For all its other fine qualities, chances are that after playing 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons for any length of time, you will begin to get a feeling of constraint. This isn't to say that the product is seriously flawed or lacking in enjoyment, because it is neither. It's just that, even though the game covers such a large topic, namely the control, marketing, and highly competitive nature of owning a railroad empire, it gives you a limited hands-on involvement in managing that vast scope. Although you find yourself up to your arm garters in cutthroat financial wheeling and dealing, the actual laying of tracks is somewhat limited compared to similar train-based games such as Railroad Tycoon, so if it's a hands-on train-running sim you're looking for, look elsewhere. But if building a fortune from a tiny beginning appeals to you, then 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons may be the ticket.
More than anything else, the game is one of balance. Focus too completely on any given part and you'll find yourself chugging into the final station still chanting "I think I can, I think I can." But parlay your opportunities for empire advancement by investing your profits wisely in the stock market, manipulating your cash and stock to reap the highest rewards and working capital, keeping an eye at all times on the long-term view regarding future technology and upgrades for your trains, planning routes that work toward maximizing investments in time and money, and outsmarting your five human or four computer opponents, and you will be rewarded with the ultimate accolade of becoming the world's greatest "robber baron" and railroad entrepreneur. But, be warned, this is not an easy task, as you have to learn how to employ the best strategies at the right time.
If you're familiar with Avalon Hill's board game of the same name, you'll notice immediately how accurately the company incorporates the essentials in the computer version. Only a few minor changes, all for the better, have been incorporated, and most of those changes are of the convenience and time-saving variety. 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons comes fully loaded with multiple game setup options that allow you complete freedom to set the difficulty level, and various "local" rules to customize game play to your liking. Novice gamers should be able to complete a game in less than three hours and, once familiar with the easy to use controls, even less. The interface is well coordinated and uses a simple point-and-click, menu-driven system that allows for easy play. With the addition of a random map generator (which the board game obviously doesn't have), 1830 Railroads and Robber Barons promises much in the way of replay value, especially when linked to the multiple strategies and fierceness of the computer opponents. With human competition, the variety is endless. In this one, you won't just need your engineer's cap-you'll be needing your thinking cap as well.
Graphics: A little blocky and simplistic but colorful nonetheless. Maps, informational and financial screens are done equally well but are not spectacular.
Sound: Unobtrusive and not especially notable. Sound effects are adequate.
Enjoyment: With all the nice bells and whistles, there's still a feeling of opportunity lost here to make the game even better, perhaps an intangible feeling that it could have been more.
Replay Value: Even if you get the basic game down you can still add elements of control and difficulty to make a different game each time you play; especially nice are the random map and initial bidding options.
Based on Avalon Hill's board game of the same name, 1830 is a railroad empire building game that is along the same lines (although a different style of gameplay) as the much more famous Railroad Tycoon.
Capturing the very look and feel of the board game, all the way to the hexagonal playing field and track tokens, 1830 is a turn based game that emphasizes the successful running of a company and manipulating the stock market rather than managing a railroad. Tracks can be laid, cities connected, trains purchased, and schedules set, but the ultimate goal in the end is making money, even at the cost of your company; you'll wind up buying and selling a number of them during the course of the game anyway.
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