The Railways of England BASIC Expansion



If you’re not yet familiar with Railways of England and Wales, I’d suggest you start by checking out the first instalment in this series of reviews:
The latest Railroad Tycoon expansion: a 2-for-1 deal that includes a completely new train game from Martin Wallace
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/444919

There I explained how this series of games developed before and after Age of Steam, and how the Railways of England and Wales product actually contains two different games:
1. Railways of England & Wales: BASIC Expansion for Railways of the World
2. Railways of England & Wales: ADVANCED Share System

Railways of England will especially appeal to people looking to use it as an expansion for 2005’s Railways of the World, or the re-implemented 2009 version, Railways of the World. In this second instalment of this series of reviews, we’ll review the game as a Railroad Tycoon or Railways of the World expansion. Here’s mama bear and the two children:



THE RAILWAYS OF THE WORLD SERIES

The appeal

Railroad Tycoon and Railways of the World are more friendly and accessible than the tougher experience offered by Age of Steam. Their strength lies in the theme, which is closely connected with the pick-up-and-deliver mechanic, and the economic system that is at the heart of the game. When combined with lavishly produced pieces, colourful components, and a game that is accessible to the average gamer and can be completed in 2-3 hours, the Railways of the World system has generated some serious staying power and appeal – it’s easily one of my all time favourite games, and many others would agree with me.



The original base game: Railroad Tycoon

Railroad Tycoon was the offspring of a Martin Wallace system that reached its high point as a gamer’s game in Age of Steam in 2002, but was simplified in 2005 for a wider audience as Railroad Tycoon. Further minor refinements to the original base game were introduced with the Rails of Europe expansion (2008). Railways of the World is the new base game of the series, and can best be considered as Railroad Tycoon Mark II. This new-and-improved form of the game effectively renders the original Railroad Tycoon game obsolete. Railroad Tycoon, however, remains the original medium-weight base game in this series.



The new base game: Railways of the World

With the benefit of the tweaks implemented in the expansions released since Railroad Tycoon first came out, this medium-weight game has now arguably arrived at its optimal form with Railways of the World (2009).



The differences between Railways of the World and Railroad Tycoon are not substantial, aside from the two maps (which replace the single map of North America in Railroad Tycoon), and some improvements and tweaks to the rules. Most of these changes are relatively minor, and were already implemented in the Rails of Europe and Railways of England expansions (cost of $3000 for all hexes with water; shares only can be taken out when needing money for purchases; Passenger Lines starting card instead of New Train; and rules for making all major lines available from the start of the game).

Railways of the World is scheduled to come out very soon, and according to the publisher will include the following components:
● Map of Eastern U.S.
● Map of Mexico
● 12 Railroad Baron cards
● 42 Railroad Operation cards
● Start Player card
● Score Track
● 150 Trains (6 new colors)
● 24 Empty city markers
● 125 Goods cubes
● Bond certificates
● Money
● Track tiles
● New City tiles
● Golden Spike tiles
● Drawstring bag
● 2 Rulebooks



Edit: I've received reliable confirmation directly from the publisher that Railways of the World has arrived at their warehouse, and should be at distributors and stores within the next week.

The expansions: Rails of Europe and Railways of England & Wales

Both Rails of Europe and Railways of England serve as expansions, and can be used with the original base game (Railroad Tycoon) or the new base game (Railways of the World). So to play the Railways of England game, you’ll need components from either of these two base games.



But let’s check out the basic Railways of England and Wales expansion in more detail.

COMPONENTS

Map

Size

The first obvious difference from the original Railroad Tycoon map is a more table-friendly size, not unlike the Rails of Europe expansion. Even the dimensions of the European and English maps are the same.



Major lines

Another noticeable difference from the original Railroad Tycoon is the fact that the major routes are marked on the board and available permanently for all players, rather than coming up randomly during game play when Railroad Operations cards were turned up. This change was already introduced in Rails of Europe, and is a good improvement!



