The 10th Anniversary Edition of Railways of the World



The Reprint of the Western US Expansion

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Railways of the World and its expansions, and have been for many years already. If you're not familiar with this series, check my overview of the entire series in this list [GeekList link] and see my massive pictorial article [review link] which will tell you all you need to know about the base game. It's a delightful mid-weight game with a wonderful theme, eye-catching visuals, high quality components, and excellent game-play in which you are building and managing your own railroad network on a massive board, delivering goods between cities in order to earn points.

The game first appeared on the scene as Railroad Tycoon in 2005, underwent a name change in 2009, and somewhat belatedly a 10th anniversary edition of Railways of the World appeared not that long ago. This new version was a massive undertaking that aimed to revise and upgrade the game, mostly by making countless cosmetic changes to wording on the cards and in the rulebook, as well as improvements to the components. The essential gameplay hasn't changed, but the new edition was easily the most polished printing of the game that has ever appeared - for complete coverage of this newest version and how the components compare with previous versions, see my pictorial review here [review link].

Because it is such an excellent game, a number of expansion maps have been released for Railways of the World over the years, which bring this wonderful game to different parts of the world, resulting in a whole new experience. Along with the 10th Anniversary Edition of the base game, the publisher has also produced new versions of these expansions, to bring these into line with the latest version of the game, and ensure that every aspect of the game is fully compatible with this version. After all, having a brand new game with an old expansion is like fitting a round peg into a square hole!



I have already reviewed the original version of this expansion, Railways of the Western U.S. at length previously [review link]. This expansion was designed by Rick Holzgrafe and published in 2010. It offers a great alternative to the Eastern US map from the base game when playing with a full complement of 5-6 players. Fans of the game will appreciate having a second map to play on, including the fact that it seems to be somewhat more balanced and less asymmetrical than the Eastern US map with its decisive north-east corridor. New Major Lines along with some new Railroad Operation and new Baron cards all add up to a new and fresh experience!

Perhaps of greatest interest to long-time players of the game are the possibilities this expansion opened up for being played alongside the Eastern US map in an epic coast-to-coast game, although some additional components are needed to make this work. The Western US expansion also added two new optional aspects to the gameplay of Railways of the World, which can also be used in other expansions as well: rotor cities (which enable cities to demand two types of goods), and fuel depots (which offer new possibilities for delivering goods over longer distances).



In this follow-up review, I'll be focusing specifically on what the 10th anniversary reprint of this expansion is like, and how exactly it compares with the previous version.

Game Box

Unlike some of the anniversary editions of the other expansions, this one is packaged somewhat differently. I already had the Western US expansion, and had the option of just going with a reprinted board and reprinted cards, which is what I received. But if you order it as a new product, what you receive is the reprinted board and reprinted cards, plus the old expansion in a box.



So basically you can throw out the old map and cards that comes with the expansion (unless you have an older edition of the base game, or prefer the old map). I basically just got rid of my outdated map and cards (passed it on to another RotW fan who has a previous printing of the base game), and put my new map and cards in the old expansion box.



Western US map

The components of the 10th anniversary expansion map have basically just had a complete graphical and cosmetic makeover, so you don't get more or less components as such. The biggest difference, of course, is the overall look of the board. Like the maps that come with the base game of the 10th anniversary edition, this map has had a complete revision, and for the most part it has had the benefit of exactly the same kinds of changes that were applied to those maps. In summary, the artwork has been redone and adjusted to make it far more functional. Perhaps most importantly, the colours of the cities are an exact match to those of the base game of the 10th anniversary edition, so that these are completely compatible with the goods cubes and new city markers from that edition. So let's just recap the changes with this map, which in most cases will repeat the changes already noted about the map in my review of the 10th anniversary base game.

● Same dimensions: Firstly what hasn't changed: the dimensions. The map is exactly the same size, although fans of the transcontinental game will be unhappy about the fact that there's a small margin/border on the right of the board, making it a bit messy to put the Eastern US map as an adjoining one for that epic full size game. The alignment with the Eastern map isn't perfect as it should be, but this only affects transcontinental games, and I'll address this in more detail later. This map uses the income and score-track from the base game, so there's no change there.



