Preview: Iberian Rails, An Economic Train Game

Invest in railroad companies and expand their network by employing the services of characters, some more reputable than others.

Ever taken a train? The first 30 minutes are so are great, then you realize that basically you’re riding on one of those old school buses with rails. That’s harsh, but I will say that not all trains are the same and really they’re fun to ride for either short trips, or for really long trips that include a sleeper. But really, is this a train game?  It’s got all the usual bits and pieces, trains, older western look & feel but Iberian Rails is more of an investment game than a train game.  Oh sure there all the train words and hand waving, but the game is about making the most money investing in train businesses.

The art looks great for the theme. When you say “train” we really don’t expect modern day trains, we expect old west style. Maybe that’s just our romantic soul… or new trains just aren’t as interesting. In any case, the art fits what we imagine, older trains when building a railroad was a huge deal. Looking at the character cards you can see a set format, of course, and a whimsical style. The cards seem to be designed with an international intent, meaning, few words on the card, mostly symbols. We like that around here since most of us have learned to speak “International”. (edit: not really)

As a secret investor you use the characters to buy the stocks for you.  When you have controlling interest in a railroad you can order it to buy cars, expand the line and other things that will drive the price of the stock higher.  But you only get to use that character for one turn, then you have to move to someone else.  Each character has a special ability that you can use while you control that character. That’s actually pretty standard stuff when it comes to rotating characters.

As a matter of fact, there isn’t anything in this game that I would consider risky or even new.  What makes this game special is that it seems to do everything we know already, but do it very well. The art fits the theme, the characters match their special abilities, the map fit the well with the character art. A lot of thought and work went into making this a well rounded train game.  And I don’t think it would work well with any other theme.  So if you like train games, keep reading, or stop wasting time and just go back it at the link below.

For you non-train fans, not HATING train games, but not exactly writing a blog post preview about it, (edit: ahem), Iberian Rails seems easy to learn, the rules are downloadable from the campaign website, and we LOVE it when they do that.  By far the best way to decide if you like a game enough to back it, is to read the rules first. If the rules don’t make sense to you, it doesn’t matter what the theme is or how great the art is. The game wold be unplayable, and I have several of those from before the Kickstarter era.

The game comes with a lot of fiddly bits. There are enough of each type for 5 players, ’cause let’s face it, we all know a 5th wheel. Since most games are 2-4, it’s nice to be able to add in one last person who doesn’t have any other game to play on board game night. I don’t know about your board game nights, but part of our night is trying to line up the players to the games so everyone feels included and is playing a game we want to play. The ability to add in a 5th player is actually pretty cool.

The 6 train companies, yep 6 not 5, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the starting location, the type of railroad and when to invest is up to the player and their strategy. I could you give you the best advice ever: buy low, sell high, but I think you know that already.

There are the usual stretch goals. some tied to pledges and others tied to social levels or tweets or Facebook likes. It’s important to get the word out there, and stretch goals tied to social media is a great way to encourage people to do that. One of the stretch goals I find really amazing, a new map.  Basically this is like unlocking a whole new game. The game map is of Taiwan, and so the city placement, and therefore the tracks, are completely different.  That would change your strategy and therefore the entire game would be different.  That’s a great stretch goal!

There are slo some component improvements which we also applaud here at the ranch. They do make the common mistake, (edit: mistake in our eyes only maybe), of not revealing ALL of the stretch goals. Not seeing them robs me, a backer, of using that to entice my friends or the much more worrisome case where maybe they haven’t planned them out. Neither of those is a good thing.

To sum this preview up, good solid train/economic game with more than just the single map to give it depth and replay. Quality art that matches the theme also with a couple of game wrinkles, the characters mostly, that will stop a simple one-win strategy from working.  Clearly a game worth having your your shelf.

So you should do as we have dine, and back this game!