Reviewed by Herb Levy

RAILROAD RIVALS (Forbidden Games, 1 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 45-60 minutes; $49.99)


One of the factors accounting for the tremendous growth of the United States during the 19th century was the rise of railroads. This method of transportation was crucial in developing the USA into a formidable economic power. In this new game designed by Glenn Drover, players find themselves in that age, competing to build and invest in railroads so that, when the dust settles, only one of them emerges from the pack to be the greatest out of all of their what to write a narrative essay about popular phd essay editor sites for school viagra seaside park enter hypothesis thesis proposal research prospectus template justice measure essay mca assignments help apa writing research papers follow link description of a park essay how to write an intro paragraph for an essay generic viagra india about my college days essay follow url viagra expiration patent is resume help safe levitra norwalk essays on white noise esl best essay writer sites for phd mla handbook for writers of research papers by joseph gibaldi marketing research meaning tender writing services contrast essay examples see business case study for group discussion abstract thesis download ma disertation Railroad Rivals

Each player chooses a color, taking the matching locomotive pieces and the associated Character card. There are both City Tiles and Stock Tiles. City Tiles show the name of a particular city, a number and, along the edges, the initials of specified rail lines. Stock Tiles display the logo of one of the 12 real life railroad lines in the game that are up for grabs. Transporting goods also plays a role and these are represented by different colored cubes – wood (brown), coal (black), grain (yellow) and iron (gray) – which are tossed into a black bag.

The three starting City Tiles (Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati) are mixed and one randomly chosen to serve as the “starting center” for the rail network that will be created. (The unchosen starting tiles get mixed up with the other City Tiles.)  As mentioned, all City Tiles have a number and that number of cubes, randomly drawn, are placed on that starting tile. Everyone is randomly dealt two City Tiles. City and Stock tiles are placed in their own groups. Character cards are shuffled and dealt out in a line, from left to right. This determines initial turn order with the character card on the left signaling the first player. (These cards are double-sided, male/female, so roles are not limited to a single gender.) Being the first player is an advantage so that player places one of his locomotives on the scoring track at 6. The next player starts at 8 with each additional player beginning with 2 more points. 

Face down City and Stock Tiles are drawn from their supply, the number of each equal to the number of players. Except for the first turn (where turn order has already been determined), players will bid to be the first player, using the points they have on the score track. High bidder moves his/her Character card to the “front of the line” with everyone else sliding down a position. Then, in this new turn order,  players will choose either a City Tile OR a Stock Tile. During a round, players will draft one of each and may NOT take two of the same type.  Once all have been chosen, City Tiles must be placed. 

A legal placement of a City Tile requires that at least one of the edges of the new tile lines up with the railroad designation of a previously placed tile. Doing so creates a “Link”, shown by placing one of that player’s locomotives across those two tiles. (A blank edge may be placed against a blank edge but, if you cannot make a match, you must “pass”.) Now, the number of the placed City Tile indicates the number of goods drawn from the black bag and placed on that tile. Once all players have placed a City Tile, goods are delivered. 

Goods may be transported from ANY tile. Again, in turn order, one goods cube may be moved by one city to any other city using any existing link. That goods cube is removed from its starting position and placed away from the play area to show that it has been delivered. Points are earned based on how many and how soon these goods are delivered. 

If that color good is the first to be delivered, the player making the delivery scores 3 points. If that good is the second of its type to be delivered this round, it will only score  2 . If a third or fourth of this color, it will only score 1. If a link used for the delivery is owned by ANOTHER player, the other player gets 2 points (think of it as collecting a fee). Finally, the value of the stock of that particular railroad line used in this delivery goes up one space on the Stock Value Market track. (All delivered cubes are returned to the bag.)

Play continues with more City Tiles placed, more goods delivered, more Stock Tiles chosen and more stock values rising. Because there are more Stock Tiles than City Tiles, the supply of City Tiles will run out first. When there are not enough City Tiles to draw to satisfy the requirements of one of these per player, then only Stock tiles are drawn so that all players have a chance to draw 2 Stock Tiles and no City tiles from then on. When a player finally places his last held City Tile, that round is finished and we score.

To the points amassed on the scoring track, players add the values of all Stock Tiles they hold. The player with the highest combined total wins! Tie? Then the player holding the most valuable stock wins. (If still tied, then go down the line and compare the next highest stock and the next until there is a clear winner.)

Although sometimes where to place your City tile can be obvious, that is not always the case. Tiles can offer as much as four choices and it is wise to consider setting up a placement that allows you to take advantage of the second City Tile in your hand. More importantly though is every players’s evaluation of just how important being the first player is.

Going first is very advantageous since first means a player gets the opportunity to draft tiles and move goods before everyone else, guaranteeing at least 3 points per turn and maybe more as he/she can bump up the value of a stock held by making sure that rail line is used in transport.  But bidding for this privilege is something you need to consider carefully. You are using your points for bidding and bidding too much will negate whatever positives a first player position can give. Also, the high bidder moves from his/her position in the Character card row to the front of the line but the other players only shift down one slot. A first player may be very content to allow someone further down the line to overbid knowing full well that going second is not that bad a position especially when it doesn’t cost you a thing. 

Although the game comes with rules for two player and solo play, the game is at its best with at least three.  Some editions comes with additional pieces – Hotels (which when placed on a City Tile allow you to score points whenever a goods cube is delivered in that city) and Water Towers (which when played on a City Tile allow you to CONTINUE a goods delivery to one more tile, thereby increasing the stock of BOTH rail lines used). 

Tiles are thick and nice to the touch and it is very pleasing to the eye to see the network of rail lines spread across the table. (This game does take up a bit of space!) It might have been a good idea to give a different background color to the three starting City Tiles to make them easier to find as you pore over them.  Along those lines, making the small print for the railroads on the tile edges larger for easier identification across the play area would have been welcomed too.  The actual logos of the rail lines in the game give the game some atmosphere. However, they sometimes look a bit too similar at first glance so be aware of just what stocks are being moved so that you don’t inadvertently move the wrong stock and impact their respective values. Along those lines… the scoring track (with its locomotive scoring markers) can get a bit congested while the Stock Market Value track during the early stages of the game does not have enough room to hold all of the stock tokens easily creating a sort of “gridlock” that can be a little confusing. Be careful, especially with the scoring track as these are the points you use for bidding. Of course, when stock values rise and those tokens tend to separate as values shift, this situation ceases to be a concern. 

Railroad games span a wide spectrum and Glen Drover is no stranger to that genre. (He is, after all, the designer of Railroad Tycoon featured in the Winter 2006 GA Report).  While some prefer very demanding fare (such as the line of 18xx games with track laying and stock purchasing), Drover has, in  Railroad Rivals, presented a much lighter blend of track laying, tile drafting and stock manipulation. As such, what we have is a game easy to teach, easy to learn and one that can serve as an introduction to rail and stock games making Railroad Rivals a fine choice for an hour of fun. – – – – – – – Herb Levy

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

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