The 10th Anniversary Edition of Railways of the World
The Reprint of the North America 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 North America at length previously [review link], which was first released in 2013. It added two new and separate options for the game, firstly a map of Canada, and secondly rules and components for transcontinental games.
The Canada map is a smaller map that's especially good for 2-4 players, and introduces a few new elements to the game. The first is a snow line, which runs horizontally across the map, and comes with higher building costs when building track above it. Also new are Mines and Ferries, Mines being an additional way to get goods at a city, and Ferries being required to build on a few special "Ferry" spaces that are on the map.
The transcontinental game requires the Eastern US and Western US maps, and the North America expansion was the first to include the official rules for playing this way, and also came with some additional components needed for this (e.g. extra track tiles, Railroad Baron cards).
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.
To begin with, artwork on the box cover is unchanged.
The back of the box, however, depicts the redrawn map and components of the new version - which immediately have a quite different look than the previous version.
The new box is only about half the depth of the old one, because the original version of this expansion was designed to come with an extra large box that players could use to store extra maps or some of the mini-expansions (plastic miniatures for fuel depots, hotels, mines, and switch tracks, were first introduced with this expansion).
It should be noted that this expansion includes components both for the Canada map, as well as for the Transcontinental Game, and it's a good idea to separate these immediately, so that they don't get mixed together. Here's what you get:
For the Canada game:
● 1 Canada map
● 12 Canada Railroad Baron cards
● 46 Railroad Operation cards
● 6 Reference cards
● Snowy track tiles
● Revised Score track
For the Transcontinental game:
● 12 Transcontinental Railroad Baron cards
● 4 Railroad Operation cards (marked with a golden spike)
● 6 Reference cards
North America map
The components of the 10th anniversary expansion map have had a complete graphical and cosmetic makeover. 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 the wide black borders on the previous version have been removed, and the map itself fills the entire canvas of the board. I like this change, because the previous version North America map did look oddly different from all the previous maps, and this brings it more into line with the rest of the series.
● 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 was less functional. The 10th anniversary edition map also looks artistically nicer, especially the addition of snow to the caps of the mountains, and north of the snow line that runs across the width of the map. This is important for the theme, and gives a whole different feel to this map.
● 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.
● 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 player reference cards which have a Major Lines chart. The Major Lines chart was also supposed to be printed on the map itself, but unlike the other anniversary edition expansion maps, unfortunately this didn't happen with the North America map. The publisher Rick Soued made the following comment on this in the Kickstarter: "Looks like you are right and the Major Lines chart layer went missing in the final file using for printing up the game board. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, we did not forget to print the same chart on each and every one of the Player Reference Cards, so every player does have reference to the Major Lines chart and its omission on the board thus has no effect on game play." When asked for a printable file that players could use to add to the map themselves if they wished, he readily agreed, and this has since been added to the file section on BGG here.
● Clearer city names: Cosmetic improvement is also evident in the fact that all the names of the cities use a larger font that makes them easier to read. In the previous version, some city names were located above instead of below the cities; consistency has been applied here and now all the city names are located beneath the cities. 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.
● 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.
Income and Score Track
An income and score track is included which is identical to the one that comes with the 10th anniversary edition of the base game. It has also had a makeover in terms of graphic design. It now twists and turns like a winding track, which looks more natural than the score track of the previous version. The artwork of the previous score-track had a more realistic look, whereas the new score-track has a more digital look. But the new version is far more functional, and the numbers are larger and clearer, and definitely easier to read across to the table, and this is especially a good improvement.
So why is it included if it's already with the base game? It's because it is slightly different from the score track that came with earlier editions of the base game - the very small difference being that the income for 98 and 99 points is $10,000 instead of $9,000. This change was already made with the original version of the North America expansion, which first introduced this change, and thus came with its own Income and Score Track.
The change was originally made in view of the transcontinental game, which typically sees higher scores. Rick Holzgrafe explained it as follows (link): "In the Transcontinental game, you can expect your score to wrap well past 100 points. If you don't time your expansion correctly, you can find yourself at the low point of your income just when you need income again for the expansion into the western board. I wanted that effect in the game, but I didn't want it to be too devastating: so the rule is that once your income rises to $10,000 in the beginning of the game, it will never again fall lower than $10,000. So: as your points approach 100, your income drops to $10,000 but no lower; when you pass 100, your income remains at $10,000 until the scoreboard shows it rising above that level again."
The base game of the anniversary edition has modified the score track in the same way, but when you pass 100 your income remains static at $10,000 (see this thread for discussion). All this means is that the Income and Score Track of the 10th Anniversary Edition of the North America expansion is irrelevant if you already have the 10th Anniversary Edition of the base game, because they are identical. Players who have the old version of the base game, however, will welcome being able to get an upgraded score track together with this expansion.
Snowy Track Tiles
The previous version included a sheet with extra track tiles, purely for the transcontinental game, since you can expect to need extra track in view of the larger scale of a game over two maps.
The 10th anniversary version instead includes a sheet with snow tiles, which have white instead of green backgrounds to the railroad track. This was a suggestion that the publisher took over from one of the backers of the project, and is a lovely thematic fit for this expansion.
