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Rails Across America

Rails Across America Board

[Update - This design has been licensed by FRED Distribution. See the July 9, 2009 comment below for details.]

In Rails Across America, players compete to build the most valuable railroad network. A network's value is comprised of the number of towns and cities it connects, the number of railroad stations built in cities, and the amount of money the player has earned.

The board shows a diagrammatic map of America: a network of lines ("links") meeting at junctions. (See the attached image.) Six of the junctions are major cities, the rest are towns. There are four grades of links, varying from short/easy to long/difficult. The more difficult a link is, the more it costs to build, but the more money a player makes when delivering goods over that link.

There are four kinds of goods, represented by cubes in four colors. During setup, one random cube is placed on each junction. Each junction is also marked with one of the four goods colors, which indicates that that city or town is a potential destination for that kind of good.

Players build links by paying money, according to the link's grade. A built link is marked by placing a token on the link in the player's color (like a Catan road, or a Railroad Tycoon choo-choo). The first player to build a given link pays the bank. A second player may later build the same link by paying the cost to the first player instead of the bank, and then placing his link marker alongside the first player's. No more than two players may build any given link. All of a player's links must be connected; discontiguous building is not allowed.

Deliveries are made by moving a goods cube from its starting junction to a destination junction whose color matches the cube. The active player may choose any route, with these restrictions: All links must belong to the active player, the route may not loop or return upon itself, and the cube may travel over at most seven links. You may move a cube past a junction of matching color in order to reach a further destination. The player receives money from the bank for each link in the route, according to the link's grade.

When a cube is delivered, it is removed from play and its starting junction is left empty. A player can "replenish" (place one new random cube on each empty junction in his own network) by paying a cost to the bank.

Each of the six major cities has a stack of Delivery tokens, marked with a monetary value and with the city's name. When a player makes a delivery to a city, he may take the most valuable remaining Delivery token for that city and keep it.

Each of the six cities has three Railroad Station tokens, each worth a different amount of VPs. When a player builds a Railroad Station at a particular city, he takes the highest-value remaining Railroad Station token for that city. Building a Railroad Station costs a lot of money, but Delivery tokens for that City may be turned in as part of the payment. (A Delivery token is essentially a discount on building a Railroad Station at that City.) Spent Delivery tokens are removed from the game.

At the end of the game, VPs are awarded for the number of cities and towns in each player's network, and for the amount of money the player has left. For cities, the VP rewards are triangular: 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21. This is to encourage vigorous competition to build a wide and comprehensive network.

Turn order goes clockwise. On each turn, the active player takes two actions. He may take the same action twice, if desired. The actions are:

* Build one link
* Build one Railroad Station
* Deliver one Goods Cube
* Replenish
* Take a Bank Loan (get money, but lose VPs at end of game)

End of game is triggered by running out of cubes during a Replenish action. Play continues to the end of the round, so that all players get the same number of turns. Final VPs are calculated, and most VPs wins.

For a discussion of why I'm designing this game, see my blog.

Comments

Hammer and Spike Licensed

I've been lax about updating this journal; most of my commentary lately has been in my non-BGDF blog at http://rixjoint.blogspot.com. But it seems like it's time to post an update here, because the design has now been licensed by FRED Distribution.

All my agonizing over a name went for nothing, because the design won't be published as a stand-alone game. Instead its original mechanics will be folded into a forthcoming expansion for the Railways of the World series (which, as aficionados will know, is the re-titled reprint of Railroad Tycoon). I'll be doing the preliminary design work for the expansion, with help and guidance from FRED's in-house developers. I'm excited about this, because I'm a huge Railroad Tycoon fan and that game was much in my mind during development of Hammer and Spike (aka Rails Across America, The Nameless Rail Game, and Wotthe'ell Am I Going to Call This Thing).

