ometimes a guy needs a break from saving the world. When that happens, it’s nice to put down the ol’ energy sword and chain gun and go back to a simpler time – a time when J.P. Morgan was a bigger threat than some invading alien army. Sid Meier’s Railroads is an excellent way to make that escape; blending the previous Railroad Tycoon titles with a model train aesthetic, this sim from Firaxis plays like a well-oiled machine.
On your way to becoming a rail baron, your job is to manage the supply and demand of growing towns by delivering and hauling cargo across the countryside. You don’t have to worry about delving too deep into the economics involved – you see that a town needs food, so you build a track and set train routes to bring food. By establishing many of these transactions across the map, you can generate a healthy cash flow that fuels more building and, more importantly, other investments. Bidding on exclusive technology can give you an edge, and buying out your opponents’ stock is the win condition for multiplayer matches. While you can choose to play in a sandbox mode, the strategy in Railroads shines brightest when you’re scrambling against other magnates (human or AI) for control of key resources and territory.
The only real problem with the game is that it sticks pretty close to its prescribed formula. You build trains, make money, and drive competitors out of business. You won’t uncover layer upon layer of depth, you’ll just get more efficient. Once you hit the plateau, Railroads (like its model train inspiration) feels more like a peaceful distraction than a challenge, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering a lot of fun.