Sid Meier's Railroads! might not have "tycoon" in its name, but it's still a very addictive economic strategy game that just about anyone can enjoy. Regardless of your affinity for trains, Railroads! is an engaging and surprisingly deep game that lets you do much more than lay track and watch miniature trains chug across the map. You can connect cities to trade goods and haul passengers, purchase and supply industries, play the stock market, bid on new technology, and watch cities grow as you supply them with the goods to take them from tiny backwater towns to thriving metropolises. But as complex and rewarding as building a railroad empire can be, it rarely feels daunting or tedious, which is perhaps the best thing that can be said for a game of this type.
It's interesting to watch a tiny little town grow into a thriving metropolis as a result of your efforts.
There are 15 different fictional and historical scenarios to choose from in Railroads! The historical scenarios take place in real-world locations such as the American Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, Great Britain, France, and Germany. These scenarios cover the entire history of the railroad, from its beginnings in the mid-19th century all the way through modern day. The era affects what types of engines you can purchase, as well as the general economy. For example, if you play in any of the European countries in the first half of the 20th century, you'll want to focus on processing and shipping steel to support the war effort.
In each scenario you're usually given several goals to meet. You might have to do something as simple as connect Liverpool and Manchester, or something a bit more ambitious like earn $30 million. The goals are divided by era, so you're always working within a time frame. Depending on how many of the goals you fulfill at the end of the allotted time period, you'll be rewarded prestige points and one of several rankings ranging from Traveling Circuis Freak to President of the United States or Prime Minister.
The fictional scenarios are of course unconfined by history, so they're a bit more off-beat. There's a wide-open plains area where your routes are fast and cheap to construct; a giant lake where everything is separated by vast stretches of water, which makes it difficult to build efficiently; and a giant red cyclone-shaped continent modeled after the Firaxis company logo. As in the historical scenarios, you're given various objectives to complete within a time period and you can either fulfill those objectives or ignore them and just focus on building a massive shipping empire. Both the historical and the fictional scenarios offer a variety of challenges that make each one interesting, if not entirely unique. You can also choose to randomize the location of cities and resources to ensure that you never play the same scenario twice.
Sid Meier's Railroads! plays very much like the Railroad Tycoon games, so if you've played those you'll be right at home here. You start out with a single train depot, usually in a small town. From there it's entirely up to you how to go about building your railway. Near most towns there are several industries, such as grain farms, cattle ranches, lumber mills, coal mines, or oil wells. You can build a railroad to these industries, construct an annex to load your trains, and then purchase an engine and assign it a number of cars. You have to designate the route you want that train to take, and you can sit back and let the money roll in.
To maximize your profits, though, you'll want to take full advantage of all of your resources. To do this you'll need to purchase processing facilities in each city so that you not only get money for shipping the goods, but you also get money for processing the goods into usable materials. You can then ship those materials to other cities to make even more money. By networking cities and towns with resources you can quickly build an empire and begin making cash so fast you'll have a hard time keeping up.
The varying terrain not only affects the cost of building, but also how fast your trains can travel.