A quick summary of events: my last post in this journal mentioned that I was taking the prototype to GameStorm, mostly with the intent of showing it to Seth Jaffee (sedjtroll) and getting in some playtests. At GameStorm it turned out they had a session track for wannabe-designers like me, so I got in it and showed the game to some folks. It wound up attracting more attention than I had expected, and I was asked to provide a prototype to be taken to the Gathering Of Friends the next weekend. So I did (and there's a mini-saga here about Helen and I frantically building a "disposable" prototype to send off, but I'll spare you the details) and the eventual result was the offer from FRED.

I have some work ahead of me now. Instead of licensing a nearly-finished design, I'm going to have to start over and design something new. Fortunately I'm not starting completely from scratch. I "just" have to draw a new map, and figure out how to meld H&S's special features into the familiar RotW rules. I expect it to be challenging, and (of course!) fun.

Adventures in Prototyping

I'm about to take the game up to GameStorm in Portland in hopes of getting some more live playtests in. The board is about 22"x30", and to date I've been making boards by printing out nine sheets of 8.5x11" paper and trimming them and taping them together. This works fine at home, and is cheap and quick. But for travel, a rolled-up poster-size paper board isn't so hot. It gets battered, and it wants to curl instead of lying flat, and it's hard to transport (even in a cardboard tube, it doesn't stack or pack well).

So this weekend I tried something I've never done before: I made a quad-fold board. This was an experiment; if it worked I'd have a board that would pack safely in a cardboard box ("just like a real game!"). Fortunately my goal was not to make a professional-looking product; I just wanted something flat, transportable, and semi-durable.

So I went down to Michael's and bought a couple of sheets of 20x30" foam-core posterboard. The astute observer will note that this is smaller than my board size by 2 inches in one dimension, which annoyed the daylights out of me, but there were no larger sizes. Fortunately my board image has plenty of nice-looking but inessential border space; I was able to trim down the extra width without sacrificing functionality or distorting the geometry. But it's not as pretty, alas. (Note to self: in future, design prototype boards to be 20"x30" or smaller.)

A while back I had bought a can of Elmer's spray-on adhesive. I printed out my latest board image and trimmed the pages, sprayed the backs, then applied them to the foam-core. This didn't go well. Turns out the Elmer's is more tacky than sticky, and I didn't get a good bond. Also I didn't manage to get the central sheet down quite straight, so the whole board image is slightly cock-eyed on the foam-core. (I knew that would be a problem, and sure enough, it was. I had measured and marked carefully but still screwed it up. I'm a klutz.)

When it was all done, the corners of the sheets really wanted to come loose and curl up. I used Elmer's white glue to stick them down firmly. This contributed to the ugliness because the glue dampened the paper and made it ripple; but at least it stayed down after that.

The next step was to cut the board. Helen has a really nice straight-edge cutter, which I completely forgot about when making my initial cuts. Instead I used a rather dull X-Acto knife and a ruler, with messy results. Helen stopped me at that point and got the cutter for me, which made the rest of the job really clean and nice.

Foam-core board is a sandwich of styrofoam and thick glossy card stock. You can draw or glue artwork to the card stock, and the foam provides stiffness and thickness. I made a longitudinal cut down the middle of the board, not quite all the way through the foam, so that the artwork and foam were cut but not the cardstock on the back. Then I deepened the cut for half of its length, to cut completely through the board and both layers of cardstock. I turned the board face-down and cut the backside at right angles to the first cut, this time not cutting the cardstock and artwork.

Here's a rough diagram:

+--------------+-------------+
+              |             +
+              |             +
+--------------+=============+
+              |             +
+              |             +
+--------------+-------------+

The cross in the middle is where I cut. The horizontal cuts are made from the top (graphics side) of the board: ----- is half-deep, while ===== cuts all the way through the entire boards. The vertical cut | is made from the underside of the board, and is half-deep. The result is a board that bends down at the left-horizontal cut, and up at the vertical cut, allowing the board to be folded to one-quarter of its unfolded size.

And this part, thankfully, worked well (especially after Helen gave me the cutter). The final result is not gorgeous, but it is fully functional. The board and all other bits fit nicely into a flattish cardboard box for packing and transporting.

