Introducing Railways of Great Britain

I'm a huge fan of Railways of the World, and few train games are better looking and more fun to play than this delightful series of games. Over the years, a number of expansion maps have been released, including Railways of England and Wales. The expansions are well-worth getting, because they take the game-play of the base game to a different board, resulting in a whole new experience. The England and Wales expansion was widely considered to be one of the `easier' maps, making it particularly suitable for new players, although it also included an advanced game with shares by Martin Wallace.

Now in 2013, Eagle Games has released Railways of Great Britain. This expansion map re-implements and effectively replaces Railways of England and Wales, which is now out of print. It removes the advanced stockmarket version of the game, which was largely panned by critics anyway, and just gives us the England map, with a couple of cosmetic tweaks. In other words, more Railways of the World goodness, and another must-have expansion for fans of the series who don't yet have this map! Let me show you what you get, how it compares with the original, and what I think.



COMPONENTS

Game box

The artwork on the game-box is the same as that of the original England and Wales printing, although the removal of the advanced stockmarket game also means that Martin Wallace is no longer mentioned on the cover. It's also worth mentioning that the box is much deeper than that of the original, giving room for additional expansion boards should you wish.



The back of the box shows us what the map of Great Britain looks like, and introduces the basic concept of this expansion, along with a list of components.



Here's what we get inside the box:

● 1 Great Britain map
● 10 Railroad Baron cards
● 27 Railroad Operation cards
● 6 Reference cards
● 1 Rulebook

Map

The main board is a delightfully produced map of Great Britain, smaller in size than the Eastern US map that comes with the base game, and identical in size to the Europe map (30 inches by 36 inches). It has a pleasant matte finish, and the city colours nicely match the cubes and tiles from the latest printing of Railways of the World. As with the Europe map, the score-track runs around the edge of the board, and differs slightly from the score track used in the base game.



Altogether there are 45 different cities featured on the board (compared with 52 cities on the Eastern US map and 31 cities on the Europe map). One notable addition to this map is Edinburgh in the north, as explained in some of the early promotional materials: "As an added bonus, we have added an extra city to the map (so it truly can be called Great Britain now!)" Just like in the Europe map, the major lines used in the game are listed in a chart on the left of the board.

Railroad Operations cards

This deck of 27 Railroad Operation cards is unchanged from the England & Wales edition.



It contains the following cards:
3x Starting cards (The Railroad Era Begins, Speed Record, Passenger Lines)
5x Service Bounty
6x Hotel
4x New Industry
3x City Growth
2x Government Land Grant
2x Tunnel Engineer
2x Railroad Inspector

Hotels are in Birmingham, Carlisle, Grimsby (unfortunately still spelled incorrectly), London, Manchester, and Plymouth, while Service Bounties are for Barnstaple, Hull, Ipswitch, Liverpool, and Nottingham. The Railroad Inspector isn't in too many other expansions and can prove fun - you can use it to prevent another player turning an auction win into a guaranteed win of a service bounty, and buy yourself some time, leading to some interesting play!

Railroad Baron cards

These ten Railroad Baron cards represent the long-term secret objectives that players begin the game with. Again, there is no change from those that came with the England & Wales edition.



Reference cards

The six player reference cards feature a summary of actions and track-building costs on one side, and major lines on the other side.



Rules

The rulebook is a four page booklet. The content is identical to the instructions that came with the England & Wales edition, although it is slimmed down because the three and a half pages of text that described the advanced share system of that game have been removed.



CONCLUSIONS

Comparison with Railways of England & Wales

Since Railways of Great Britain replaces the Railways of England & Wales, it's good to know how these two editions compare. They are essentially identical, with only the following changes being of note:

1. Removal of advanced game. This is the single biggest change between editions. The Martin Wallace advanced share system form of the game has been removed from the rulebook, and the components necessary for this (e.g. shares) are no longer included. This isn't an unwelcome change, because the reality is that very few people liked the advanced form of the game, and it was even the subject of considerable criticism. The real appeal of this expansion is to have a RotW experience on a different map, so I'm not shedding any tears that the advanced game is no longer in the box. Some described it as giving a light 18xx feel to the game, but that doesn't really interest me, and given that it was arguably flawed anyway, it was probably a good move to leave it out.

2. Map changes. There are three small changes that involve the game board:

● The board folds along the same lines, but no longer uses a reversible fold in both directions. The end result looks neater and cleaner when the map is on the table, especially the sections of the board near the fold.

● The colours of the cities are slightly more vibrant, although it's only noticeable when placing both maps alongside each other, and this minor variance could also occur with different copies of the game.

● Edinburgh has been added as a neutral grey city in the north. This isn't likely to affect the game much, but the addition of this Scottish city to England and Wales reflects the political union of 1707 that comprised Great Britain.



