20 September 2022
The Right Side of the Tracks
The English countryside needs a few train lines on it. The only problem is that the local planners have some really specific demands. But that is often the way with these things. Village Rails is a sort-of-sequel to last year’s Village Green although with a different set of designers and a crunchier feel.
Players are given an inverted L of jigsawed-together border pieces, creating a grid area of 12 below, three above, and four to the left. The area inside the L is where the tracks are laid themselves, while the areas outside above and to the left are where the scoring ‘trip’ cards are added. Much like its predecessor, it’s down to the players to pick what goes in each column and row, and how each of those will score – using the trip cards. Except this time, rather than arranging a public garden where adjacency is key, instead it’s for the route that extends out of the initial station slot and its associated trip cards. That means that some routes, with their left and right wiggles might wander around the board, while others might just nip directly off. It’s got a bit of a tile placement feeling to it, where improving a route for one part will put a turn in another where you were hoping to go straight on.
Getting hold of these cards (which are double sided, one with trips, one with tracks) is a case of buying from the market, the nearest card is free, while reaching further back means dropping a coin on each preceding card. This would be fairly standard, if it wasn’t a game about closely guarding your pennies. See, Village Rails is all about what you want being just out of reach, odd little compromises, and hoping that your score, when it comes to the final ticket punching, edges out that of your opponents.
Getting the engine rolling is extremely satisfying. You might do this by handing in a terminus cards – cards that can be triggered as a one-off money generator when a line is complete. Like all the scoring, this will depend on the number of a certain something on the route, fields with cows for example, or signals or alternatively something like terrain variety. There’s plenty of options for navigating the scoring, signals offer massive multipliers if there’s a lot on the route, or you can spread your scoring across multiple aspects. Either way, you’ll be trying to thread that needle of having exactly what you need to buy the tracks you want, while not becoming so poor you’ll have to finish a line sub-optimally to gain some quick cash.
Between this attempt to avoid the third rail, and the charming artwork, Village Rail does an incredible job of satisfying both the desire to make nice networks while also pulling off huge point combos. Great stuff.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? YES
An excellent take on the tableau builder with the additional fun of route-building and planning.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Village Green…
If you enjoyed the clever puzzle of Peer Sylvester’s original in the series, then Village Rails will be right on track to be one of your favourites.
Designer: Matthew Dunstan & Brett J. Gilbert
Publisher: Osprey Games
Time: 45 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 122 Cards
- 50+ Tokens
- 4 Scoring dials
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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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