The next time I do this, it will go better. I'll use a different glue, take more care about positioning the pages on the foam-core board, have my artwork ready at 20"x30", and use the good cutter. I'm convinced that a pretty nice-looking and fairly durable prototype board can be made using this method. It's cheap (the foam-core is about $5) and quick to make.

(Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention: my silly indecision about a name continues, but this board is labeled Hammer and Spike and I'll (probably) stick with that. No name makes everybody happy, but I have to call it something, and I'm getting tired of calling it the "Nameless Rail Game." A certain (former) friend's suggestion to call it "Rickety Rails" was rejected outright.)

Next stop: GameStorm!

Making a board

Next time try Super 77 (which I think is made by 3M) adhesive. I hear that is the best stuff. I've made boards that way, and it's always worked well. The thing I like least is that they are very thick.

You could also try Illustration board next time - it's thinner and very nice, but I think it's more expensive too. My friend used it to make copies of Terra Prime and Homesteaders, so I'll show you this week at Gamestorm.

I look forward to playing Hammer & Spike this week! I hope you'll indulge me with a couple games of Terra Prime and Homesteaders as well ;)

See you in a few days!

sedjtroll wrote:Next time try

sedjtroll wrote:
Next time try Super 77 (which I think is made by 3M) adhesive. I hear that is the best stuff. I've made boards that way, and it's always worked well. The thing I like least is that they are very thick.

You could also try Illustration board next time - it's thinner and very nice, but I think it's more expensive too. My friend used it to make copies of Terra Prime and Homesteaders, so I'll show you this week at Gamestorm.

I chose the foam-core for two reasons. First, it's very stiff and lies flat; my impression of illustration board is that it often warps. Second, I thought that the "sandwich" would make it easy to cut into a foldable shape, and I was right. With anything else, I'd have the hassle of designing and building some kind of hinge. But I'd like to see your boards. We'll definitely play all the prototypes, schedule permitting. I want to see the latest iteration of Terra Prime, and I've never played Homesteaders.

Rick-Holzgrafe

Rick-Holzgrafe wrote:
Foamcore... it's very stiff and lies flat; my impression of illustration board is that it often warps.

I think you're thinking of posterboard or something. I'll show you the illustration board, It's thick and stiff, but not as thick as foamcore.

Progress, and a name

Recently the game got its first live playtest, and I was pleased to see that it went well. The best news was that all players thought it was a very good game, and needed only a few "little tweaks" to be considered done. I know better; no game is "done" after just one playtest. I expect to be adjusting and tuning things for months to come. But no one thought the game was boring, so that's good news.

It may run a bit long. Certainly the session went way too long; but most of the players were game designers themselves (and all were experienced gamers), so there were frequent pauses to discuss the design and its problems and to brainstorm possible solutions. I am looking for ways to shorten the time a bit, but only more playtesting will tell me how long it really takes to play. And (more good news) I was actually the only one who felt that the session took too long; the other players disagreed.

I am learning the difference between designing a game and developing a game. Part of development is this process of playing the game again and again, making changes, and seeing how they change the play. This design went from an early vague notion to an initial set of rules I called "Straw Man 1". After many solo playtests and a lot of computer simulations, I progressed up through "Straw Man 6". At this point I thought it was worth showing to other people; also I felt that I could not make more progress without seeing some live playtests. The version that got tested was dubbed "Tin Man 1" (because tin is more solid than straw). I am now working on "Tin Man 2", looking for ways to address the concerns my playtesters found. I hope to take Tin Man 2 to a local Games Day soon, and to a couple of conventions (GameStorm in Portland, and KublaCon in Burlingame near San Francisco) over the next few months. When some future version starts surviving playtests without needing more changes, it will become "Steel Man 1" and I'll start to feel like it's getting close to done.

I may make Tin Man 2 available to selected people as a set of downloadable build-it-yourself PDF files. Making a copy is mostly a matter of printing out the board and a few player aids, and then scrounging bits from other games or your generic prototyping supplies. But I want to settle the TM2 rules a bit more, and then I'll have to rewrite the rules and rework the player aids before putting it all out there.

