Tag Archives: economic

Bombtrack – Railways of the World review

RotW Cover

The Judge returns once again, this time not to check out something brand new, but to look to one of Eagle Games’ biggest sellers instead! Fancy some old-school networking? Time to pick up a copy of Railways of the World – if your back can handle it!

Gamers, as a breed, are always being swept along in the continual, unending, irresistible Cult of the New. Myself included, by the way. I’m not only a registered, card carrying member – I also have a commemorative t-shirt and have started the fan club. I love new games, as do my gaming groups, so I don’t get as many opportunities to revisit some of my favourites as perhaps I would like.

There are exceptions. Terra Mystica is an evergreen and so is the subject of today’s review – Railways of the World.

When discussing this classic “pick up and deliver game” it’s almost a cliché to begin comparing this with Age of Steam and Steam – they’re all from to the same original Martin Wallace design, after all. However, I haven’t played either of those, so in a refreshing break from tradition, they shan’t be mentioned again!

What I do know is that Railways of the World is my second favourite logistics game. (Roads and Boats is best. Review to come…) Simply put, players take turns constructing track to connect cities together and deliver goods cubes from their random starting location towards a destination city. There are a few interesting wrinkles – you have to pay money to build anything and you begin with zero cash. Until you start scoring points, your income each round is also zero, and to gain points you have to deliver goods on your track. You see the problem?

Fortunately, debt is your friend. Loans (or bonds), can be taken to provide a cash influx to get you started – but may never be totally paid off. Once you take this cash (bestowed upon you by an Age of Steam-era payday loans company) [You said you wouldn’t mention it! – Michael] you are indebted to pay £1 per bond after every round of play. That millstone around your neck may have been an attractive charm to begin with, but by the end of the game, you’re lugging around a significant chunk of Stonehenge.

Does this sound stressful? Good, because it is – the positive kind of stressful though. You could play slowly and build up your infrastructure in a fiscally conscientious manner – were it not for the competition of your other players. Acting like gold hungry ’49ers, players will be scrambling to be the first player to deliver the limited number of cubes, identify profitable network routes, and hoping they can get it done before someone gets in the way.

RotW Play

This is all great fun, satisfying, challenging and a giant, ever-changing puzzle. It also looks gorgeous. Railways has been over-produced within an inch of its life. Rail links are marked with brightly coloured, detailed, plastic trains. The timer for the game is the number of cities that have been emptied of cubes. How should we mark these? A cardboard chit? Or a giant plastic water tower? Yep! It’s the latter. The boards also deserve special mention as they are attractive, graphically clear and HUGE. Currently available are Europe, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico and the East and Western US. You can also choose to play a transcontinental variant by putting the East and West maps together, though for this you will need to hire a small village hall or community centre (not included.)

Any negatives? Well, the random card draws of “cool stuff” or specific, point giving tasks are deliberately overpowered and can give you a huge boost – particularly at the start of the game. That said, the auction for turn order at the start of each round deals with most of those problems. “Taking that card would be great, but how much is it worth for me?” is a question that often comes up. Bidding the right amount at the right time to claim these is another key part of the race to victory.

The game claims it plays up to six, depending on the map. Ordinarily, games that say this are dirty, little liars and force players into lengthy, painful experiences. Railways, because of its micro-turns, is actually very good about preventing downtime and is great (though quite different) with all numbers of players. Play Europe with five or six and you have a super tight, cutthroat, knife fight in a phone box. Play The Western US with two and you could conceivably never meet each other.

I love Railways of the World. It is challenging, highly competitive and most importantly a whole heap of fun. A few steps up from Ticket to Ride, not as long or complex as the 18xx series – Railways hits the sweet spot for me, and guarantees a place on my collection, not least as an immovable object standing in the way of the irresistible force of the cult of the new.

Railways of the World is currently published by Eagle Games. Designed by Martin Wallace and Glenn Drover, it was originally released back in 2005. Between two and six players can get around the table, but be sure that it’s a bloody big one! Thanks to The Judge for his write-up, and be sure to follow him on Twitter today!


