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[Review] Australian Rails

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  • Tom Vasel
    Russian Rails was my first foray into the world of crayon railway games, and I enjoyed it enough that I picked up some miniature trains from Mayfair to run
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1 7:28 AM
      Russian Rails was my first foray into the world of "crayon railway"
      games, and I enjoyed it enough that I picked up some miniature trains
      from Mayfair to run on my tracks. When I got Australian Rails
      (Mayfair Games, 2005 - Larry Roznai), I was once again pleased to be
      playing on a continent that I was unfamiliar with, because it's more
      interesting to me and a bit educational, too.

      Australian Rails (AR) wasn't as interesting to me as Russian Rails -
      simply because the "Fall of Communism" made the latter game so
      fascinating. However, I did enjoy the map quite a bit. All of my
      comments from my Russian Rails review
      (http://www.thedicetower.com/reviews/russianrails.htm) apply to AR,
      with the following comments added…

      1.) Australia: Perhaps not so exotic for native Australians, but to
      the rest of the world, or perhaps just Tom Vasel - Australia is a
      pretty neat place. The map is quite interesting, with the majority of
      the cities scattered around the edges, and players will compete to
      build routes that run from one side to the other. I confess to
      knowing little to none about the Australian map before playing this
      game - now I can tell you where most of the main cities are. That's
      education for ya!

      2.) Desert: The middle of Australia is filled with large deserts.
      It's quite possible for a Sand Storm cards to be drawn from the event
      deck, which wipes out all tracks in a certain desert. All players
      should be notified about this possibility before the game begins, so
      that they aren't surprised. If a player's tracks are destroyed in the
      desert, it should be because they took a knowing risk, and it didn't
      end well. Building in the desert isn't THAT expensive, but a player
      still thinks twice about it!

      3.) Demand Cards: I think I'll follow Shannon Appelcline's advice in
      one of his blog columns and write the coordinate numbers on each
      demand card. Because of my initial unfamiliarity with the Australian
      terrain, a lot of time in my first couple games was in staring at the
      board, searching for each city. On the other hand, I didn't think it
      was overly difficult to deliver goods - it seemed more obvious what to
      deliver to where. In Russia, there were often several choices for
      each good. In Australia, the choices are a little more obvious.

      4.) Players: AR plays quite well as a "Honeymoon" game - or one in
      which there is only two players. The rules include a way to make this
      a little more challenging, but for some reason it just really worked
      well with two players. Three and four also were great, because
      there's a bit of jockeying for position to get to many of the critical
      cities on the coast. (I don't know about five; I won't play a crayon
      rails game with more than four - it takes too long).

      5.) Dry Rivers: There are many "dry" lakes and rivers scattered
      around the board; all of which can be built over for no additional
      cost. A "Rainy Season" card will fill all of them with water for the
      remainder of the game. So often AR is a race as players struggle to
      get tracks over these areas before they fill up with water and double
      in price.

      I'm not sure how many games of the "Empire Builder" series one needs.
      Some fanatics will need every one, while others may be satisfied with
      just one. For me, one is not interesting enough, as I like the
      variety of maps. Australian Rails really was an enjoyable game for
      me; and although it's only my second game of the series, I look
      forward with interest to playing more.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
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