Up & Away Games > Dwarven Rails
Mon Jun 26 08:02:46 UTC 2017
Okay, let's think a little bit here about Dwarven Rails.

Compared with Silverton
As I've said in the intro, it's very much a Silverton-based game I like Silverton a lot! And it's cool to have what amounts to something that's similar to it, but with a little different scenario base than Silverton does. So, on that side of it, if you already have Silverton, being able to expand it with some significant differences is pretty interesting.

On its own this edition tries to resolve some issues that Silverton has. It plays a little shorter than the Silverton – well, it plays significantly shorter – than the Silverton grand campaign or longer games, but the short games of Silverton come in at a fairly small level. What's wrong with them is – some of the scenarios you can get away with – but the problem with some of the shorter games is there's a lot of map you're not exploring in Silverton.

In this, the twelve turns, or $700, which seem about the same, give you enough time to more or less get anywhere you want to get. So that's one kind of a cool thing. Make the game a little shorter, but not make it feel like you're only playing half the game, basically. And it's still not a short game. I think it would feel really like way too little if it was much shorter than it is, even though I was getting tired; that's more my mind set. I know normally even with Silverton I feel like "ahhh, should have gone on just a little longer. You know? Didn't get through everything."

Let's talk a little about the components, I guess.

Well, there are some other facets – before I get to the components – that it tries to beat Silverton on. One is by streamlining and simplification of a lot of the rules. Every mine costs you the same amount to buy. Every piece of track is either two or three bucks. Every passenger route costs you only five bucks. It's much easier. It makes it possible to remember all these things pretty easily, without having to write them all on the cards, which allowed these smaller cards with less information on them. note1

The variable start where you have the map cards that connect up in geomorphic different ways allows you to have many, many more scenarios, basically, than Silverton does, and you don't exactly know what they're going to be and you have to figure them out. Okay, I guess there are only so many permutations that these things can sit in at any given number of players, but there's not a reasonable number of these that you can start figuring out the optimal routes and where you want to go. Not that you really can in Silverton either, but once you kind of know the game you know where the probable distributions of the cards are going to be in Silverton.

Here, the other thing is, largely, the cards are fairly balanced in terms of the amount of mines that are available, but the most important thing is right on them they tell you exactly what's going to show up. You know there's one gold mine here and one gold mine there. You know there's an emerald mine in each of these three locations. Here you know there's a silver, two gold and another gold.

So given that you probably see most of the deck one way or another – some of them you may not get an option to get at; there are still luck factors in this – but you see most of the deck, you see the layout and where everything's located in the beginning. This game is a lot less dependent on sort of that "hey, I've played Silverton once or twice and now I feel I actually have a chance of making a reasonable strategy in it". Like, "Game's called Silverton; maybe I should go for Silverton", right? That seems reasonable. Yeah, it's not really that good an option; the game should be called "Leadville". But anyway. With this one everything's out in the open. You know what the distributions are and where everything is without having to kind of memorize the deck, and that can be very useful. note2

There are no delivery limits. Everything is precious stones and metals and that means you can haul whatever you like. Calculations for how much that you're able to transport are easier to make. There's a lot of that kind of streamlining.

Some of it comes at costs though. By randomizing [the board] they made the regular passenger routes not exactly work. So instead of Silverton-style passenger routes, you have this kind of difficult-to-understand – in part because it's completely new and I'll get to that in a moment, but I feel these are the weakest rules in the game. They're sort of the most innovative thing in the game. The way the passenger routes are handled is difficult to grasp and kind of difficult to spot on the board because you're route may not all be in front of you; it may be combined with cards from other people's hands. Also the rules for them are kind of hard to parse. I guess that's the biggest thing. Probably the hardest to parse out of everything here.

Let's talk about components.

I guess one of the biggest negatives – always go for the negatives for everything – these [map mats] are a little bendy. You can kind of counter-bend them or whatever, but once they're set up they're not going to lie flat. That probably means you should put some plexi[glas] over them. I'm not a big fan of plexi, but I would seriously think about doing it with this game, if I had it with me. In fact, when I first set it up I said, "Wow, I want plexi with these."

