[Review] Australian Rails
- 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
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.
"Real men play board games"