremely well produced and presented, and will be one of the few holding a strongly visible position on many core-boardgame-player's games shelf.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015