Distribution of cities

The distribution of cities in the original Railroad Tycoon game and the Rails of Europe and Railways of England expansions differs considerably.

Railroad Tycoon
3x Red, 5x Blue, 4x Purple, 4x Black, 7x Yellow, 29x Gray = 52 total

Railways of England
3x Red, 3x Blue, 5x Purple, 6x Black, 9x Yellow, 18x Gray = 44 total

Rails of Europe
2x Red, 4x Blue, 4x Purple, 3x Black, 4x Yellow, 14x Gray = 31 total

The number of cities on the Railways of England map (44) is in between the amounts on the original Railroad Tycoon map (52) and Rails of Europe (31). But while Rails of Europe has 2-4 cities of each colour, in Railways of England it ranges from 3-9 cities of each colour. This means that cities for trading Red and Blue goods will be in much higher demand than cities for trading goods of other colours. This gives the pickup-and-deliver mechanism more of an asymmetrical feel, which I like, since cities of certain colours could prove more profitable and important than others.



Proximity of cities

Another big difference between the Europe and England maps is that the English map is more densely populated with more cities that are much closer together. It’s also worth noting that there are very few cities with a large amount of cubes (many have only 1 or 2 cubes), so players are forced to diversify and build larger networks. The result is a different feel from the Europe map. Both the Europe and the England map avoid the weakness that comes with the Railroad Tycoon map, which is so asymmetrical that control of the dense north-east is overly important in every game. In England, you'll often end up with many short links!



Corrected colours

Note also that there’s little chance of confusing the blue and purple cities (a problem in some editions of the original Railroad Tycoon), unless you’re afflicted with some form of color blindness. The quality of the board and the colours really is high class, and a big improvement from the original base game.



Railroad Operations Cards

The deck of 27 Railroad Operation cards replaces the one from Railroad Tycoon, and is naturally geared towards the England map.



New card: Railroad Inspector

The most significant change is the addition of a new card, the Railroad Inspector.



The Railroad Inspector can prove to be a very powerful card, because when used at the right time, it can serve to stop another player from gaining a lucrative Service Bounty, and enable you to steal it for yourself. This is a solid addition.

Starting cards

The three starting cards are the same as in the Rails of Europe expansion, and are well balanced. The “Passenger Lines” card is a definite improvement over the original Railroad Tycoon “New Train” card, because it helps give more variable goals. A good argument can be made for using the Passenger Lines in all Railroad Tycoon games.



Hotel and Service Bounty cards

The concept of Hotel and Service Bounty cards is already familiar, and the only difference here is that they feature English cities. The value of these during the game will vary according to the cubes available and the state of the game, which makes auctions to attempt to be the first to get these cards interesting.



Other cards

Unlike Rails of Europe, there are no Capital Charter or City Charter cards. The remaining cards will be familiar to most Railroad Tycoon players: New Industry, City Growth, Government Land Grant, and Tunnel Engineer (introduced in Rails of Europe).

Comparing the Railroad Operation cards

Here’s how the Railroad Operation cards from Railroad Tycoon compare with the Rails of Europe and Railways of England expansions.

Railroad Tycoon: 37 cards
3x Starting cards (The Railroad Era Begins, Speed Record, New Train)
6x Service Bounty
6x Hotel
4x New Industry
4x City Growth
4x Government Land Grant
2x Perfect Engineering
2x Railroad Executive
6x Major Line

Rails of Europe: 29 cards
3x Starting cards (The Railroad Era Begins, Speed Record, Passenger Lines)
5x Service Bounty
6x Hotel
4x New Industry
3x City Growth
3x Tunnel Engineer
3x City Charter
2x Capital Charter

Railways of England: 27 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

Government Land Grant is somewhat of a surprising addition to Railways of England and somewhat of a surprising omission from Rails of Europe, especially given that the distances between cities is larger on the Europe map than on the England map. I have mixed feelings about the Charter cards used in Rails of Europe, but overall, both expansions have good Railroad Operation cards. Removing the Major Line cards and making them a permanent addition to the board is a particularly welcome improvement (revealing all Major Lines cards at the beginning of the original Railroad Tycoon game is also a variant worth considering, as discussed here).