3. Reference cards incorporate Major Lines. The reference cards from the England & Wales edition featured information about the share system on the reverse side. This has now been replaced by having the major lines on the reverse side. The text on the reference cards is smaller than I'd like, but overall it was a good move to include the major lines on these cards.



4. Revised artwork. The references to "Railways of England & Wales" have been replaced with "Railways of Great Britain" on all the game components and cards, and the artwork on the back of the Baron cards has also changed.



5. Bigger box. The box is much deeper than the original one, so you can fit three expansion boards inside it if you wish. This is a nice touch and will be welcome to fans of the series looking to consolidate some of their expansions into one box.



What do I think?

I've already posted three elaborate reviews about the Railways of England and Wales expansion (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and given the minimal changes that have been made with the Railways of Great Britain edition, most of my previous comments and observations still apply, especially this review. So let's focus on answering a few common questions that may be asked about the newest Great Britain expansion:

Q. Should I upgrade if I own the England & Wales map?
A. If you already own the Railways of England and Wales expansion, then there's not really much point in upgrading to the new edition, unless you have a deep emotional attachment to Edinburgh and absolutely must have it on your map, or the slight city colour adjustments are important to you. Aside from that, the other changes are largely insignificant, and what this expansion really does is bring an out-of-print product back to life under a slightly different name. So if you already have England & Wales, then you essentially already have this map.

Q. How does the Great Britain map differ from others in the series?
A. It's a smaller map with less cities than the Eastern US map, and thus is more suitable for games with 2-4 players. Given the close proximity of cities and relative absence of mountainous terrain, you won't need to take out as many bonds, and that makes for a more forgiving game where it's fairly easy to generate money. The map also has a balanced layout, which means that there's many good areas for players to build and still succeed. All this makes for a less tight and more flexible game that is especially suited to new players.

Q. How does the Great Britain map play with less players?
A. It's excellent, certainly much better with less players than the larger US maps are. The Europe map was designed for 2-4 player games, and that's also true of this map. However be aware that the Great Britain map can play quite quickly, with empty city markers speedily making their way onto the board. I'd agree with the consensus of opinion suggesting that on this map you should not play with the usual rule about reducing cubes for 2-3 player games (see this thread and this thread for discussion), otherwise cities are too easily emptied and the game end is triggered too soon.

Q. How does the Great Britain map compare with the US maps?
A. The fact that it is smaller ensures increased interaction with lower player counts. With a significant amount of open terrain and closely adjacent cities, you also won't need to invest as much money to make links, so finances are less tight. There's also no really single area of concentrated activity like the north-east corridor on the Eastern US map. It really is much more straight-forward.

Q. How does the Great Britain map compare with the Europe map?
A. Both are excellent games at lower player counts, but the Great Britain map is definitely easier to play, and doesn't feature the tough finances of the Europe map. If you're looking for a more relaxed game, choose Great Britain, but if you're want a tighter game where you're constantly battling with your finances, then opt for Europe. Because of the different terrain, both maps feel very different to play on, and create very different experiences.

Q. Will I miss the share system?
A. The omission of the advanced rules and share system that was part of the original England & Wales expansion won't be missed by too many people. Certainly there is a small minority that did seem to enjoy this form of the game as a light 18xx type experience, but it also created a significant number of rule questions and criticism. By and large most people just preferred the regular RotW experience on this map anyway, and that's really what this expansion is about, rather than trying to change the game in a different direction.

Q. Should I buy the Great Britain expansion?
A. The real appeal of this expansion will be for owners of Railways of the World who are considering getting another map to play on, and for them having this Great Britain map available is good news. Fans of Railways of the World will already know that being able to play on a new map creates a whole new experience, and that's certainly the case here. It's a good map, especially if you're looking for something that will work better than the Eastern US map does with lower player counts, and one that is fairly easy to play. As a Railways of the World expansion, this is a great product, and it has enough of a different feel from Railways of Europe to make both expansions worth getting without feeling any sense of duplication.



What do others think?

The praise

Seeing as Railways of Great Britain has only recently been released, there's not much feedback yet about it. But given that the map is essentially the same as the original Railways of England and Wales, let's share some enthusiastic comments about what people liked about the Railways of the World experience on this particular map, because such comments apply equally to Railways of Great Britain. Overall, it's received much praise for being a very good map:

"My favorite map. Tighter than the others." - Dimaradona
"Has been a blast to play." - Markku W
"Brilliant new map." - Bill Abner
"Great map." - Kendahl Johnson
"A great addition to one of my favourite games." - Steve N
"A compact map and perhaps the least financially demanding of the available maps." - Henry Allen
"I think this is my favorite of all the maps." - Rick Rodrick
"Worth it for the map alone." - Christopher M.
"I like this variant of Railways of the World. Smaller map, shorter routes, fixed major lines. It's much more of a race than the standard game, and to me that feels more interesting. It's also a faster game." - Daniel Berger

