Friday, June 06, 2008

Definitive list of Railroad Tycoon variants Id like to use

My friends and I all like Railroad Tycoon, and we play it relatively frequently. We adopted long ago a variant to make the card draw at the beginning of each round more interesting, and recently I've been considering and trying other variant rules to try and improve the experience. Here's the full list of variants I like and would like to use on a regular basis...

1. Remove Railroad Executive cards from the deck.
Those cards are ridiculous - most of the cards are desirable for some players at some times, Railroad Exec is strictly better than any other action for all players at all times. So while most auctions are kinda lame, suddenly this card comes up and people have to bid like crazy. We didn't like that dynamic.

2. Add Passenger Lines card from Rails of Europe as a starting card.
I like how this encourages/rewards making a variety of deliveries.

3. Instead of the 'official' 10 cards to start and 1 more per game turn, use a smaller number of cards (5, or #players) at the beginning of the game (in addition to the 3 Starting cards of course), and turn up 2 new cards each game turn.
Without this rule too often nobody cares what card came up, and the start player aucti8on is much less interesting. This way it's more frequent that people want to bid.

4. Reveal Major Lines. Like in Rails of Europe, make all Major Lines available from the beginning of the game. Just take them out of the deck and line them up beside the board. First person to complete each gets the points.
This removes some of the luck of the draw that can occur when one player randomly has a Major Line appear in the area he's building - especially early in the game, while another player builds in the vicinity of another Major Line which never happens to appear.

5. Display next cubes. There are several actions which require 2 random cubes to be taken from the bag and placed on the board. This variant takes 2 random cubes from the bag and puts them on display, and the next time 'random' cubes are needed, the displayed cubes are used. Then 2 more cubes are displayed for the next time cubes are needed.
This changes some of the conditional planning into precise planning. One friend is adamantly against it, but I much prefer this variant.

6. New turn order auction. Rails of Europe adopts a variant to the Age of Steam auction which I like, however I have an additional variation on it. Instead of 'around the table' the turn order is based on an auction. On your turn you bid or pass, first passer will go last, next passer will go 2nd to last, etc. Only the winner of the auction pays their bid. Next round bidding begins with the last player and goes up the turn order (as opposed to starting with 1st and going down).
There are often situations where you are in competition with another payer at the table, and there's no telling where they'll be sitting - if it's the player to your right, then you HAVE to win the "normal" auction to go before them, and if anyone else bids, they don't have to. This variant auction makes everyone bid for turn order relative to anyone they might be in competition with. I don't think it needs to be as harsh as Age of Steam where everyone pays 1/2 their bid except the 1st passer because most of the time going 5th isn't much different than going 3rd - you just want to go before a particular player.

7. One day I'd like to try some variant to make the Southwest more interesting. this is probably only good in a 6 (maybe 5) player game, but I've always wanted to see Dallas as a Red city. I might like to see a 6vp service bounty to one of the gray cities in that area like Little Rock. There could be a Major Line or 2, like a long one (Shreveport to Raleigh?) and a shorter one (Dallas to Louisville?). And maybe add a cube to each city down there. This isn't as high on the list because I think the game is fine without it - but it's silly to have that portion of the board and not use it.

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