Railroad Baron cards

The 10 Railroad Baron cards replace the ones from the base game.



They feature some cards with objectives that are more or less identical to the objectives from the base game, such as Stephenson & Stephenson:



Other objectives are clearly specific to the England map.



Reference cards

There’s also 6 reference cards:



Experienced Railroad Tycoon players will find that everything looks familiar here, except perhaps the rule that all non-mountain water hexes cost $3000 (i.e. even when following a river).

CONCLUSIONS

Game-play changes: What do I think?

So how has the game-play changed from the original Railroad Tycoon? Nearly all the changes were minor adjustments already introduced with Rails of Europe, and the game-play is still the Railroad Tycoon type game play that most of us enjoy. Here’s how the game looks, set-up for a two-player session:



There are enough Railroad Tycoon reviews that explain the overall game-play, so I’ll just focus on the differences offered by this expansion:

1. Improved map. Not only is the map a more manageable size, but it eliminates some issues players had with the distinction between blue and purple. The dense arrangement of cities and asymmetrical distribution of city colours creates a sufficiently different game than Rails of Europe.

2. Permanent Major Lines. Listing major routes on the board and making them available throughout the game means that players can pursue long term objectives from the beginning of the game, rather than being dependent on the right Major Line cards coming up. A solid improvement.

3. Tighter money. The income track has been adjusted, and just as in Rails of Europe, the leader will begin to lose income at an earlier stage of the game. In one respect money is tighter, which serves as a good balancing mechanism. But because cities are closer together, the cost of building links is cheaper, and so it is still possible to succeed without needing many shares.

4. More choice for Railroad Baron cards. At the start of the game, players are dealt two Railroad Baron cards, from which they select one. This gives more choice about your long term objective in the game, based on the set-up of that game, and is another good improvement. I’d also recommend it for the base game, and expect this change to be implemented in Railways of the World.

5. Clearer hex classification. Mountain hexes are identified by a dot. Any non-mountain hexes with water (blue) have an associated cost of $3000. This removes the original Railroad Tycoon rules about “following a river”, avoids potential disputes or confusion on this point, and also makes more sense thematically. There’s also no ridges on the map.

6. Issuing bonds is only allowed when needed. Bonds can only be issued when cash is needed. This prevents players from taking out a truck load of bonds at the end of the game simply to meet the requirements of the Railroad Baron objective that rewards the player with the most money. Another sensible change worth importing retroactively if you’re playing Railroad Tycoon.

7. Improved Railroad Operation Cards. The three starting cards are well balanced and the variable goals makes them preferable to the ones in the original Railroad Tycoon. Tunnel Engineer and Railway Inspector are both good additions. I had mixed feelings about the Capital Charter and City Charter cards used in Rails of Europe, so I don’t really miss them here.

8. Scales better. Unlike the base game, the full number of cubes should be used for two and three player games, and this map works fantastic that way. The number of empty city markers that triggers the game end is slightly different: 2 players (9), 3 players (11), 4 players (13), 5 players (15). But there’s no doubt that for a two or three player game, this is a much better choice than the original game, and plays very well.



Overall, as a Railroad Tycoon expansion, this is an immensely satisfying product. Is it better than Rails of Europe? Both are good and have a slightly different feel. If you own the original Railroad Tycoon, owning at least one of these expansions is almost essential, especially for playing games with 2-3 players. Most people will be content with one, but if you’re an avid fan of the system, you’ll find the English map different enough from Rails of Europe to want to have both.



What do others think?

