Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for November, 2010

British Rails

Posted by sodaklady on November 22, 2010

Looking for a game to give your brain a workout without straining a synapse?
Need a game with simple rules to explain?
Want a game with a tried and true game system?
Got time to become completely immersed in a game?

I highly recommend a Crayon rail game.

This is a family of games that started with Empire Builder, which was first published in 1980, and has expanded into versions for Europe, Britain, Japan, India, Australia, Russia and China. It’s also left the planet to lay tracks on the moon (Lunar Rails) and Mars (Mars Rails).  The basic play is the same, but each map imparts its own twists to reflect the land. I admit I’ve only played this game, British Rails, but after 2 plays I’m very interested to try other offerings in this system.

So, how do you play?

You start with a map covered in dots and triangles which represent mileposts that you’ll lay tracks between– the dots are clear terrain and the triangles are mountains that cost more. There are also numerous cities in three sizes which cost extra to enter and each produces a commodity or two. The game board is covered with a glossy, slick covering so that you can use the wax-based crayons that come in the game to draw your tracks on the board as you build them.

Close up of Help box on board

The board has a helpful guide in the top corner.

You begin with a basic freight train that can travel 9 mileposts each turn and carry 2 loads. For a cost, you can upgrade your train to either a faster train which can travel 12 mileposts a turn, or to a heavier train which can carry 3 loads. Your train can be upgraded even further to a Superfreight which  is both faster and can carry 3 loads. This train is represented by a card in front of you but you also have a plastic token to show where your train is on the map.

Freight Train cards

Here are the four levels of Freight train you can have.

And of course you have to have something to haul. How about 27 different commodities? They come on a sheet of stickers that you have to place on the small plastic poker chips. When you move your train to a city, you can pick up whatever they make there or deliver what that city needs as shown on one of your Demand cards.


British Rail box insert
Here’s the box insert with a spot for everything.

Lastly is a deck of 156 cards. Twenty are Event cards which can be good or bad; the remaining cards are the Demands. They show you three different cities, what commodity they need, and how much you will earn for the delivery. You will only be delivering to one of the three cities, then the card is discarded and a new one drawn.


Demand Cards

A sample of the Demand cards.

SET UP is very easy. Everyone is given a basic freight train card, a crayon and train token of matching color, 60 million in cash to begin building your empire, and three Demand cards.

The game begins with three rounds of Building to get you off to a good start before you move your train. Each building round allows you to spend 20 million on either laying track or upgrading your train. There is no train movement for the first three rounds.

Starting track line

This is Green's beginning track. You must start at a Major city which is depicted by hexagons.

After the three initial rounds, each round after begins with the Operation phase which is when you move your train, pick up and deliver goods, and receive payoffs for your deliveries. You can do these things in any order until you run out of train movement.

After the Operation phase is the Building phase, if you have money to build with. There is no such thing as credit in this game; no loans, no IOUs. Strictly cash on delivery, so to speak.

That’s it. Keep planning, moving and delivering until someone has connected their train line to all of the major cities (hexagon shaped) in one continuous line, and has made 250 million.

What’s so cool about this game?

My family enjoys the logistics, the plotting and planning of how to get around the map quickly (and cheaply), how to move your train without wasting time or running empty, and the satisfaction of putting together a great plan from all of the information you have to deal with, and seeing it happen.

There are lots of small decisions that add up to a wonderfully rich gaming experience. Is it worth the expense to cut across the expensive mountain area but cut many pileposts off my trip? If I have to pay my opponent to run on his line this turn, will my profit still be enough to make it worth it? Should I pick up the flippin’ Jute since I’m all the way up to Glasgow even though no one on my Demand cards wants it…. yet? If two trains leaving London at the same time are traveling at two different speeds… oh, wait, that’s a math question.

What’s not so great?

It’s a little disappointing in this day of amazing components to see a game with paper money, and all black and white components. I don’t mind the paper money but I would have liked to see some color on the commodity chips so they were easier to tell apart, and the same with the different Freight train cards.

And since we’re talking about components here, I’ll mention that my game came with the commodity stickers for Eurorails instead of British Rails so I want to publicly thank user revengeisnotjustice for uploading an image of the correct stickers which I used to print my own. I’m sure Mayfair would have been prompt and helpful in getting me the correct sticker sheet but I didn’t want to wait, I wanted to play! 🙂

Another thing to take into account is if you or someone you’re playing with is geographically-challenged, which all of my family is, than this can take quite a while until you become familiar with the cities. My two games with 2 different opponents took 3 1/2 and 4 hours, but no one complained or even hesitated to keep going. We were all deep into the game and loved every minute of it. I’m sure that familiarity with the board, both in geography and commodity production, will make the game play much faster.

Final negative:  I would not recommend this to play with more than 4 people, and that might be pushing it. I loved it as a two-player game, and think 3 would be equally enjoyable. I can’t even imagine squeezing 6 players onto this particular map even though the box says 2-6.

Final assessment: I would jump on the chance to play this game any time someone asked. I want to play right now! I’m haunted by it already. Even if you don’t want to play for 2 hours, you can set a time limit and declare the player with the most money at that point the winner. I think some version of this system should be in every gamer’s collection, it’s that good.


