Continuing the trail of boardgame reviews (there have been a lot of purchases and gaming behind the scenes) - today I will be reviewing "Russian Railroads". This is another game that I got as a gift from Caroline for our two-year anniversary (I got her jewelry, she got me boardgames that we can play together, everyone was happy :-D ).Russian Railroads has players build railroads, in Russia, hence the name. OK there is a bit more to it than that - and it's a pretty damn fun worker placement game with extremely pretty components and board.
In this game players compete against each other, trying to get the most points. You get points for building railroads - of which there are three, and for industrialization of Russia. Each player has a "map" of his own showing the three railway lines and the current status of your industry. Players then share a larger board where resources are gathered in order to build new rails, better trains or improve industry on your map. Players take turns in placing their workers, or money, on spaces on the board for six rounds after which the final points are tallied up and a winner emerges.
There are some very neat features that I really like in this game. First of all, there are several different types of "tracks" - colored Black, Grey, Brown, Cream and White. Black tracks are tier 1, and do not give you much points, Grey tracks are worth a bit more, Brown are worth more than Grey and so on. The tricky part however is that you must always advance your rail construction along each train destination in order. Grey tracks can never move ahead of black tracks, brown can never move ahead of grey and so on.
At the same time you will be dividing your attention between at the very least 2 out of the 3 tracks and the industry aspects of your home board/map since they all give you different bonuses and score points differently. The longest track, the Trans Siberian railroad, is really where you can score most points for placing tracks and scoring tracks in each turn. If you develop this railroad to the max there are both some great bonuses along the way as well as good points reward.
The two smaller/shorter railroads are the Moscow-St Petersburg, and Moscow-Kiev line. You will be interested in spending time developing these as well, as there are some good unlocks along the way, and when finished they too reward you with great points value each turn.
Finally, the industry tracker starts out very slow, but as it picks up speed you can end up earning a massive 30 points for industry alone each turn - and you will receive the perks of various factories along the way (filling those empty slots in the track as you build them).
However, investing your time and resources in all 4 will spread your resources thin and you will have a hard time. Thus players will tend to focus on a "primary" and a "secondary" point generator.
Things that can be unlocked on the way are special bonus tokens that give you a temporary boost, bonus cards that award you extra points at the end of the game, different engineers that can be purchased and give you private locations from which you gather resources, factories that grant various perks, additional workers and new types of railroad tracks.
The game itself is a worker placement game, and you start out with a number of workers, depending on the number of players. These are used on the main board to gather resources. Some spaces require 1 worker, others require two workers, some spaces require 1 worker + 1 coin. Workers can also be substituted by coins that you receive from certain actions or by picking the "money" space on the board. These coins can be hoarded to give you a massive boost one turn, or played evenly each turn to get you some extra actions. They are also used to buy the engineers, of which you randomly generate 6 at the start of the game.
We had a lot of fun playing the game so far, and experimented with different "directions" - in our last game I focused heavily on industry, on another game I checked out what would happen if you finished the Trans Siberian railroad. The game works very well with only 2 players, it comes with a double sided board, which you flip depending on number of players. With 3 or 4 players I assume that there will be a lot more conflict over certain locations on the board as more players will attempt to develop the same railroads or industry tracks at the same time.
It's hard to find any negative aspects. I guess, that since you count points at the end of each turn there may arise a situation where one player get so far behind that continued play is deemed impossible to win. Caroline and I also talked about the theme, she considers that it is represented well, I would probably have liked the representation of railroad building to be a bit less abstract and more involving/exciting. You could argue that the abstraction of railroad color instead of you having to run around and gathering resources such as iron and wood work towards the same goal it would make the game a bit more involving imo. Though this is nitpicking.
Russian Railroads, another solid game in our collection, And if you like worker placement games this one is well worth checking out. Our score: 8/10.