When evaluated on its merits as a simple expansion to Railroad Tycoon or Railways of the World, virtually all comments are positive, except one person who felt that the number of close-together cities and cubes made for very little competition. But this criticism is more than outweighed by voices of praise for the expansion. Here’s a selection:

"Great new map for Railroad Tycoon/Railways of the World. The Inspector adds an interesting twist to the game." – Chris Sorrell
As a map expansion for Railroad Tycoon, this is excellent. There are a lot of cubes on the board, so lots of places to start profitable companies. Lots of interesting major link bonus available. The first to deliver four different colored cubes bonus really provides for some tense moments (and probably provides one of the few cases where the new Railroad Inspector card could have some value). Also, it plays in about half the time as a regular Railroad Tycoon game.” – Kendahl Johnson
"Tightest Railroad Tycoon expansion board so far. This board is so cramped that many are one hex links, like the New England section in the original Railroad Tycoon. Thus, players resort to contorted track layouts. Still, the board generates huge amounts of money, since very little shares are needed to get a lot of income. Nice addition." – Kentaro Sugiyama
"Railways of England and Wales is a fine addition to the Railways of the World family." – Mark Swenholt
"Another cool map for Railroad Tycoon. The England map is pretty tightly packed with cities, so it's a different experience to the other maps in the series. If only the currency was British Pounds rather than dollars, considering it's a game about England and Wales by an English designer!" - Dave Simpson
"Wow! This takes Railroad Tycoon to a whole new level (and I have not played with shares yet). At first glance, the board appears to have too many cities and possible connections...but then you realize no city has more than 3 cubes on it. You can't sit still and get fat on one or two cities--you have to continuously expand or get trapped and choked off." - Patrick Saxton




The final word

Is Railways of England and Wales for you? Gamers who really enjoy Railroad Tycoon and Railways of the World are almost certain to be pleased with this expansion, especially if they’re looking for an alternative to the original map, or want to play with two or three players. The fact that the components have the potential to be used for an Advanced Share System game is an unexpected bonus. But the expansion is a good one completely independent of that. Railroad Tycoon is one of my all-time favourite games, and a time-tested and proven train game classic. As far as I’m concerned, with this expansion my favourite train game just got better.



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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Manuel Pombeiro
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My final word is that I cant stand reading your reviews!!!! I'm gonna give your contact to my wife when I get home with another game!!!
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Kurt Keckley
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Thanks for the great review.

This may sound crazy, but I can't play either expansion because that dark blue water is so hard on my eyes. Silly maybe, but I really with they would lighten the color...

 
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Adam Daulton
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Very good review. I only disagree on one point - tighter money. I think England and Wales is not nearly as tight as Europe and even the original map is tighter than it. The cities, though they do have less cubes, are so close together it takes less money to lay track from one city to another city. Again, nice review!
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Miguel
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Great review.

In my one play so far, I personally felt that the europe map was better. The combination of very short links and little goods seemed to lead each player to focus on their own areas a little more than I like. People were snaking all around each other, but there didn't seem to be as much competition for the actual cubes.

Regarding the colours, I'd say that although the blue/purple issue is resolved, the grey/blue hexes are a little tough to tell apart in bad lighting. Can't they get this right?

Also, the card that allows you to build 4 tracks is hard to use, since very few links require this many in the first place. Feels out of place.

My personal feeling about RRT has always been that it's a great game despite it's flaws (most of which apply to the base game, and feel like they are caused by little playtesting). Railways of Europe felt much better, but this expansion felt like a step back (not as far as the USA map, but still).

Take this all with a grain of salt, though. I'd need to play a few times before really passing judgement.
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agent easy wrote:
Regarding the colours, I'd say that although the blue/purple issue is resolved, the grey/blue hexes are a little tough to tell apart in bad lighting. Can't they get this right?

Just to update my review with current information, it's worth mentioning that the Railways of England & Wales expansion is now out of print. In its place, Eagle Games has recently released Railways of Great Britain (2013). It has the same expansion map (with a couple of cosmetic tweaks), but eliminates the somewhat unpopular advanced stockmarket version that accompanied the original expansion. As seen in the comparative picture below, the colours have also been corrected slightly in line with the rest of the series.

See my full pictorial review for more details: mb The second coming of Railways of England & Wales

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