● Revised artwork: The artwork overall has more of a digitized and less of a more hand-painted look. While the previous version's artwork looks quite realistic, it is less functional, and I do think that while I find the previous version is artistically nicer, the new version is definitely more functional.



● New water hex icons: The previous version had mountain areas noted with a white dot, but the new version goes one better by marking hexes affected by water with a water drop in the center of the hex. This is a huge plus - if you trawl through the forums, you'll find countless threads about whether or not certain hexes are affected by water or not, and undoubtedly this has led to many debates over gaming tables. All of that is solved with this very sensible addition of marking the water hexes, so there is no ambiguity about which hexes this applies to.



● Revised Major Lines listed on the board: The new version has a chart listing the major lines on the map itself, which was entirely absent from the previous printing - another improvement.



● Major Lines labelled on the cities: Another cosmetic upgrade is that the Major Lines are marked on the map with matching letters (e.g. A, B, C) in the center of each city pair that is part of a Major Line; these alphabetic letters are also listed on the Major Lines chart.

● Clearer city names: The names of the cities in the previous version already had white borders around them, to make them easier to read, but the lettering of these city names is now larger and thus clearer. Previously all the cities also had identical artwork, whereas now all cities of the same colour have uniquely matching artwork specific to that colour - a small but nice improvement.

● Improved turn tracks: The phases of a turn have been indicated more clearly as well, with visual reminders of different aspects of a turn such as the auction that happens before each round. Further, there are six spaces on a new Turn Order track, so if you do use the optional rule for auctioning the entire turn order, this will help with that.



● Adjusted colours: There's one major thing to mention: the colour of the blue and purple cities. These have different colour hues from the previous version, and match the colours of the base game exactly, so there is internal consistency between all the components of the 10th anniversary edition - it makes obvious sense to have an expansion map that has colours compatible with the base game components (i.e. goods cubes and new city markers are identical in colour to the cities on the expansion map).



Of course these city colours will be incompatible with the colours of the goods cubes and new city markers from older versions of the base game; at least they won't be an exact match. This could present an issue if you own the previous edition of the base game, but have this new 10th anniversary expansion map. Aside from buying the 10th anniversary edition of the base game, one possible solution is to consider sourcing goods cubes and new city markers corresponding to the 10th anniversary colours (some of these are available separately from the publisher) which you can use with this new expansion map, and then there should be no colour matching issue whatsoever.

● Fuel depots: One thing worth mentioning here is that due to the fact that this expansion only printed the new map and new cards, you get the fuel depots and rotors from the previous printing. These have not been printed with the new colours. The fuel depots are intended to match the colours of the player trains, which haven't had a substantial change in colour, so they still match fine. Alternatively, you can pick up the more luxurious miniatures for this, which are available separately as an accessory (Railways of the World: Fuel Depots).



● Rotors: Like the fuel depots, these components are the ones that came with the previous version of the expansion, so they more or less have the old city colours. Personally I think that even though there are slight colour differences with the rotors from the cities in the 10th anniversary maps, there's not a huge issue with colour matching that is seriously problematic with these, and for me they work okay with the 10th anniversary edition colours. Previously the issue here has always been about the purple and blue cities and goods. Comparing with my older Western US map, the change in the city colours of the new Western US map is not drastic - the purple has a slightly more pink shade to it, and the blue has more of a blue rather than light blue shade. When putting the fuel depots and rotors on this map, I have no real difficulty identifying what colours they correspond to. However, it should be noted that the rotors are not an essential component for this expansion, and many people don't use them, myself included (see discussion). Effectively these are a mini-expansion on their own, which can be used with any map, and it's possible that we'll see a separate reprinting of them in time to come, for those who are really concerned about the colours.



Rail Baron Cards

There were no actual changes of substance to any of the cards that I noticed - in fact exactly the same number are included as the previous version of this expansion. But all the cards in the game have had a complete graphical makeover, including icons that indicate which map they belong to (note the flag). In some instances there are clarifications in wording that help avoid misunderstandings.



Railroad Operation Cards

An immediately noticeable change here is the artwork on the back of the cards - the previous version had artwork that matched the old Europe expansion, rather than the cover artwork of the Western US expansion. The 10th anniversary edition expansion cards now have new artwork on the back to match to box cover. As part of the graphic design overall, I especially like the fact that the names of the service bounties and hotels are listed on the top of the card - since this is vitally important to game-play, and it makes them much easier to read across the table. It also means that to save space you can stack the cards on top of each other with just the names showing, and given how the game as a whole is a space-hog, this is another good improvement.



