Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Apparently, I'm hot (Railroad Tycoon: Rails of England and Wales, Mission: Red Planet)

It's getting late, so I'll keep this short.

We played the brand new Railroad Tycoon map, Rails of England and Wales. Now this is a map I hadn't even heard of until it was staring me in the face at Fungamescafe.com. Probably, this is partly due to the fact that it's actually an expansion to the upcoming Rails of the World game and not Railroad Tycoon. However, it's by the same designer and is 100% compatible, so that's good enough for me.

This expansion comes with advanced rules to play a game that more closely resembles Chicago Express or an 18xx game, but we didn't bother with that just yet. As an expansion to Railroad tycoon, it is pretty good. Better than the base map, but not as good as the Europe one. The city density is incredibly high, to the point that the board becomes quite hard to read by the time you are 3/4 through a game. The railroad engineer card, which gives you 4 free tracks, loses some of it's value because you rarely need to build that many.

We played with a series of variants which seemed lifted from Martin Wallace's recent "Steam". Six piles of goods are available at all times to choose from for urbanize actions, turn order is auctioned, etc. Most interesting was the mechanic that forced a player to choose between gaining victory points or income when claiming deliveries. Unfortunately, while the goods cubes setup was a great addition, the income/ VP split was less interesting in practice. I can't say whether it feels different in Steam, but the sliding income scale in RRT meant that we all pretty much gave up on increasing our income at the same level. I'd have to see how the income track works in Steam, but ultimately I think I'll stick with the combined track for RRT in the future (one benefit of the Europe/ England tracks is that the income reductions come sooner, providing a more tangible impact on the leader).

I enjoyed the map. Amazingly, colour issues persist. Grey appears to be blue when the two aren't side by side. Purple is also similar. How hard can it be to get this right?

I had a good lead for much of the game but I boxed myself in to a region that had no future. As other players were starting their long deliveries, I was struggling to find ANY deliveries. Shemp, Luch and Kozure had a pretty tight finish, but if I'm not mistaken Shemp ended up victorious with the help of a north/south track that tied in well with a couple of his own hotels and proved quite lucrative.

Mission: Red Planet

We haven't played this one in a long while (January 2007, to be exact), and I was wondering if it was worth keeping. Now that I've played, I think I'll keep it for a while longer. There is a mixture of chaos and relatively fast play which is pleasant and fun. Kozure said he felt that with a few tweaks, he would consider this better than El Grande. I absolutely disagree, but in the end neither Kozure's comments or my disagreement are very surprising. As entertaining as the whole choosing of roles + launching mechanic can be, the area majority part of the game is kind of lacking. The situation on Mars seems pretty static throughout the game, and the scoring mechanism (giving only the majority any points at all) is a little heavy handed.

Anyway, I amassed a large stash of Ice as well as the 3 point resource, fullfilling both the 9 point bonus and my secret mission, for the win. All three other players used their seductress to convert my cubes, so I must be pretty hot.

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