Board Game Session Report: Railways of Nippon, Tokaido + Crossroads Expansion

I’m behind again on posts, in large part due to Final Fantasy XIV. But let’s talk board games! We’ve recently had to go back into partial lockdown while waiting for boosters for the more vulnerable people in our house, but prior to that, we played Railways of Nippon (a stand-alone release in the Railways of the World series) and Tokaido with the Crossroads Expansion.

Railways of Nippon (First Impressions)

RoN isn’t quite an 18XX game, but there is an economic element to it. It’s basically a simplified Steam, which is already a simplified Age of Steam. The Railways series is specifically intended to be more family weight (whereas the others are heavier). I’m not really sure if it would appeal to anyone other than the hardcore crowd, though. Right out of the gate, you have to take loans (bonds) to get money, but you’ll be paying on those loans the rest of the game and have to continuously account for it. And you’ll probably need more throughout the game, adding to your expenses.

We had some early fighting for first-player, but it eventually became entirely dependent on what cards were available. There is a selection of cards that can be taken as an action. These might be one-time cards with an effect, some are ongoing, others can be held onto and scored later. One particular type of card allowed for urbanizing without paying (upgrading a generic city on the board and adding new goods to the city, which is normally very expensive). When these cards came out, we fought over first, but rarely did we end up caring much otherwise. My brother focused on upgrading his train level and delivering across multiple cities. He was able to score some large deliveries later on, but he sacrificed completing routes. I, on the other hand, focused on short deliveries and building a larger network. I ended up completing several routes by the end of the game and managed to win.

The game is neat, but I worry that the replay-ability might be low. This is probably why they’ve released so many maps for the game, each making tweaks to the rules or bringing in new mechanics. Component quality isn’t great. The trains are fine enough for their purpose, but the pieces used to mark cities that are empty (the end-game trigger) are entirely inappropriate for this version of the game and are clearly leftovers from the original release which was the US. The bonds as cards are okay, though they have sharp corners. We used the Iron Clays instead of the included paper money. It’s also a bit of an ugly-looking game.

Tokaido + Crossroads Expansion

We’ve played Tokaido a few times in person, but we’ve played much more online during the previous lockdown. And once we added the Crossroads expansion, we haven’t played without it. This was our first time playing Crossroads in person. The expansion adds a second option to every location, increasing the complexity a notch. It’s certainly not a complicated game still, but it has more interesting decisions to make.

My friend always goes for the swords at the souvenir shops. They’re not cheap, but they give a fat chunk of points. And they’re swords. This time, he did buy one but ended up focusing much more on panoramas since his character gained a coin for each one. He never needed to rely on cherry blossoms for quick cash. I also tried something different. I had never done gambling before. So it’s fitting that my first time gambling, I roll the X and lose my money (1 out of 6 sides on the die). But my character saved money on souvenirs so I wasn’t too worried. My brother’s character got a free meal draw at the inns. I did manage to complete one panorama but mostly stuck to my souvenirs.

The scores were really close this time. Online, I admit, I usually destroy my opponent… The expansion really adds a lot to the game without feeling like it’s too much. It’s still a light game but it has more variety now. I really enjoy the game. It’s very tactical but has some strategy. My brother, however, seems to hate tactical games. He wants to plan and have his plans work without a hitch. I don’t know how often he’ll be willing to play, but at least the game is still nice and quick, even with the expansion.

The ride home after was an adventure in itself. A big storm came through and flooded some of the streets we normally take. Nice view from the bridge though.

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