Player Reference Cards

The player reference cards that show the major lines and summarize the actions available on player's turns have also had a makeover, including the fact that each city pair that is part of a Major Line is associated with a letter (A, B, C etc). The reverse side of these has always listed the available actions and tracking-building costs, but now also includes mention of the number of empty city markers that trigger the game end.



Rule Book

The previous version had a small rulebook that just covered the changes implemented by this expansion, and you'll still get along with the old map and old cards. Now the rules for all the expansion are included in the rule-book that comes with the base game. This is a large and comprehensive "Rule Book Compendium", a 24 page booklet that covers everything about the game, and can be downloaded right here: Official Railways of the World Rule Book Compendium. So if you have a 10th anniversary edition of the base game, you already have that rule-book, which tells you all you need to know about this expansion.



Component Changes

All of the changes implemented with this expansion correspond to the changes made in the base game of the 10th anniversary edition, and ensure that expansions maps compatible with this new edition of the base game are available. The compatibility across versions mainly has to do with the colour matching of the cities with the goods cubes and new city markers of whatever edition of the game you happen to be using. I'm pleased to say that the colours of the 10th anniversary base game and the 10th anniversary reprints of the expansions are all a perfect match. But if you have an older version of Railways of the World, then its goods cubes and new city markers won't be exact match for the city colours on these reprinted expansion maps, and you may have problems. Besides upgrading to the 10th anniversary edition of the base game (which is a fantastic upgrade in many ways!), one possible solution is to try to get hold of the new city tiles and the goods cubes from the 10th anniversary edition (link), and then you'll be fine with the new map. To summarize:
Mismatched colours:
● older version cubes + 10th anniversary expansion map
● 10th anniversary edition cubes + older version expansion map
Matched colours:
● older version cubes + older version expansion map
● 10th anniversary edition cubes + 10th anniversary expansion map

But the 10th anniversary expansion map is about much more than slightly adjusted colours. To summarize the component changes, let's just briefly recap the things that have changed from the previous printings of this expansion:
● Revised maps: All new artwork with clearer text and more functional colours.
● Revised colour-matching for cities: The colours of the cities have been altered from the previous version, to match the cities, goods cubes, and new city markers of the 10th anniversary base game.
● New water hex icons: All hexes that require an extra cost due to water are clearly marked with a water droplet icon, similar to how mountain hexes were marked with white dots.
● Improved Major Lines: Not only is there a new major line chart on all maps (sorted in order of point value), but the start and end point of major lines are marked on the cities themselves with matching alphabet letters (e.g. A, B, C etc).
● Revised Round & Turn Order tracks: The tracks on the board for keeping track of turn order and rounds have been upgraded and improved.
● Revised game cards: Some revisions have been made to the Railroad Operation/Barons cards, mostly with added clarifications to avoid misunderstandings by players. These also have new artwork on the back, to match to box cover.
● Improved city name on top of Hotel and Service Bounty cards: The city name of these cards is part of the title, making these cards stackable and easier to read.
● Revised player reference cards: These cards have been redone and improved, with major lines on one side and player actions on the other.

The one aspect that did get missed is the fact that the rotors are from the previous version, and so match the colours of its components. However, this is an optional mini-expansion that most people don't play with, and those who do use it can probably find a way to make do.



Transcontinental Game?

The cards for the Transcontinental game are included in the Railways of North America expansion, and these have been re-done and have a new look and also some additions. See my review of the reprint of that expansion for more details.



I can appreciate that for some people the fact that the Eastern and Western US maps don't neatly fit together is a disappointment - you'll find a discussion about this at length in this thread. Rick Soued from Eagle Gryphon explains that this was an oversight (source): "As to the alignment of the ROTW West and East US, we blew that also. And this time I can say it was a "blow" by a whole committee of ROTW fans who helped me on these reprints. The matter simply never came up and got no consideration at all. All we can do is correct it when and if we reprint either one or both of the boards in the future." Later he expanded on this in the Kickstarter comments with the following: "Every different graphic artist that worked on this project basically told me that we could not scale between the maps to accommodate the TransCon game. So we did not try to. We did provide rules and there are, and always have been, several accommodations you must make to try to play that TransCon game ... at no point did we ever say or assume that the Mexico maps and the RONA Canadian map would be integrate-able with the EUS or WUS maps. The "future" fix involves what we can do when we re-print those latter two maps." This will be somewhat disappointing to fans of the Transcontinental rules. Even so, rules for this larger form of the game are still included in the rulebook on page 8. The reality is that this won't affect most people, since the game is designed first of all to be played with each expansion separately, so it wouldn't be fair to overstate this issue.

