Skip to main content

Board Game Review: Railroad Rivals


A few months ago at GenCon I had the pleasure of speaking with the team from Forbidden Games about their recent release of Railroad Rivals. After taking a cursory look at the game, I came away with a copy of it and a bit of excitement about getting on the table.

There are two different editions of Railroad Rivals available on the 20181019_215848Forbidden Games website – the standard edition (which is what I brought home) and the platinum edition. The latter features upgraded wooden tiles and components which are lovely to hold in hand, but even in the standard edition, the component quality overall is very high. I found some minor issues with my copy (a locomotive or two was not sized the same as the rest in the supply and one of the railroad stock counter tokens was missing) but the publisher took care of the problem quickly after I contacted customer service. The sturdiness and beauty of the components in the game is a reflection of the improvements in craftsmanship among board game manufacturers based in Asia.

The artwork featured in Railroad Rivals is clean and tailored and suits the theme well.

At a recent game night, I suggested we give Railroad Rivals a try and gathered together 4 other interested players. We opened the game and dug into the rule book. It’s easy to follow and features a detailed breakdown of each phase in a turn, which is very helpful. What would be even more helpful would be for the publisher to include player aid cards for each player listing the phases and key details so that we don’t have to keep passing around the rule book. This isn’t an omission exclusive to Forbidden Games; many publishers overlook this player friendly offering. 

We really enjoyed the game. The bidding of victory points for turn order mechanism employed in Railroad Rivals isn’t something I’ve encountered before and it was an interesting logical puzzle to consider. Should I be willing to give up victory points to go first? When is it worth it and when should you keep your place in line? I was last in line initially and could never stomach paying the high prices our bidding would raise so I remained last in line for all key actions the entire game. That definitely put me at a disadvantage and I lost the game. But so did 3 other players, all of whom paid the steep prices at least once to shift to first place. I’m looking forward to getting some guidance from my husband (PhD in statistics; he did not join in the initial game) on optimum strategy for the bidding phase.

20181019_215836Pictured: Player positions after a round of bidding first to last, from left to right.

After bidding for position, players take turns selecting (based on player position) railroad stock tiles to add to their portfolio and city tiles to add to their hand. Next, everyone takes turns (based again on player position) on laying down a new city tile, domino style, to expand the current rail network. Each tile laid down is secured to the existing network with the player’s railroad token and is stocked with the number of goods specified on the card (goods are pulled randomly out of a velvet grab bag). The last phase of the turn consists of delivering goods from one tile to another across a railroad link, rewarding the active player, the player who owns the railroad link used (as long as it isn’t the active player), and the stockholders of the railroad used.

20181019_223756

Win Condition: Most Victory Points

Inputs: # of times other players use your railroad links to deliver goods, # of times any player delivers good to a tile where your hotel is, type of goods you deliver (different goods are worth different point values), value of the stock you own x number of shares you own.

Strategy Tip: A winning stock portfolio is not necessarily a concentrated stock portfolio. In our game, the player with the most diversified portfolio won by a large margin. Having a little bit of every railroad company paid off - as the rest of us worked to drive up different railroad stocks for our own benefit, she benefited as well.

Railroad Rivals is subject to moderate analysis paralysis. The number of tiles to choose from during the drafting phase is equal to twice the number of players; there are typically several locations to connect tiles during the placement phase; and there are a handful of options for which goods to deliver during the delivery phase. All of these decision points can be a source of delay when an overly analytical player (like myself) is at the table. Know your opponents and their propensity to overanalyze, plan your time allotted for the game accordingly, and use any delays on their turns to plot out your play options.

I’m looking forward to playing Railroad Rivals again at different player counts and with different groups of gamers in my community. It’s going to take several games to hone a well-crafted strategy for turn order bidding, tile placement, and delivery choices; it’s a logic puzzle of sorts that will be fun to piece together.

-------------------------------------------------

Publisher: Forbidden Games
Players: 1-5 (We played with 5)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 90 minutes
Game type: card drafting, auction/bidding, pick-up and deliver, tile placement
Rating:

review-OUIOUI

Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

 











Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Brass Birmingham

Here’s a story of a lovely lady (spoiler: it’s me) and her pride and how it has led to the discovery of the single greatest board game I have ever played. It’s probably also a good primer for other reviewers on increasing your reach.At GenCon this year, I was perusing the wares of the various booths and my eyes caught a glimpse of two beautiful game boxes. Each had crisp metallic lettering with an old world feel and artwork that radiated European class. I made my way to the booth and waited patiently to speak to to the team manning it as there were many buyers lined up to purchase the games. I didn’t know anything about the games (Brass Birmingham and Brass Lancashire), or the publisher – Roxley Game Laboratory – but I knew I wanted to review one or both of the games. Almost every board game love story I star in in can be summed up this way: I am seduced by the artwork or theme and then I stay for the right mechanics. When the lead rep spoke with me, he gently rejected my request. He …

Board Game Review: Brass Lancashire

A few months ago, I fell in love with Brass Birmingham (you can read that review HERE). I fell hard. It was an all time top 10 best games ever kind of love and so when Roxley Game Laboratory offered to send me Brass Lancashire to play and share my thoughts, I was a bit hesitant.  Is there even a chance I could enjoy it as much as Birmingham? Lancashire was the original game designed by Martin Wallace, and while it’s been updated for the most recent release, I was concerned it might prove to be an older, tired version that couldn’t compete with Birmingham.

My concerns were unfounded. Brass Lancashire is fantastic. Playing Lancashire after playing Birmingham is a bit like dating someone and then dating their sibling. Sure, there’s a resemblance, but the kissing feels different.
The artwork for Brass Lancashire is beautiful, radiating a classic style evocative of the theme (industrial era production). The artists have shown great attention to detail such as the raised gold lettering on …

Board Game Review: The Shipwreck Arcana

We hosted a lot of small gatherings in December and they presented the perfect opportunity to bring some games to the table that we hadn’t yet played. The Shipwreck Arcana was one of these games. My husband Christopher talked me into acquiring it, promising it would be something I’d enjoy. I was skeptical because he described it as a logical/mathematical pattern building puzzle game (BoardGameGeek.com classifies it in the Math category among others) and I don’t tend to enjoy those as much as other types of games. We played several games, usually with the full count of five players. The first thing I noticed when I unboxed the game was how pretty the Arcana cards are. The artwork is is unique in style and reminds me a bit of a tarot deck. It’s a pleasure to lay out the cards for display on the table. Components include the Hours card, the Arcana cards, fate tokens, score and doom trackers, number line tokens, and a velvet grab bag. All of the components are sturdy enough to hold up to…