13 March 2023
The most train game to ever exist
In an industry filled with brilliantly creative minds, it doesn’t take long for a popular game to inspire a new generation of titles, becoming outdated by those refinements. Russian Railroads may no longer be considered the cutting edge, but for those who long for its wooden tracks and tense decisions, Ultimate Railroads ensures you need never look for another worker placement game again.
As a combination of literally every expansion ever released for the 2013 classic (including new expansions exclusively made for this edition) Ultimate Railroads is BIG. It’s a good thing most of the expansions are mutually exclusive, otherwise you’d need a medieval banquet hall to set it up and a bank holiday weekend to play it.
Over a number of rounds, players will use all of their workers to expand their railroads across three different routes, with further options to also improve their trains and tracks (scoring you massive points) as well as investing in factories (which earn some points as well as powerful bonuses.)
There are intentionally limited action options, forcing players to deeply consider every placement. Do you take the engineer tile, providing you a unique action slot and potential end-game points? Or grab the temporary workers/coins that give you more actions for this round? Or even snatch the first place position, ensuring next round you have that vital first pick? The answer is yes, all of these, but also pick one and can you stop staring at the board for twenty minutes and take your go already.
This is not a game for people who struggle making decisions. You must be confident in choosing a course of action and willing to course-correct later if that decision was wrong, otherwise games drag on like a rail replacement service. There’s plenty of ways to earn points if one plan isn’t panning out and sometimes your best move is doing something you might only benefit from a little, but an opponent is now shut out from their game-winning combo.
The other issue specifically with this edition, is that it really isn’t designed for first timers. If you’re going to be buying a game festooned with expansions, especially one that can easily take a couple of hours to play with the base game contents alone, it better be a game you know you’re going to love.
For those that do enjoy the original’s challenge, the rest of this box is an entire mixtape of Eurogaming delight, lovingly crafted and blasted through a boombox at your bedroom window. We have German Railroads, letting you customise your routes and further specialise your winning strategy; American Railroads, which adds a stock board, offering an alternative investment that scoop up bonuses across everyone’s turns; our last big box expansion is the all-new Asian Railroads, that expands on the game’s core mechanics, replacing industry tracks with a communal industry board and letting players increase capacity for locomotives on their routes for even higher journey point potential.
There are literally four other modules which can be added and removed to any game to increase the play space further and a solo variant (where Emil the dog randomly blocks actions as you race to beat your own high score.) It’s clear the designers for this edition went wholeheartedly for supporting invested fans and I can completely respect that.
If you love the original, consider this a first-class upgrade that will have you delightfully deliberating for decades. For those willing to take on a slightly antiquated game at a steep price, this is still an absolutely solid title that can deliver satisfying moments of decision crunching fun.
PLAY IT? YES
If you can, find a way to play Russian Railroads first. If you love that, then buying this may be one of the best value for money gaming purchases ever. Absolutely chock full of worker placement magic
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Great Western Trail
It’s clear to see that Great Western Trail was inspired by the frantic route building design of Ultimate Railroads. If you prefer a game more focused on the building over the journey, Ultimate Railroads delivers in absolute spades.
Designer: Helmut Ohley & Leonhard Orgler
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Time: 120+ minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game Board
- 8 Player boards
- 12 Additional boards
- 27 Wooden workers
- 4 Wooden locomotives
- 15 Wooden maintenance cars
- 11 Wooden wrenches
- 4 Wooden pawns
- 48 Wooden tracks
- 25 Wooden coal wagons
- 312 Cardboard tokens
- 52 Game cards
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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