The [market chart] is kind of cool except it gives you your setup rules on the back and if you set up your pieces on it, well, you have to sweep them aside and look up things on here. Not a big deal once you actually get started though. You don't have to set these up until later in the order, no matter what. In fact it is last thing you do in the order. Unless you screw something up. note3

All the little translucent cubes. They're pretty; I like them.

The additional number of things counters, that all works pretty well. The only that kind of doesn't work is if there's something depleted and there's nothing on it. It may have made sense to make some of the twelves have blank depletions on the other side. It's not a big deal. You can turn the card so that it's obvious that it's depleted or something, but it's just sort of there's one way of handling it if you have these bonus chits that doesn't work anymore if you don't.

And then the differentials between the different surveyors and prospectors, they work fine. I had some worries. Shouldn't the prospector have a "P" on it or something like that. You don't need it. By keeping track of them on the cards it's fairly easy to keep track of things.

Like in the Mayfair edition of Silverton the maps are a little crowded, and there are no little boxes or anything, so your cubes can sometimes kind of wander. You might not be sure they're in the right place. That could get to be a problem. There are tiny track segments that you might miss, like I did in my play.

Otherwise the component quality seems pretty decent. Whatever printing that GameCrafter does, it leaves a little ridge everywhere there's printing; that's kind of weird. It doesn't really bother me. It's on the cards too. If this was a game where you were selecting cards from people's hands that would be kind of funky.

I don't know how I feel about that late in the game there was a place where somebody had to drop a cube and that affected things. I'm never really thrilled with that kind of rule. It's not really a component issue at all.

The rulebook itself. I definitely had trouble with the newest of the rules, the way the passenger cards are handled in this. I struggled with them and I think I got it right at the end, eventually, maybe, I dunno, but they definitely were troublesome for me. I'm not sure how much the rest of the rules were made easier. They certainly were, but knowing Silverton in advance. I know reading through it I could say "I know I'm looking at a Silverton-like game, but what am I talking about?". Part of that has to do with I didn't have the pieces laid out or anything. I just remember it didn't sink in quite as clearly as Silverton did the first time I read that.

Otherwise, do you want this if you have Silverton? Like I said, yeah, probably this is pretty interesting if you already have Silverton, and like it, because it does add to, well, the positions you have. It is not necessarily easier to approach – like I said, the rulebook is a little hard to grok, I think. It's not like it's terribly wrong; somehow it just didn't sink in as easily. note4

But, on the other hand, there are other aspects to it that do make it easier. It makes it easier to play. If somebody knows this and teaches it to three other players, I feel like everybody's got a reasonable shot at playing out the game. They can see what the distributions on the board are. They can see where things are located near them. They can make reasonable judgments in a way that it's really hard to do in Silverton. You look at the Silverton map and you say, "I got no idea where anything is, you know? Maybe each place has one mine. Oh wait, no, this one's gotten four so far! What's up with that?" You know?

And some of them might be really lousy, etc. Most of the mines in this feel approximately equal. You might still crap out.

Oh, component-wise, one thing: it only comes with one die, which is sufficient to play, but not pleasant if you have only one die. Most of have dice so that's not a big deal at all. The only thing is if you just bought it and unwrap it in the store and want to play it, well maybe you have to buy a couple dice. Not many. Honestly, two dice, an extra die would make up for that completely because there's just one place. There are competitions where both players have to roll two dice. I don't four dice is necessary. I think that two dice works out fine because one person rolls two dice, the other person rolls two dice, boom. You just pass them. But each person having to roll twice, that seems a little over the top. On the other hand I wouldn't have been shocked at all if it had no dice because we're gamers, you know, we're going to have dice. Nobody's going to buy this in the Monopoly-type setup. You might not always have your dice with you, but you can probably scavenge some somewhere without a problem. note5

So if you don't have Silverton, this is, like I said, a shorter game that gives you sort of the feeling that you're having a full experience. When you play Silverton for anything except the long game, and even to some extent with the long game, you feel there's a little bit missing, or a lot missing, just because most of the board is not coming into play or whatever. That can be kind of disconcerting, and you also don't expect to see all of the mines come out, which disconcerts.