And finally... I may have settled on a name. I am leaning toward calling it "Silver Rails". It's short, memorable, and evocative. It lends itself to expansions: "Silver Rails: Britain", "Silver Rails: Podunk", and so on. (Yes, I know it's the height of hubris to be planning for expansions when I don't even have a finished original. Hubris is fun!) I was avoiding the whole "Placename Rails" name format because most of the crayon rail games use it; but "Silver" is not a placename, so I don't think there's a problem.

More discussion is available at my blog.

The Iron Horse With No Name

I'm still agonizing about a name for this beast... which is dumb, considering that I'm not even sure it's a playable game yet. But I guess everything needs a label.

There are a lot of names that would be cool, but they've been used. Golden Spike, Coast to Coast, Iron Horse, Iron Road, and pretty much anything with the word Rail or Railways in it, are all taken.

But I have a couple of ideas.

Transcontinental - I like this one. It perfectly captures my goal for the gameplay, a game in which you compete to complete the best coast-to-coast railroad. Its drawbacks are that it's maybe too reminiscent of TransAmerica and TransEuropa; and it wouldn't work well if (in my dreams!) the initial design spawns a series. Transcontinental: Britain, for example, doesn't sound right.

Big Iron - This phrase more commonly refers to mainframe computers, handguns, trucks, and farm equipment; but I've seen it used occasionally for railroad locomotives. It's short, memorable, and evocative.

Long Haul - A little to my surprise, there is no game with this name on BoardGameGeek. Like Transcontinental it captures some of the intent of the game; and it might work better as a series anchor. Long Haul: Britain doesn't sound as silly as Transcontinental: Britain.

Opinions, anyone?

Even Better

A couple of recent additions to the game seem to have really improved it. I am now thinking of trying a live playtest sometime soon.

Here's what's new:

In the original version, every town and city had a fixed color, which (as in Age of Steam and Railroad Tycoon) indicates which color of Good can be delivered there. This is still true of the towns, but the six Cities are now large circles that show four "pie slices", each slice in a different color (like a pie chart with four equal segments). Each has a "City Cam" placed over it: essentially a cardboard circle with one pie slice chopped out of it, so that only one of a City's four colors shows through the slice. The visible color is the City's current delivery color; each time a Good is delivered, the Cam rotates clockwise to show the next color.

In other words, deliveries to each City have to rotate through the colors: red, yellow, green, blue, then back to red again. This adds player interaction, because making a delivery to a City might give a new potential delivery to another player, or it might take one away. Players get bonus VPs (in addition to the usual cash payoff) for City-to-City deliveries, so messing with the City Cams is an important tactic, and you need to be aware of what deliveries your opponents may be trying to set up.

Players can build Switchyards in Cities. To do this, you must first deliver at least one Good of each color to a City (so again you must watch the City Cam carefully), and then pay a large amount of money. Switchyards pay off handsomely in VPs if you can build them, but only one may be built per City, so players are also competing for those opportunities.

More recently I've limited the distance that goods can be delivered, in two ways. Your Locomotive Level is one limit: unlike AoS or RRT, this is a limit on how much money you can make from a delivery, rather than the number of links you can traverse. (In this game, some links pay off more money than other links.) Raising your Loco Level costs money and an action.

The other limit is link-based: you can deliver no farther than 3 links without refueling your (invisible, virtual) train. Trains refuel at Stations which the players must build, and must occasionally restock with more fuel. You can refuel at your own Stations for free, and at other players' Stations by paying a small but significant amount to the owner. Depleting a Station's fuel supply is another way to mess with your opponents, because it requires an action and some money to resupply your Stations, and a suddenly-empty Station may cut off a long delivery that an opponent was expecting to make.

Stations are necessary for long, high-paying deliveries, and especially for Coast-to-Coast deliveries which also offer bonus VPs. But they cost money to build and to refuel, so timing and placement is critical. (I'm still tuning this feature for best effect.)

My solo playtests seem to show good player interaction and at least some interesting and/or difficult decisions. I hope that a bit more tuning will result in a game I won't be ashamed to expose to playtesters.

Oh, and I still need a new name for it!

