I never like to play the last two or three round because of how they drag, but until then it's a full-day's worth of fun. Edit: Not really my sort of game anymore, but fond memories keep it high in the rankings.
Swans? Don't really care about them, and normally I like set collecting. Moats? I mostly play the game 2-players with a 3-player setup, and moats don't work with that. Also, I prefer seeing how castles sprawl. I have Factory Fun for confined puzzle fun when I want it. Secret Door? Haven't used them yet. So what do I like? The extra rooms. I shuffle them in and disregard the swans, for variety. And variety is good.
new maps? Great! Forum cards? Fun! And I don't care that they may or may not be balanced. They add a bit of zing to the game. Salt? Eh, don't really care about it. Seems to take away some of the fun of struggling with limitations (whereas the forum cards do this as well but at least add zing!).
Lowered rating. Not sure why, but the expansion makes me care less about the game when I play it. I think I prefer the directness of knowing exactly the limitations of each other player, and how the players react to those limitations. With the expansion, it's harder to keep track of special powers and what other players may be planning to do. Thus, I stop caring about what the other players do do.
Also, the expansion does slow the game down about 20%, which doesn't sound like much, but I really like the speedy chugging along of the base game.
I found these cards to be much more a mixed bag for me than the other sets. I like the gimmick of needing to buy a potion more than I thought I would, but only a few of the action cards catch my eye. But the jury is still out, so rating could swing wild.
Samarkand is great either way, but I give the nod to this very minor expansion, mainly because it adds a bit of variation from turn to turn, and it lets you avoid the issue of what happens when you want to sell only two units of a depressed commodity.
Great to have a variant map! For 4-6 players the original is still my fav (love the 'open' feel, the need for bigger trains, and the arc of the game), but this map is the go-to for 2-3 players (no requirement to battle for the NE, more chances for interaction among all players), and good to use for a change with more players.
The games ends quicker, so less need to upgrade. There's a decison to make of when to 'go across the mountains' and seek more cubes, but it's not as drastic as the in RRT. The costs of building and the special cards encourage shiping smaller runs, but I think it's still worth it to build a 3-train as fast as possible. The Major Lines are now a fix entity on the board, which makes them more fair but not as fun: I liked the tension in their randomness in the earlier game. The map seems more balanced with some outlying towns that may/may-not see action, but nothing like the wasted SW land in RRT. All in all, I'm happy with my purchace.
Not so good for me, since I like to play with a timer and many of the options just can't be worked with a timer. A few of the boards are fun to use though, so it's not a total waste of an expansion for me.
Played prototype. Very enjoyable stock market addition. Think I like it even better than the base game. Comment vs. 18xx? I'm not at all a 18xx fan. I find those games to be slow and a chore to play, but I found Barons to be dynamic and fun.