Small Railroad Empires

After trying out Small Samurai Empires and the prototype of Magna Roma, we couldn’t wait to see what Small Railroad Empires would bring us. Knowing that Small Samurai Empires have these cute small samurai meeples, we hoped to see some mini train meeples. Turned out we were right and pleasantly surprised during the unboxing! We had received the deluxe rails as well which makes the look complete. All we had to do now, was play the game and build our rail road empire!

How to Play.

For the setup, take the amount of map tiles according to the amount of players and place them on the table. Try to make the white lines fit as much as possible so the game will be more balanced. Place matching goods tokens on each factory icon on the map tiles and give each player a player board and matching tracks, trains and disc markers. Each player placed one track on each locked space on their player board and one disc on the five dollar starting space. Also place one disc on the first space of the prestige track. Shuffle the achievement cards and place five cards face up near the board. Shuffle the secret contract cards and deal one to each player, then shuffle the train cards. Deal three train cards to each player and place three train cards face up under the prestige tracker. Place loan cards near the prestige board. Lastly, each player places one starting track on a different factory of their choice.

On your turn you must place two tracks on the map adjacent to at least one track or train meeple of your color. If applicable, you have to pay the cost to build tracks on a certain terrain. Your player board shows you how much you have to pay for each terrain. No more then two different colored tracks can be on one terrain space at the same time. If you construct a track on a space where another player already has a track build, you must pay that player one dollar. If you are the first to build on a space marked with a star, you receive one prestige immediately. You can also use your locked tracks if you pay the price indicated on your player board. If you pay the price, you may place a third track on your turn. You may only do this if you are not in the leading place on the prestige track.

If you manage to connect your tracks from a factory to a city with matching good tokens, you may deliver one good per turn and you cannot deliver to a city that already has your train meeple. You always have to use the shortest path with your tracks available. If you deliver a good, calculate the route length. Then take the rewards according to you player board. If your track is seven spaces long for example, you will receive two dollars for payment and one prestige for effort. For every train meeple you cross on your route of delivery, substract two from the final length. Next replace the track in the city with your train meeple to show you have successfully delivered there and place the track back in your supply. If you are the first to deliver to a new city, you receive an additional two dollars. If you are second to deliver, you receive one dollar extra. Lastly, you must play a train card face up in your play area. If you manage to meet the criteria on the card from your delivery, you receive on additional prestige. Some train cards want you to deliver with a route of minimal 7 track or more for example while others ask you to travel to a specific landscape or deliver a certain type of good. Choose your train card wisely. If you don’t meet the criteria, nothing happens. If you manage to connect two or three cities with the same city color, you will also receive additional points at the end of the game.

After you have placed your tracks and possibly made a delivery, you have the chance to claim rewards. Keep an eye on the achievement cards that were placed during the setup. If you meet the requirements of any of the achievement cards, you may now claim the achievements for prestige points. If you are the first to claim an achievement, you will earn bonus prestige at the end of the game. Place one of your markers at the top half of the achievement card. You may only claim one top half of an achievement each turn. If the top half has already been covered, you may place your token on the bottom half to still receive some points at the end of the game. Bottom half’s of achievement cards may be claimed of multiple achievements on your turn as long as the top half has already been claimed and you meet the criteria of the achievement.
Lastly you can buy new train cards at the end of your turn from the market under the prestige board. The leftmost train card is free to take, while the middle one costs one dollar and the card to the right costs two dollar to buy. Whenever a card is bought, slide remaining cards to the left and place a new card. You can only have three train cards in your hand at the same time.

If you gain prestige, always move your prestige tokens accordingly. If a player reaches or surpasses a factory icon, replenish all goods back to the factory’s. If you would ever run out of money, you can choose to take a loan of three dollars. Beware as you can’t pay them off and they will give you minus points at the end of the game. The end of the game is triggered once a player places their last track, when the last train card is drawn of when all cities have two train meeples. All player take their last round so everyone has had the same amount of turns, then you can calculate the final scores. Add together scores earned by achievement cards, passenger connections and variant end-game scorings. The player with the most prestige points wins the game. Variants could be altering cities with random city tokens and factories with factory tokens, random face down tokens on each space with a star that will have various effects once revealed, or even an industry board that will trigger when goods will be replenished for each factory. There are also various scenario maps you can play with the map of Europe or USA for example.

Playthrough of the game.

We had received the full package from Archona games which also included different scenario maps and the deluxe tracks tokens that replace the normal wooden tokens. Together with the tiny cute train meeples, we setup a two player game with three map tiles and started to create the best routes for deliveries. Tomasz learned the hard way that a fast route, is not always the best route. Happy to have made his first delivery, he checked what rewards he would receive. Imagine the disappointment when he discovered he even received some minus points for having a to short track route. After this rookie mistake, he quickly catch on and the fight for the most points started. At the end of the game, the map looked like a happy chaos with all the colorful tracks behind and I won with only a couple of points difference.

After playing the game several times including some different variants and map scenarios, we kept coming to the same conclusion. With two players, this game is just not that much of a challenge as with more players. There can be a maximum of two colored track of train meeples on cities or map spaces at a time. With two players, this means you have all the freedom and less of a challenge to meet different criteria’s of achievements and deliveries. The game just has more depth with more players and is also more fun to play. Nevertheless the theme and art around this game fits very well and again this is a game from Archona Games that is very easy to take with you. You could even play this in the train if there is a table if you would want to. With all the different variants and scenarios to play, this game has a lot of replayability.

Final thoughts.

Small Railroad Empires is a pick up and delivery train themed board game. You have to try to make the most profitable routes from factories to cities to make the deliveries they ask. We also had the pleasure to get the deluxe components package which gives you awesome rails to play with. I you have a chance to get those, we would definitely recommend playing with them if you can since it adds much more of the theme to the game. This game is a lot of fun to play with more people, but can feel rather empty with two people only since there is just not enough interaction from other players to interfere with your actions and giving you a challenge. However, the game provides a lot of replayability with all the variants and scenarios. If you have four people to play this game with, it’s an awesome pick up and delivery game.

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