Better but not Good yet

I got some work in on my Rails game (which needs a new name) over the holidays. There's good news, and bad news.

The bad news is that the more I think about it, the more I'm sure that this design is insufficiently original. It just doesn't offer anything that's very different from the zillions of other rail games already published. I've got a reasonable framework, and it works fairly well. My focus now is on finding something to add or change that will make it stand out.

I know (in vague terms) what I want. I want the game to be about competing to build a network and make deliveries, because I like that kind of game. So I'm looking for mechanisms that will make that competition more interesting and difficult.

There are pitfalls here. I speak of "adding something", but I don't want whatever-it-is to feel like a band-aid or an irrelevant mechanism bolted on with a stapler and duct tape. I've rejected some ideas just because they make the scoring and rules seem like an inelegant jumble. I'm hoping to find a single "theme" that will fit smoothly with the basic system, and provide players not only with the kind of problems I want, but also give them the feeling that their goals are clear and logical.

Tall order. I haven't found such a mechanism yet.

I do have one idea that interests me very much. I added it in and ran a couple of solo playtests, and I think it genuinely helps. But by itself it's not enough. I'm now thinking of ways to take the same mechanism and apply it to other aspects of the game, to get greater interest and complexity while maintaining that feeling of "mechanical elegance" that comes from a short, clear ruleset. (I'm sorry to seem coy about what "it" is, but I want to think about it some more on my own before exposing it to discussion.) The holidays are over and my spare time is limited again, so this may take a while.

As always, the experience has been worthwhile even if the game is never publishable. I learn new things about game design with every iteration.

Oh, and a note about the simulator: it's way behind the times and no longer in use. If I get an improved game design that seems to merit the effort, I'll look into updating the simulator. Might be hard, though. If the game is more difficult to play well, it'll be a lot harder to write a useful AI.

Balance

Nando recently asked me for an update, so here it is. The simulator has been very useful, and very illuminating. It's helped me to settle on a number of different tunable parameters, and helped me adjust the map so that it provides a reasonably balanced four-player game.

The bad news is that it's also shown that the game is seriously unbalanced for three and five players, and the only way to fix it is by redrawing the map. I fear that the game will need a different map for each number of players I want to support. That kinda sucks.

If I'm lucky, I may get away with a two-sided board: four-player on one side, five-player on the other, and a designated subset of the five-player board for three players.

Those interested can read a bit more detail in my blog.

My other concern is that the game is simply too unoriginal. It's not exactly like any other game, but it's still a fairly generic build-network-make-deliveries train game. I hope to hold some real-live-people playtests soon, and I can ask the players what they think. If they're unimpressed, I may drop the project.

Simulation

(Edit: I've just discovered that making a tiny edit to an older post is treated the same as a new post. I wish it wouldn't do that; I just wanted to make a little correction to my grammar, not make everybody look again. This post about "Simulation" first appeared on Friday Nov 14 and has not changed substantially.)

Daunted by the task of balancing and tuning this design, I've done something radical: I built a software simulator for Rails Across America. This gadget is written in Java, and its job is to let me twiddle the game's tuning knobs (costs, payouts, number of players and cubes and so on), and then play a few thousand simulated games and show me the results.

When I do solo playtests, I pretend to be three or four or five different players, and play out an entire game to see how it goes. That's what the simulator does, using an AI module to make the decisions.

In this case, "AI" means "Artificial Idiot". It's not as bright as an experienced human player would be. But I've tuned it to where it plays a credible beginner's game. And it can play 10,000 games in under five minutes, so I can try a lot of different variations in a single evening.

Here's some sample output:

Stats: 1000 games, 34 ties.
Most rounds: 27, Average: 22.667
Lowest cash: -387, Average: -116.903
Wins by order: 264, 270, 254, 212
Average scores by order: 24.584, 24.964, 24.332, 23.488
Average major cities by order: 5.031, 5.008, 4.99, 5.001
Average stations by order: 3.887, 3.97, 4.023, 3.906
Average switchyards by order: 0.781, 0.78, 0.754, 0.702
Average loans by order: 0.39, 0.407, 0.408, 0.423
Wins by start city: Denver:165 Chicago:25 Los Angeles:277 Miami:167 New York:103 San Francisco:263
Elapsed time: 23.873 secs

In this listing, "by order" means that the numbers are listed in order for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th player. (You can see that there's a small advantage to going early in the turn order.)