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My Essen picks and what I ordered

Posted by sodaklady on November 15, 2010

Another Essen game fair has come and gone, leaving happy memories of sitting at my computer at 0500 watching the live stream from the other side of the world. I really enjoyed watching the game demos and occasionally joining in the chat with other BGGers around the world. Now the tough part– deciding what to add to my already too-large gaming collection.

There are three major considerations to take into account when I look over the newest crop of games:

  1. How little space there is left on my shelves.
  2. How to fit the cost into my budget.
  3. The fact that I usually only have one person to play with; occasionally two.

I also want games that add something unique to my collection.  This is a minor consideration, an addendum to the major considerations.

I started with about 15 games that I wanted to check into further, waiting for some feedback from people who have played the games a few times. It’s been three weeks of reading first reviews, session reports and questions, leaving me with a  very short list of “games I absolutely, positively have to have”.

  • Sun, Sea & Sky. The unique time element attracted me to this one.
  • London. There’s a lot of fun stuff going on in this game but it still looks like a relatively simple game to play.
  • Bargain Hunter. I love straight card games and this remake of a very popular trick-taking game, Schnäppchen Jagd, has long been on my want list.

Then there’s the list of “games I’d like to have but wish I could try out first so will continue to watch instead”.

  • Poseidon. A simplified, quicker 18XX game– re-themed to boats and trading posts?
  • Basilica. A 2-player game that has an interesting tile set-up.
  • Troyes. A new way to use dice.
  • Inca Empire. Building an empire outward from a central location, with unique card play to add a bit of spice. If this was playable with only 2, it would have been on the other list.
  • 51st State. Build your city with multi-purpose cards, and maybe send out workers to other players’ cities.
  • Hey Waiter! A card game with a new twist, combining two cards to create a third card which shows your action.

With all of this gaming goodness, but very few of them available in the States yet, what did I order?

Pregnant pause…

British Rails.

It’s like this: I was researching Poseidon, specifically trying to get a handle on 18xx games since I was having trouble getting through the rules. This lead me to Scott Nicholson’s wonderful video of 18xx games which reminded me of the crayon rail games. After reading the rules to 1830, I knew this was a game that Richard and I would enjoy, probably more so than any of the games on either of the above lists. I decided on the British Rails version after a little more research since it’s a smaller area and recommended for 2-4 players.

So you could say that my Essen game plan got a little off track. 😀


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Gaming On The Kindle – Triple Town

Posted by sodaklady on November 3, 2010

The Kindle is not generally known for its games. There are a few unknown word games, Mine Sweeper, Scrabble, and Sudoku; all fine time-wasters but not to the extent that I totally lose track of time when I’m on the elliptical machine. That honor goes to Triple Town.

This is a tile-laying game played on a 6 X 6 grid representing the field where you will build your town, the purpose is to get the highest score you can. The pieces include parts of your field and town, but also some bad things to make your life difficult.

Triple Town mid-game. My town has grown into a Boom Town and I have a House!

How you build your town is by grouping at least three like-objects together, any edge touching. This group will now turn into the next higher value object, materializing where the last matching piece was placed. For example, if a third grass piece is placed in the bottom right corner, that square would become a flower and the two upper grass squares would become blank. In this way grass becomes flowers, flowers become bushes, bushes turn into trees, trees to wood, wood to a house, houses to a castle and three castles turn into a Sky Castle, which is as high as you go. There’s a pun there but I don’t know if it was intentional or not.

On another track are the bad guys, the Marauding Barbarians, who look a little like raccoons because of the masks, and the Evil Wizards, who I think look ghostly. The Barbarians move every turn but only to an adjacent space, getting in your way. You can trap them in an area so they have nowhere to move which will kill them, turning them into Tombstones. Tombstones are worthless unless you can group them together in, you guessed it, groups of 3 or more, to form a church. Three churches become a Cathedral, which for some reason turn into Castles and then into a Sky Castle again. Always the last stop.

The Evil Wizards really are evil. Like the barbarians, they get in the way of where you want to place tiles, but they don’t move in a set pattern; they teleport all over the place willy-nilly. There is no way to trap them but you can blow them up with a rare bomb. The bombs are cool because you can also use them to blow up any object that has been put in an inconvenient spot, too. But they are indeed very rare so you have to choose: Evil Freaking Wizard, or that tombstone that is in your way.

On the brighter side, there are also the occasional wild card in the form of a crystal which helps you get that third wood or castle or whatever you need most. If you place it next to two pairs, it automatically becomes the higher valued one. We also see a few lakes which are very helpful in blocking both the barbarians and the wizards since neither of them like water. Who knew? Anyway, the lakes can help contain the barbarians in an area, or protect a vital space from a wizard since you are able to build over it.

Your town progresses from a Field to a Village to a Town to a Boom Town to a City to a Metropolis to a Megopolis or something like that. I doubt I’ll ever see it, whatever it’s called. When your board is filled up, you get your final score and can keep your top 10 scores to see how great a town builder you’ve become.

Triple Town Score

Not too bad for a beginner.

If you have a Kindle and you like casual computer games, you won’t be disappointed with this $2.99 purchase. I gotta go now; my city is calling me.

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