More specifically, the Great Britain map has especially been the subject of praise for three qualities:

1. It's more `balanced' than the Eastern US map.
"The map is much more balanced than base Railroad Tycoon (with all areas actually useful)." - Ryan M.
"Board is fantastic. Each area on the board has balanced play." - Richard Foth
"I like this map. I like it better than the Europe and USA map: the cities are close to each other, there is no real 'hot spot' and the major lines are challenging." - MarcoGreen
"Really like this map a lot. Much more balanced." - Nathan Milbrath

2. It is more suitable for less players than the Eastern US map.
"This is a very enjoyable map and set of cards. The map is tight and competitive with five and also plays very well with 3 or 4, though is not as interactive." - Edwin Priest
"A much better map for 3 or 4 players than the original US map - tighter and more competitive." - ausminstrel
"Simply as an expansion map this works great especially when accomodating for a smaller set of players." - ariesariesaries
"Great to have another map for Railways of the world that works well with fewer players (2-5)." - James Torr
"I feel that this game perfectly plugs the 4-player gap between Mexico (2P, 3P) and Eastern US (5P, 6P)." - Steve N
"It is a well balanced map that I'd recommend for few players. Probably the best for four players and the easiest of all concerning terrain." - Luis Paulino Mora Lizano

3. It is better for beginners than the Eastern US map.
"The England board is very good for helping new players learn the ropes as everything is so close." - David Stoffey
"This is a good map especially for beginners. The connection costs are fairly low because there are just a few mountains and rivers, and many cities are very close together." - Eric Sokolowsky
"I think this is my favorite board to teach on." - J Chav
"Wonderful map. Lots of cities, and building is cheap due to the lack of mountains. That makes it easier to get up to speed with new players, and the map is well balanced with several good regions to start the track building. Highly recommended." - Hawk757
"I also think this is a great map for teaching new players. It is no less fun and competitive for veterans but with so many cheap build options available to accommodate changing plans, it is easier to generate positive cash flow and less likely for the new player to completely run out of options (and therefore less likely for them to fall as far behind as is possible on other maps)." - Henry Allen
"A nice addition to an already great game, I would suggest this as a teaching map before moving onto say USA or Europe." - Russell Woodland

The criticism

Most of the criticisms of Railways of England and Wales were about its flawed stock system, which has now of course been removed from Railways of Great Britain. Sometimes a strength can also be a weakness, and there was a small minority who found it too easy to generate income; but then again that's exactly one of the things that makes this expansion appealing for relatively new players, or for people looking for a more relaxing experience than the financially tough Europe, for example.



Recommendation

So is Railways of Great Britain for you? Gamers who really enjoy Railways of the World are almost certain to be pleased with this expansion, and I'm glad to see that this map has been made available again after the England & Wales edition went out of print. Like Railways of Europe, this is a good choice if you're playing with less than the 5-6 player group that the Eastern US map thrives on, and it's something that is easier to play and get into than its Europe counterpart, so it's especially ideal for first time players. Railways of the World is a popular and proven train game classic, and one of my all-time favourite games, so for fans like me, having another excellent map to play on is a no-brainer. Recommended!

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Henry Allen
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Good review but I think you understate the color differences. The new printing uses shades of blue and purple for city colors that perfectly match the cubes and cities in the most recent printing of the base game. The image above doesn't do it justice but the old printing used almost a navy blue and a much darker shade of purple, not to mention for some reason the grey cities were a rather dark grey instead of light grey as they are on all other maps.

This map never caused anyone problems with telling the colors apart that I know of (like earlier printings of some other maps) but I can tell the new map apart at a glance just based on the improved city colors (it doesn't need to be side-by-side with the old). For me that made it worth upgrading.
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Craig Duncan
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Quote:
The main board is a delightfully produced map of Great Britain, smaller in size than the Eastern US map that comes with the base game, and identical in size to the Europe map (30 inches by 36 inches). It has a pleasant matte finish, and the city colours nicely match the cubes and tiles from the latest printing of Railways of the World. As with the Europe map, the score-track runs around the edge of the board, and differs slightly from the score track used in the base game.


I'm a bit confused. On the main page for Railways of the World, it identifies the size of the Eastern US map as 30x36. But the quoted text above seems to imply that the Great Britain board is 30x36. I am misunderstanding something?

An unrelated question: How long would you estimate it would take for four experienced players to play the GB board? Just curious!

Thanks for all the fantastic RotW reviews, Ender!
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KlydeFrog wrote:
Good review but I think you understate the color differences. The new printing uses shades of blue and purple for city colors that perfectly match the cubes and cities in the most recent printing of the base game. The image above doesn't do it justice but the old printing used almost a navy blue and a much darker shade of purple, not to mention for some reason the grey cities were a rather dark grey instead of light grey as they are on all other maps.