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She’s In Fashion – Prêt-à-Porter review

I’m sitting here thinking about theme. Looking through my collection I see plenty of science-fiction stuff, lots of fantasy games and – Tom from The Dice Tower will kill me for this – even a couple of trading in the Mediterranean affairs. Us gamers like to stick with what we know and designers are often happy to give us what we like. Sometimes though? They love to surprise us.

Ignacy Trzewiczek is one such chap. You may recall the interview we did with him on the Little Metal Dog site recently where he mentioned a game that he developed in conjunction with the National Bank of Poland that would hopefully give players an insight into how finance works. And the setting for this game? Why, the high-flying world of fashion, of course!

Theme, as we all know, is important. A game may be as solid as anything but if the theme doesn’t grab players a game may well flounder. With Prêt-à-Porter proudly fashion based it may well lose a few players from the start – but if you disregard this game just because you think it’s about making clothes? More fool you because Prêt-à-Porter is pretty damn good.

You’re actually running fashion houses over the course of a year in this cut-throat industry. The game is divided into four phases, each one representing a three month period that culminates in one or more fashion shows. By opening new offices, taking on better staff and establishing new brands and outlets, you’re able to take on contracts to bump up your short term profits to keep you going.

During the first two months of each phase, you need to concentrate on a two pronged attack. Yes, improving the status of your company is important, but so is developing your staff and buildings. The down side is that these will cost you more and as you have to pay wages and bills at the end of each month it can become quite the battle to balance your books. Thankfully you have the option to take out a loan as an action during your turn – if you screw up though, you’ll be forced to take one at a higher rate.

The Polish edition of Prêt-à-Porter - very stylish, of course.

The fashions shows are what you’re really aiming for, though. The choices from your collection that you decide to show at the end of each of the four phases will be graded and hopefully awarded stars – and these are what you’ll fight your opponents for. Stars will gain you more money than the opposition, allowing you to improve your company and leave the others in your wake. As the year moves on, your company grows, hopefully earning more money and expanding your staff and holdings. At the end of the game the stars you’ve gained are converted into points and added to any special features that you’re able to score – and whoever has the most is the winner. Nice and simple.

Well… I say it’s simple, but Prêt-à-Porter isn’t. Though it’s relatively straightforward, there’s a wealth of options for you to choose from on your turns. As there are so many different ways in which you can expand your company, each one granting bonuses but also causing issues that you’ll need to cope with. It’s very easy to overstretch yourself and spread yourself thin, so you’ll need to give it a couple of plays before you work out the strategies that really work for you.

Prêt-à-Porter may well be set in an industry that some will claim isn’t interesting to them but do not be deceived – this game is hard as nails and will punish anyone who treats it lightly. This is the kind of eurogame that will require concentration from the off and lots of forward planning. You’ll need to have a solid idea of what you want to do for each of the seasons and just go for it – however, on the flip side you’ll have to be adaptable in case your opposition scuppers your plans… and they will. What happens when the other guy gets the building or materials that you wanted? You’ve always got to be ready to change your plans but thankfully the game offers you alternative routes to your ultimate goal – it’s not always easy, but hey! That’s business.

You’ll notice I’ve not talked about the production quality… well, I can’t really. My copy of the game is an English language prototype – the full version will be released at Essen 2011. However, this is 90% of the way there and I can safely say that graphically everything is nice and clear. The board in particular is very well laid out and the whole game has a clean, modern look that really conveys the sense of style. Iconography is clear and crisp throughout which really helps in a game that has a lot going on.

Polish Prêt-à-Porter is ready to roll. It's not as complicated as it looks. Well, perhaps it's a little complicated.

It’s not an easy game to win. In fact, it’s not an easy game at all, but there’s an incredible level of satisfaction when you just manage to plan everything well, hold it together and break even from month to month. Actually winning the game? It’s like being visited by unicorns delivering platinum cupcakes filled with cash.

The unicorns have never come to my house. They will one day, but until then there’s this incredibly challenging game that rewards players who throw themselves headlong into it. Here’s hoping that Portal get the success it deserves from this fantastic game.

Prêt-à-Porter was originally published in Poland in 2010 by Portal. Designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek in conjunction with the National Bank of Poland, the English language version of the game will be available from October 2011 following its official launch at Essen – pre-orders can be placed right now. Work it!

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