I have corresponded directly with the publisher Rick Soued about this, and he has indicated that there are plans to re-do these maps for fans who are keen to do the Transcontinental Game. He's given me permission to share the following: "I do plan to re-do the Western US map so it "fits" with the Eastern map, and gives those who are interested in it a better overall double map to work with for the Transcontinental Game. I did "mess up" on that score and plan to rectify it ... it looks like we will try to Kickstarter Vital Lacerda's Railways of Portugal in January so likely I will do the reprint of that Western Map at that time."



Recommendation

The 10th anniversary expansion reprint of Railways of the Western U.S. is a complete upgrade in which every aspect of the map and cards has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb by a dedicated team of fans of the game, all committed to making this game the very best that it can possibly be. And in my view, what we have here has achieved that aim (besides the rotors)- as long as you have the 10th anniversary of the base game, or at least the goods cubes and new city markers of that edition. The graphic design of this 10th anniversary expansion map is much more functional, and a lot of love has been poured into this new version of the expansion, with lots of little improvements that can just make the game experience easier and more enjoyable.

Are there substantial changes? Not really. If you already have a previous version of this expansion map, you can continue to play it happily - as long as you have goods cubes and new city markers that are compatible with it. Of course if you are a dedicated fan of the game, and play it often enough and enjoy it immensely, you may just find it hard to resist picking up the new 10th anniversary editions of the base game and expansions, simply due to the extra layers of polish these have - naturally passing on or selling your copy of the previous version for another gamer to enjoy. And if you do only have the base game and are enjoying it immensely, then getting one of the expansions is a no-brainer. And since the new version of the Western US expansion comes with both the old and new map and the old and new cards, you are guaranteed not to have any issues with compatibility, regardless of which base game you have.

The revised expansion is the result of the efforts of a large team of people who put a huge amount of work into a project that they love, and it is obvious that the quality of the final product has benefited from the involvement and input of these fans and experienced players. Certainly players who are just discovering Railways of the World for the first time courtesy of the 10th anniversary edition, can buy this 10th anniversary expansion map with confidence, knowing that they are getting a version that is completely compatible with what they have, and will allow them to go full steam ahead with their gaming adventures into exciting new territory.

The Western US map is particularly appealing for those wanting a similar experience to the Eastern US game, but in a different setting, and without the strong asymmetrical element of the Eastern US map where the dense urban area of the north east corridor is always fought over. It also opens up the possibility of a Transcontinental game, although that is less difficult to implement on the new printings of the board. Furthermore, it comes with two mini expansions - fuel depots and rotor cities - that can be used across all the expansions and base game. Like the other maps, it's a fine addition to a wonderful series!



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Stephen Sanders
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DNA results:English, Dutch, Irish, German, French, Iberian Peninsula = 100% American!
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Thanks for this capable review. This expansion is a close second to the Rails of Europe expansion, so this is good intel.
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Sean Geraghty
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EndersGame wrote:
I have corresponded directly with the publisher Rick Soued about this, and he has indicated that there are plans to re-do these maps for fans who are keen to do the Transcontinental Game. He's given me permission to share the following: "I do plan to re-do the Western US map so it "fits" with the Eastern map, and gives those who are interested in it a better overall double map to work with for the Transcontinental Game. I did "mess up" on that score and plan to rectify it ... it looks like we will try to Kickstarter Vital Lacerda's Railways of Portugal in January so likely I will do the reprint of that Western Map at that time."


Woo hoo!!!

I'll want to Kickstart Railways of Portugal anyhow. Here's hoping the revised Western/Transcontinental map won't be too expensive since I already have two.
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Trip Godel
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Is this on-sale yet, or does anyone know a release date?
 
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