Railroad Rivals – Forbidden Games – Preview


Railroad Rivals - Forbidden Games - Preview 1

Publisher: Forbidden Games

Game Type: Auction, tile drafting, pick up and deliver, market

Designer: Glenn Drover

Initial Year of Release: 2018

Artist: Jacoby O’Connor

Artist: Brian Kesinger

Theme and What is it?

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Glenn Drover is back. With Forbidden Games he is now making what he wants to make. We previewed Racoon Tycoon for the Kickstarter, and what a great economic game.

Now Forbidden Games has asked for the MeepleGamers pre-release preview treatment again, with this 18xx, tile drafting, auction, market, pick up and deliver game. While the mechanics are all tried and true, it is their method that makes them unique, and something new. I was just so pleasantly surprised with the fantastic simple mechanics of Racoon Tycoon, I knew I needed to see this 18xx in action.

Gameplay Mechanics

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The game has distinct phases which all allow basically only one action.

  1. Auction for turn order. In Railroad Tycoon, you are bidding not only for first, but for how far from first you are. If you don’t win first, you don’t pay, even if your turn order changed.
  2. You pick tiles, depending on how many players, some are stock, some are cities. You will draft twice in this round, once for each type of tile. Stock is public knowledge.
  3. You will lay your city tile, based on if there are routes that match. At least one route must match, or one blank side must match.
  4. Now, we deliver goods, and score based on being first to deliver color of good, whose route is being used, and also raise that routes stock one level. You can score during other players turns.
  5. Do this until basically all stock and cities are gone, and do end of game scoring. End of game scoring is done by taking amount of stock you own, and multiply by value.

Initial Impressions

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I first saw this in wood at Origins. Hopefully I can get Forbidden Games to send me that one for our “historical reference” library that I want to create starting with this prototype!

The game just has a nice 18xx table presence to it. It has crisp clean lines, and immediately made me want to play it. If nothing else, it drew my attention to ask, “what is it?” at a convention. If you have been to a convention, you know how difficult that visual appeal can be when you have 1000 other titles trying to do the same.

Game Build Quality

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That being said, the quality of the production copy is great. The tiles are thick, the trains are cute, the goods are functional.

This game has exactly the quality it needs to both feel good, and have a production level that can be maintained due to printing costs. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Forbidden Games has been around a while, and knew how to make good games. Since, I do know better, the founder of Forbidden, Glenn Drover has been around a while, having founded Eagle Games as well. He has left his footprints on all sorts of games, and publishers.

The quality in this title is based on all those years of experience, and I think you’ll like it.

Artistic Direction

Railroad Rivals - Forbidden Games - Preview 6The box art is great, and whimsical.

Internally for me, the art is functional. It evokes 18xx, and lets the game ride on its own gameplay and theme merits. Normally I am a person that is drawn to complex and evocative art. Forbidden Games knows that the next best thing is an art style that gets out of the way of the gameplay.

Chalk another point up to Forbidden Games.

Fun Factor

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The style of game has many elements that calls to different types of players. If you are not a person that simply dislikes market manipulation games, this game should call your name.

I think the game plays so well for so many different types of players that it certainly deserves a spin around the gaming block.

Age Range & Weight

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8+. I think Forbidden Games might be reaching here. I can see a child understanding this game, but I cannot see them really being in tune with the market manipulation aspect of the game.

That’s not to say that someone 8+ would not be able to play, I just question the ability to enjoy, and not get bored.


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So, the natural question becomes, should you “own stock” in Railroad Rivals?

The gameplay is fantastic, the market manipulation is second to none, the pick up and deliver works like a charm; but the real winner here is the auction for turn order. What a BRUTAL mechanic. The mighty Mr. Drover has hit the nail on the head with how fierce railroad competition was with making the bidding for turn order so very mean. You must bid, or you must lose.

This game has immediately earned a space on my shelf, and frankly, you should have one on yours. I say this with sincerity, thank you Glenn Drover for making my friends so MEAN!


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