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Iron Horses

November 4th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the first games I played as a kid wasn’t Poker, Blackjack, or anything derived from your standard deck of fifty-two cards.  It was a little French game called “Mille Bornes” released by Parker Brothers back in 1971 (though its original publication was 1954).  It is widely believed that “Mille Bornes” was derived from “Touring”, which was originally produced in 1906 and picked up by Parker Brothers in 1925.  Essentially, it’s a road race game where players try to get to the goal line by laying down distance/mile cards while trying to deal with hazards via remedies and safeties.  “Iron Horses” works much the same way, though it takes places in the 19th century where railroads dominated commerce.  Before we begin, I’d like to thank Chris Rossetti, the Founder, CFO, and Lead Designer for Rampage Games LLC, for providing me with a press copy of both the standard version and the Limited Edition for review purposes.

 

Iron Horses

Iron Horses: 2-3 Players, Ages 12+, Average Play Time = 10-20 Minutes

 

Components

The smaller, card sized version being sold on The Game Crafter for $14.99 includes: 1 Custom Tuckbox, 1-8 page Instruction Manual, 4 Railways, 31 Resource Cards, 18 Remedy Cards, 15 Setback Cards, and 4 Master Cards.

The larger, Limited Edition being sold through the developer’s official website for $24.99 includes: 1-6 page Instruction Manual (larger), 8 Railways, 35 Resource Cards, 21 Remedy Cards, 18 Setback Cards, 8 Master Cards, 6 Train Miniatures, and 3 Tracker Cards.

Setup & Gameplay

To keep things simple I’ll opt to explain the rules from the smaller $14.99 version and talk more about the Limited Edition in the review.  No worries, both versions play the same way.  Firstly, each player chooses one of the four railways to play as for the rest of the game.  The rest of the cards are shuffled face down and each player receives five to form their starting hand.  The youngest player goes first with play proceeding clockwise.

A player is allowed to take three actions on their turn.  Players can take these actions in any order and can repeat actions if they want to.  These actions are:

1. Draw – Draw a card from the deck.  If the draw pile runs out, shuffle the discard pile and use it as a new deck.

2. Transport – Play a resource card from your hand.  Some sabotage cards limit or prevent you from taking this action.

3. Remedy – Discard a remedy card OR $100,000 to discard a setback card that has been played against you.  The latter can be played from your hand or from the play area in front of you.  No change is given if you have to pay more than $100,000 because you don’t have exact change.

4. Sabotage – Play a sabotage card against another player.  A player can have multiple setbacks/sabotage cards in their play area, however no more than one copy of each.

A player may use their railway’s special action once per game.  This special action does not count as a regular action (there are some cards in both versions, like Master Cards, that also do not require an action to play).  Once the three actions are taken, the player discards down to eight cards.  The first player to successfully transport $1,000,000.00, wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

 

Iron Horses

 

The Review

It’s hard not to compare this game to “Mille Bornes” or “Touring”, as the general idea and flow of play is the same.  All of these games encourage players to reach some type of value first all the while laying down cards that stop others in their tracks.  While not exactly original, “Iron Horses” does feature an appealing theme and nice artwork.  I do like that the railways each have a unique ability that can be used once per game, though some way to reset it might have been nice (paying resources, etc.).  That’s something I haven’t seen before in the aforementioned games and adds a bit more strategy to gameplay.  Speaking of strategy…

While it may not be obvious to some, there is more to the game than simply laying down cards.  Hand management and how often you take what actions is crucial.  If you tend to hoard cards by drawing constantly, you may find yourself unable to catch up to someone who’s laying down resource cards like no one’s business.  Then again, not drawing enough can leave you stuck when someone plays a sabotage against you.  It’s a delicate balance, though you’re free to play how you want to suit your individual play style (rushing vs. hording, etc,).

So what’s the difference between the Limited Edition and the smaller version?  Honestly, not too much.  The card backs and the card art appear to be exactly the same.  The cards in both are also the same size.  The Limited Edition does include more cards overall…eight railways instead of four for example, giving it more of a punch in terms of variety.  The Limited Edition also has a money tracker for each player and two train meeples each for said tracker…one to track the ten-thousands digit and one to track the one-hundred thousands digit (a meeple on the $500,000 and a meeple on the $75,000 signifies you have $575,000). Lastly, the box on the Limited Edition is sturdier, but slightly larger.

“Iron Horses” is light, fun, and charming.  Again, it doesn’t win any awards in the originality department, but at $14.99 (the price on The Game Crafter as of 11/4/15 for the smaller version) it deserves your attention.  The Limited Edition is indeed the better game of the two, though I’m not sold that a few extra components is worth an extra ten dollars.  I mean, you don’t NEED the tracker & meeples if you know how to organize the cards and keep score by doing some quick math.  With that said, the extra cards you get with the Limited Edition are nice to have.  Having played both, I honestly prefer the Limited Edition.  Again, I’d like to stress that I probably would have gone with the smaller version if I were forced to buy one or the other.  The price difference is just too difficult to ignore, but I’m somewhat of a penny-pincher to begin with.

As a side note, you can buy the print and play version for $.99 if you fancy doing some of the work yourself.  No worries, I have links to all three versions below.  Regardless of which one you choose, I think you’ll be in for a good time.

Final Verdict: 7/10

Limited Edition for $24.99 via the official website:

https://squareup.com/market/rampagegamesllc/iron-horses-limited-edition

Standard version for $14.99 via The Game Crafter:

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/iron-horses

Iron Horses Print & Play for $.99:

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/iron-horses-print-play

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