"Lowest Cash" helps me track the flow of money in the game. I use a little programming trick: I start the bank at zero dollars, and let it go negative as money is given to the players. In the listing, "Lowest cash: -387" means that in all 1000 games, $387 was the most money that was ever in circulation. The average was about $117. That means that in a real game, the bank should start with $300 or $400 dollars in it, so the players won't run out of currency. (So how exceptional is that $387? I don't know yet. I need to track some of these values in more detail, which is a feature I haven't gotten to yet.)

I've also posted about this at my blog.

New Scoring System

I've played several simulated multi-player games now, each time with a different scoring system, to see how they play out. The latest was the best yet, and seemed to produce an entertaining and competitive game.

The major changes were:

* Removed the scoring for connecting major cities.
* Changed the way in which Railroad Stations are scored.
* Added "Goal Cards".

Railroad Stations are now scored similarly to the way that connections to major cities were: the more you have, the more each new one is worth. There is a limit of two stations per major city, so there is still tension in deciding whether to build now, or wait until it might be cheaper.

Goal Cards are similar to some of the Operations cards in Railroad Tycoon: each specifies a goal to be achieved, and a VP reward for achieving it. But they work more like the Public Objectives in Twilight Imperium 3: any player can score any goal at any time, no matter who else has already scored that goal. Only some of the Goal Cards are used in any game, so each game is different.

Although there are no longer built-in rewards simply for connecting major cities, most of the goal cards specify connections, some specifically (e.g. "New York to Los Angeles") and some more generally ("any four green towns"). Some of these do allow scoring for connecting certain major cities.

I suspect that there is an advantage for the players who start in the west. The connections there are more expensive, but pay off better: and you pay for them only once, but profit from deliveries many times. That may require tuning.

If I can convince myself that this isn't too much of a Railroad Tycoon clone, there might be a game here.

Nice!

I like the sound of this, Rick. It does sound fairly similar to other rail games, but I guess to an extent all rail games share several similar aspects. It's clearly inspired by Railroad Tycoon I think, and for some reason it reminds me of Steel Driver (which I haven't actually seen in action yet). But it sounds decent, and it sounds like the game play could be original enough.

I like that 2 people can build any given route, and that the 2nd person to do so pays the first - so getting a route first means you get it for free basically, unless no one else gets it (how likely is that to happen?)

The Replenish action reminds me of Hansa, and I wonder if it might be a good idea to make it even more like Hansa's replenish - replenishing the whole board and not just your routes. Though I'll note that when you replenish your own routes, another player could still deliver those cubes (since multiple routes go into towns and cities). In fact, I could see a situation in which you're damned if you replenish - all the cubes could be delivered before you go again, and damned if you don't - you have no deliveries to make. This could potentially pose a problem. I'll also note that in Hansa, replenishing isn't a turn action, it's something you can do at the beginning of your turn for a cost. That might also be something to consider (if the stalemate thing occurs).

Good work, keep us posted!

- Seth

sedjtroll wrote:I like the

sedjtroll wrote:
I like the sound of this, Rick. It does sound fairly similar to other rail games, but I guess to an extent all rail games share several similar aspects.

True, and yet I'd like to inject a little more originality into it. Not sure how yet. I might just set this aside for a while (I need to work on Heir and Regent anyway) and see what bubbles up after a couple of months of ignoring it.

Quote:
It's clearly inspired by Railroad Tycoon I think, and for some reason it reminds me of Steel Driver (which I haven't actually seen in action yet). But it sounds decent, and it sounds like the game play could be original enough.

