Russian Railways — бездушный
I’ve been hearing Russian Railways described as a game I’d like. After ducking it a few times just to show everyone whose boss I finally played it last night. And the describers are partially right, this is a game that was in my wheelhouse about 4-7 years ago, when worker placement games ruled the earth like Tyrannosaurus Rex terrorizing bigger dinosaurs despite their bizarre tendency to constantly soak their hands in a small soap dish (to keep them supple).
But these days are not those of legend. Oh, we all remember the heady days the gnashing of teeth after you placed a worker was a new sound, but now we hear but the gentle smacking of gums. So now a worker placement game has to leap through hoops to prove itself by topping the legends of the genre.
And Russian Railways does no such thing. It is not a bad design, but the exact same action went first each round (Strike). Some actions are just superior to others (pet peeve). Granting people their own personal action in a worker placement game seems frought with danger, from a design perspective. Throwing a Feldian soup on top of the game may or may not be a good choice, but I don’t care for it. And frankly, the idea that the start is balanced by gifting the last player four extra victory points (winning score, ~350) demands scoffing.
(After I played it I tried another game of Impulse, which still seems like a broken down electric car in 1050 AD. Sure, it just sits there, but its mere existence commands attention. I may break down and get a copy. Both games suffer from Analysis Paralysis; but Impulse is faster, more streamlined, and full of chutzpah. Even if it borrows heavily from his other designs).
But back to Russian Railways — A dry game, with a workmanlike design that seems several years old, coupled with lots of ways to gain points. And, as my one word review indicates, soulless. Indifferent.