For my own tastes I prefer Silverton to this, I think mainly because it's historical. You know? That just makes me happier. I also like some of the different choices you have to make in Silverton, based on whether there's a limited amount of a material that you can deliver at once. With this all of them are unlimited. Sure it's a simplification, but with all of them unlimited they all kind of feel the same. You're not configuring yourself based on the type of the materials that you're hauling. If you're a big coal and lumber hauler in Silverton you have a different kind of train profile than if you're hauling gold and silver, so that's kind of a neat aspect. You also have a different profile in how you approach the markets and I like those extra layers that Silverton produces.

What else do I like? I'm trying to think if there's anything else in Silverton that I really ... Oh, okay. So one may be more of a me being used to Silverton already, which is, when you prospect for personalities in this game, which include the trains. It includes the surveyors and prospectors. I think it's kind of cool that they're all in one deck, but when you prospect for them, it doesn't matter what kind of agent you have and I feel like that agent should give a bonus. I don't think they should reduce the base price, but they might be able to give you additional bid on that base price, or something like that. So you're initial price, say it's a 7 base price and let's say you had a +2 agent, you would have to bid 9, but you would get two off the price, or something like that. I don't know, you know. Again, trying to describe that would be complicated. note6

I also, which is purely not being used to it, I had trouble remembering that I bid for those, as opposed to just dicing off, and that's kind of annoying and I kind of like just the dicing off. I understand why the bidding is there and I think that works fine. It's kind of cool to have a bidding mechanism in the game. In fact, it might have made sense to get rid of the bonus surveyors and prospectors and go with pure bidding. That would be much, much Euro-y in terms of the type of game.

This gives you an interesting Silverton-like experience and I don't know how hard Silverton is to find these days. Obviously it is impossible to find new, but used copies show up, I'm sure, at reasonable prices. But on the other hand you can get hold of this right away and also this has a somewhat smaller footprint, which I think is probably more appealing to the modern gamer. You're not talking about an 8-10 hour game here. You're probably talking more in the 4-6 range, depending on how much AP you have and how slow you are. Not that Silverton can't be played in less time in some of the shorter scenarios. It's just, like I said, they don't feel like you're playing the full game. You feel kind of cheated when you do.

[Transcribed from a video review by Enrico Viglino.]
Note 1: Another simplification, and time saver, is that instead of the many dice rolls each player must make to generate mine goods, there is just a single roll per player.

Note 2: Have always suspected Silverton is the title because Silverton is the most distant place you can try to reach from any starting point at the map. It's like the furthest rail building goal (as opposed to the most lucrative mining location).

Note 3: The Market Chart is also available for online perusal or download if you want to print a copy.

Note 4: Actually most people I know had trouble with the original Silverton rules and it worked a lot better when they had someone else explain them. Trying to learn them from scratch wasn't very easy.

Note 5: I thought the exact opposite about the die. First of all, it's not in any store so that scenario is not going to happen. But I take the point: you might get a delivery and immediately run off to play it, at, say a cafe where it might be difficult to scare up any dice. In that case, if there were no dice at all in the box, as was suggested, it's a disaster. You can't really play at all. But with the one die that is there, you can at least play, even if it takes a little longer. Most likely that will only happen once; after that, you will add some from the collection of dice we all have, probably one per player, in fact. It would have been easy to add another die to the game, but of course that would also add to the price of the game and do you really need to buy more dice? Especially when they have to be plastic dice as wood dice are not an option right now?

Note 6: Probably not too complicated to explain the suggested rule, and did consider it, but the effect doesn't seem large enough to be worth it. In addition, the agent abilities and fending off the claims of other agents didn't seem to be same skill as recruiting newhires, so applying it here didn't seem to make sense simulation-wise.
Created: Mon Jun 26 08:02:46 UTC 2017