Definitely Railroad Tycoon -- see my blog entry. The system of colored goods cubes to match colored cities is RRT/AoS. I haven't played Steel Driver yet either, although I've read the rules and it looks cool. My map resembles Steel Driver's in that the potential links and their building costs are drawn on the board. (This is also true of Ticket to Ride and Power Grid, no doubt among others.) The payoff for deliveries is more like the crayon rail games: you make a delivery, you get immediate cash. The payoff-per-link is not exactly like any game I can call to mind, but perhaps most similar to RRT.

Quote:
I like that 2 people can build any given route, and that the 2nd person to do so pays the first - so getting a route first means you get it for free basically, unless no one else gets it (how likely is that to happen?)

So far it seems that most links aren't doubled, but some strategic ones are. Connections to the major cities are crucial, so the early builders of those links can usually count on some "leased rail" income later in the game. There is usually also some other "leased rail" on routes between the major cities, but as there are several ways to skin that cat, you can't count on that income—your opponents might go a different way.

On the whole, not too much money changes hands using this mechanism. But a major part of the gameplay is alternating deliveries with builds, making money so that you can spend it. Getting a little unexpected (or expected) income between turns can speed up your development. Also money is worth VPs at the end of the game, and the average link cost works out to about one VP. So another way of looking at it is that you're giving the other guy a VP when you double his rail. It gives the players more to think about.

Quote:
The Replenish action reminds me of Hansa, and I wonder if it might be a good idea to make it even more like Hansa's replenish - replenishing the whole board and not just your routes. Though I'll note that when you replenish your own routes, another player could still deliver those cubes (since multiple routes go into towns and cities). In fact, I could see a situation in which you're damned if you replenish - all the cubes could be delivered before you go again, and damned if you don't - you have no deliveries to make. This could potentially pose a problem. I'll also note that in Hansa, replenishing isn't a turn action, it's something you can do at the beginning of your turn for a cost. That might also be something to consider (if the stalemate thing occurs).

The Replenish action is lifted directly from Hansa. (You see what I mean about there not being much originality in this design!) Your analysis is essentially correct. Overlapping networks does mean that the cubes you replenish can be stolen by other players. For this reason it's best to replenish as the first of your two actions per turn; that way you can be sure at least to deliver the juiciest cube before anyone else can. OTOH, it's rare for all of your junctions to be shared, and rare for all other players (in a 4p game, anyway) to have a shot at your cubes. You can expect to lose some cubes, but it's very unlikely that all of your cubes can be stolen before your next turn.

Also, by the time the players' networks are that deeply intertwined, deliveries are long and lucrative. Getting even one decent delivery, even minus the cost of replenishment, should pay you enough to make a couple more builds, or perhaps purchase a station at a major city. So while there is definitely some worry about benefitting your opponents when you replenish, there's still plenty of reason to do it when you need to.

I think it's best that Replenish is a distinct action. It increases the brinkmanship: "if I can hold out just one more turn, I think Green will have to replenish, and then maybe I won't have to spend the money and the action myself." I like games in which actions are a scarce resource.

I don't think the whole board should be replenished. That makes the replenishment schedule too chunky, if you know what I mean. One replenishment of the whole board would be roughly equivalent to maybe three or four replenishments of individual networks. I'd like the action to be more frequent and in smaller chunks than that. Remember, in Hansa the board is not very large, and everybody visits every city frequently: not true in a rail game where you have to build connections before you can go places.

Thanks for the input, Seth! If I get motivated, I might post the actual rules soon. Although I really need to spend some time on Heir and Regent!

Rick-Holzgrafe

Rick-Holzgrafe wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
I like the sound of this, Rick. It does sound fairly similar to other rail games, but I guess to an extent all rail games share several similar aspects.

True, and yet I'd like to inject a little more originality into it. Not sure how yet. I might just set this aside for a while (I need to work on Heir and Regent anyway) and see what bubbles up after a couple of months of ignoring it.


Great work Rick, thanks for sharing your progress! If you are in a rut about how to make it more original, have you thought about exploring different themes or settings? Maybe you could choose a piece of history that you find interesting or tweak with the "theme" to add a twist or a train game with a bit of something else. Maybe the goals are a little different than other games. Maybe the game is about something else haveing to do with trains that other games are not.

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