It’s 1800-and-something, and the railroad is changing the face of the USA. In Railroad Revolution, players are running their own train company, building track and expanding your network as best you can…
The board shows a map of the USA populated by cities and spaces to build track between them. All players start with a single track on the board between Washington and Charlotte, and their own individual board in front of them, which you will use on your turn to take actions. Each turn you can take a single action, by placing one of your workers on the board. Doing so allows you to place track, build a station in a city you’re connected to, trade (to generate cash) or help build the Western Union Telegraph. You want to place track because the goal of the game is to expand your train network. You want to build stations because doing so generates various income. And you want to help develop the Western Union as it gives you big bonuses at the end of the game, as well another instant reward.
So that’s all relatively straightforward, but another element to factor in are the workers you place when taking an action: there are different colours (orange, blue, grey, purple and white) and the worker you use on an action will give you a different benefit, depending on its colour. Using the workers carefully is really crucial to advancing your game!
Around the basic actions are some other elements too, such as bonus tracks that score points for different criteria at the end of the game (how many stations or track you laid, for instance), trains you can build that give you some in-game advantage. or milestones that you can achieve by promoting a worker: doing so gains all manner of bonuses to help you improve your company. Certain spots on the board also allow you to make a deal: by building track on these spaces you trigger the available deal to all players. Deals are just ways to get things cheaper than usual, so you want to time these moments when you’re cash-rich and opponents are poor!
The game end is triggered by a certain number of stations and track being placed, after which there is a final round and then players score for their contribution to the Western Union, plus however far they have moved up the bonus tracks. Most points wins!
For me, any train game is going to be compared to Railways of the World, which is a favourite of mine. Railroad Revolution doesn’t oust it from that position, but it is – aside from the over-powered Great Western Union (neglect at your peril!) – a more than decent game, that rises above its rather underwhelming appearance. Although it’s kind of abstract, the different-coloured workers do give you the challenge of managing your workforce much as industrial age barons would have: you don’t want lathe workers shoveling coal or coal-shovellers doing the diagnostics on your temperamental steam engine, I suppose. Is it fun? Not in the laugh-a-minute or highly-interactive way some other games are, but fun comes in different packages: if the theme gets you and you like the challenge of joining the cogs and puzzling out your best moves, Railroad Revolution could well tickle your fancy.
There's no direct interaction here; although there are rewards for building a station first in each city the Take That element is minimal.
Not a game for nippers, and certainly one that can invite the odd pause for thought.
There's options on the map, and options on your individual board. And there are different types of worker to use as well. Choices aren't infinite, but despite the reasonably simple structure of each turn - take one action, with one worker - Railroad Revolution challenges you to make the best ones.
Lots of variability in set-up, and a game that allows you to take different approaches strategically. That said though, you don't want to leave the other players to capitalize on the Great Western Union, as it offers too many points to be ignored.