Let me rule out an obvious misunderstanding: Sid Meier’s Railroads is not a game reserved exclusively for train fanatics. Of course, if you really like trains, this game is for you, but railways have the potential to appeal to more than one niche group. In fact, if you do not have a pathological hatred of trains or strategy games, you will enjoy the railway. While the”Tycoon ” series was full of statistics and complexity, Railroads is a deliberate simplification of the formula. It’s tense and, unusually for the strategy title, easy to pick up and play.

The most obvious changes come from menu navigation, which is much simpler and more intuitive than in the Tycoon series. The tutorial does an excellent job of introducing all the important elements, and the information can be accessed with minimal mouse clicks. Laying the track is just as easy and requires little more than clicking and dragging to the desired location. All other considerations, such as creating tunnels or bridges, are processed automatically; this allows the player to focus on all the ROUTING puzzles that need to occur.

Continuing the theme of accessibility, Railways offers many options to adjust the difficulty level of the game. There are a total of fifteen scenarios, all with their own level of difficulty, depending on the level of resources and the complexity of the terrain. In addition, you can adjust both the basic difficulty (start-up capital, maintenance costs, etc.) and the ROUTING difficulty. There are three levels of difficulty for the ROUTE, with Easy and Medium allowing trains to crawl in matter of a conflict, while Hard is as strict as it is expected, without exception for the cumbersome track guidance. There is also a train table mode for those who just want to build trains and not worry about the economic aspect of the game.

That’s great if you’re a train fanatic, but it takes a lot out of the game – if trains are the stars, the economic side of the game is the management environment that keeps you in the spotlight. Behind the abundance of movements and attention to detail lies a game based on the simple principle of supply and demand. Every city has goods that it supplies or demands, and the satisfaction of their needs is the essential task of the railways. Do you have a city that turns fish into food? Then you need to find a fishery to stock up on fish, then transport the feed to a place where it is needed, and hopefully make a net profit. All products are looking for different prices that fluctuate during the game, and sometimes an incident occurs that raises or lowers the price of a particular product. Adapting to market movements can be crucial, and relying on a single commodity can prove devastating when prices fall.

It is also important to understand which products get the highest prices, and therefore earn the most money. Although passengers and mail are the bread and butter of the rail network, you have to move a lot of passengers and mail to make a big profit, while goods such as gold or weapons are very lucrative and offer an excellent return on investment. Operating these high-margin products can make the difference between profitability and the loss of thumbs and fingers for retired men.

While you can play each scenario yourself and try to fulfill the different objectives of each scenario, the real fun of the railway is to compete against other players, whether human or AI. Acting with other players, Railroads turns from a fun, if not a bit boring, economic strategy game into a ruthless race to find the best routes and redeem your competitors. This competitive advantage is reinforced by auction patent wars, which reduce costs and increase profits, and by the ownership of the city’s industries, which can provide you with additional profits from all related raw materials – even if you do not supply them yourself.

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