As an optional extra, some (transparent) ice trains were also offered as an alternative to the player colours used in the game, but these were a Kickstarter add-on for backers only, and are especially nice to use with another expansion, Railways of Antarctica.
Rail Baron Cards
There are two lots of Rail Baron Cards provided, a set of 12 for the Canada game, and a separate set of 12 for the Transcontinental game. 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
Of the 50 Railroad Operation Cards provided, 4 of these are new cards (marked with a golden spike) used only for the Transcontinental game. The Compendium causes unnecessary confusion about the component count - it says on page 15 that there are 17 Operations Cards for the Transcontinental Game, when this should read 4 Operations Cards. One of these cards also has an unfortunate misprint, because the Echo Bay Service Bounty for the Transcontinental Games should read Elko (link to discussion).
The other 46 Railroad Operation Cards are for the Canada map. An immediately noticeable change here is the artwork on the back of all these cards - the previous version had artwork that matched the old Europe expansion, rather than the cover artwork of the North America expansion. The 10th anniversary edition expansion cards now have new artwork on the back to match the box cover correctly. There were a number of errata on these cards in the original version of this expansion, especially the Ferry and Mine cards. Thankfully all these things have been corrected in the new version, and clarifications added where necessary.
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. Previously these were just double-sided cards, with Major Lines for the Canada map on one side, and Major lines for the Transcontinental Game on the other side. Now there are half a dozen separate cards for each form of the game, and the reverse side has the available actions and tracking-building costs, as well as mention of the number of empty city markers that trigger the game end. The Major Line side of these cards also identifies each city pair that is part of a Major Line with a letter (A, B, C etc), which is also noted on the map on the cities themselves.
The previous version had a small rulebook that just covered the changes implemented by this expansion. 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
But since it can't be assumed that everyone will have the latest version of the base game, a separate rule-book has still been included, although not the entire Compendium, but only the three pages of rules relevant for several expansions (Western US, Great Britain, North America, and Europe), as excerpted from the Compendium (pages 11, 12 and 15).
The original version of Railways of North America also included rules for the transcontinental game for the first time, even though the transcontinental game doesn't use this particular map. That's why they aren't included with the new edition of this expansion, since they are included with the Compendium that comes with the base game (pages 8-9). Even so, it's somewhat surprising that these two pages of the rules aren't included, since not everyone who gets the new expansion can be expected to have the anniversary edition of the base game with the compendium. Furthermore, this expansion does include the extra cards used for the Transcontinental Game, so you would expect the rules to go along with them. Fortunately these rules are readily accessible, and have also been updated and clarified where necessary.
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:
● older version cubes + 10th anniversary expansion map
● 10th anniversary edition cubes + older version expansion map
● 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 box: A thinner box, with thumb tabs to facilitate removing the lid.
● 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: The start and end point of major lines are marked on the cities themselves with matching alphabet letters (e.g. A, B, C etc), although a major lines chart on the map itself was accidentally omitted.
● Revised Round & Turn Order tracks: The tracks on the board for keeping track of turn order and rounds have been upgraded and improved.
● Revised score track: A copy of the upgraded and improved score track (clearer numbers and figures) from the base game is included.
● Revised game cards: Some revisions have been made to the Railroad Operation/Barons cards, mostly with added clarifications to avoid misunderstandings by players, and especially some of the errata from the original printing corrected. These also have new artwork on the back, to match to new 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.
● New snowy track tiles: A sheet of track tiles with snow as background art is included.
● Revised and player reference cards: These cards have been redone and improved, with major lines on one side and player actions on the other; plus there are now separate reference cards for the Canada map and for the Transcontinental game.
The Railways of North America expansion - in its original version - was the first to come with official rules for the transcontinental game, and that continues to be reflected by the fact that the 10th anniversary edition of this expansion also contains the extra cards needed to play that, even though the transcontinental game doesn't use the Canada map at all.
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."
The 10th anniversary expansion reprint of Railways of North America 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 - 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. Just be aware that if you have an older copy of the base game, you should try to get the previous version of this expansion map to avoid any colour matching issues. Alternatively, get this 10th anniversary expansion map, and either upgrade to the 10th anniversary edition of the base game, or try to get separately the goods cubes and new city markers of the 10th anniversary edition base so you can use them with the new expansion, because then you won't have any issues with compatibility.
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.
I always think of this as the "Railways of Canada" map, but I suppose it has the name "Railways of North America" due to the inclusion of cards for the Transcontinental Game, even though that game doesn't even use the map included here, but the Eastern and Western US maps. I'm not personally inclined to play the larger and longer form of the game which combines those two maps anyway, so I can't say much about it from personal experience, but it is a bit of a pity that making this epic game come together (literally) hasn't gone entirely smoothly. But the main appeal of the North America expansion lies with getting another map, and the size of the Canada map makes it a nice alternative to the Mexico and Europe maps for a tighter game that is arguably best with 3-4 players. As with the other expansions, this is a fine addition to a wonderful series!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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