This map never caused anyone problems with telling the colors apart that I know of (like earlier printings of some other maps) but I can tell the new map apart at a glance just based on the improved city colors (it doesn't need to be side-by-side with the old). For me that made it worth upgrading.

Thanks for mentioning that Henry. You're quite right about the colour differences, and I could have stated that more strongly.

I had even made a comparison image to illustrate the difference, but omitted to include it in the review, so I'm glad you reminded me about it so that I could share it here. View at large or original size to really appreciate the difference between the two editions.

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Thanks. Yeah, that picture shows it a bit more. I just like being able to teach the game without having to say "deliver blue to that other color blue" and "purple to that other color purple, no not the one that is actually dark grey". It's so nice to just have the colors match
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cdunc123 wrote:
Quote:
The main board is a delightfully produced map of Great Britain, smaller in size than the Eastern US map that comes with the base game, and identical in size to the Europe map (30 inches by 36 inches). It has a pleasant matte finish, and the city colours nicely match the cubes and tiles from the latest printing of Railways of the World. As with the Europe map, the score-track runs around the edge of the board, and differs slightly from the score track used in the base game.

I'm a bit confused. On the main page for Railways of the World, it identifies the size of the Eastern US map as 30x36. But the quoted text above seems to imply that the Great Britain board is 30x36. I am misunderstanding something?

Sorry for causing confusion, but maybe this will clarify things:

Both the Eastern US board and the Great Britain board indeed have the same dimensions: 30" x 36". I overlaid them moments ago to confirm this. However in the case of the Great Britain board this includes a scoretrack around the outside of the map. (Note that the original Railroad Tycoon also had a score-track around the Eastern US map, and thus it had even larger dimensions of 36" x 45"). So even though the boards of the latest edition are the same size, if you take the score-track into account, the actual Great Britain map takes up less space than the Eastern US map. In reality the Eastern US map is 26 hexes wide and 37 hex high, while the Great Britain map is 25 hexes by 21 hexes (and also has less cities). That's what I meant in the review by it being a smaller map, i.e. a smaller area for building track.

The image below compares the map sizes by showing the Eastern US board on the left and the Great Britain board on the right, side-by-side and to scale. In the center is the Great Britain map with its score track and non-playing areas turned into white space, to highlight the size difference of the actual playing area:

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Yes that totally clears things up! Many thanks, Ender!


P.S. any thoughts on average playing time for four players?
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Thanks for excellent overview.

I love this game, but I have one small criticism which may be worth mentioning - the income track is in dollars not pounds!

This doesn't affect gameplay, but it does slightly spoil the otherwise very thematic nature of the game.

I can see why it's been done this way, as the bonds from the base set are in dollars, but it's a shame they couldn't have added a set of bonds in pounds to the cavernous box . . .
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EndersGame wrote:
5. Bigger box. The box is much deeper than the original one, so you can fit three expansion boards inside it if you wish. This is a nice touch and will be welcome to fans of the series looking to consolidate some of their expansions into one box.


Also worth noting that the box is big enough that you can slide the entire insert from the base game (parts and all) into it. This is a huge asset when you're heading to a game night or con and know it's this map you'll be using.

For example I'm GM'ing this at Dreamation next weekend and now I can bring everything in the Great Britain box instead of lugging both or putting this map in the larger RotW base game box.

Bonus is being able to have this box top on display for pre-registered players looking for the table since Railways of Great Britain (and not Railways of the World) is what the slot has been promoted as.
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cdunc123 wrote:
How long would you estimate it would take for four experienced players to play the GB board?

I just played a three player game on this map last week, but my last four player game on this map was in December and I can't recall exactly how long it took. I'm fairly sure it was well under two hours, maybe even 90 minutes?

Because of the easy finances and quickly emptying cities it is quicker than games on the other maps. As a result the game end tends to be triggered more quickly, and with lower scores. In a recent three player game we even added some empty city markers to the game end condition to extend the game a little.
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cdunc123 wrote:
P.S. any thoughts on average playing time for four players?


My experience is much the same as Ender's. For experienced players you're looking at under 2 hours.

A 5 player game teaching new players can run well over 3 though not including set up and breakdown.
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Edinburgh has been added as a neutral grey city in the north. This isn't likely to affect the game much, but the addition of this Scottish city to England and Wales reflects the political union of 1707 that comprised Great Britain.


That might be out of date soon too. Ha ha!

I like the description of Edinburgh as a 'neutral grey city'. It does rain a lot up there. However Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities and a beautiful place to visit.

Great review. I really, REALLY must get this sometime. (I've got the version for Steam though)
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