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Build the Wabash Cannonball, Manipulate Nature as a Druid, and Make Money Today on 1930 Airlines

by W. Eric Martin

I’ve already covered a few upcoming items from U.S. publisher Rio Grande GamesSeas of Strife and Hooky in December 2022 (here) and Beyond the Sun: Leaders of the New Dawn in late February 2023 (here) — so let’s talk about a few other titles that the publisher expects to release in March or April 2023.

• In 2020, Rio Grande Games released Joe Huber‘s Blue Skies in which you fought for dominance in the airline industry in the 1970s. With 1930 from newcomer Alex Sorbello, you’re going back even further in time to the early stages of commercial aviation.

Here’s an overview of this 2-6 player game:

In 1930, players take on the roles of aviation investors, promoters, and presidents with the general objective of making money. A player’s wealth is accumulated mainly through owning stock tokens in the ten airlines included in the game. Stock tokens make money in two ways; they can provide ready cash via dividend payments paid during the income action, and they can increase in value over the course of the game.

The player with the most assets in cash and stock at the end of the game wins.

• The 2-8 player game Druids is also from a first-time designer, in this case Federico Marcucci, and this description gives you a starting part for what the game is about:

In Druids, members of different tribes compete within the Sacred Forest, with the aim of being named Archdruid. Each player controls a druid and their animal companion (specifically, a wolf) and has to manipulate the forces of nature (i.e., the four elements: water, air, fire, earth), generate magic gems, and activate a series of several druidic runes in order to succeed.

The druid who activates the most powerful series of runes will become the Archdruid of the forest.

• The other two titles coming from Rio Grande Games first appeared from John Bohrer‘s Winsome Games, with Wabash Cannonball having debuted in 2007, been licensed to Queen Games and released under the name Chicago Express, and now rechristened with its original handle.

Here’s how to play:

In the game, the B&O, C&O, Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads drive from the East Coast across the growing eastern U.S. to Chicago. Smaller, more aggressive railroads like the Wabash spring up to further expand America’s extensive railroads. The sharpest railroad executives vie for the maximum return on their investment in this luck-free business game lasting about one hour.

The game plays out over a maximum of eight rounds. In each round, players take turns choosing one of three available actions:

—Auctioning a share of one of the railroad companies.

—Expanding the rail system of one of the railroad companies.

—Developing one of the board’s hexes.

Each of these actions is available only a limited number of times. As soon as two actions can no longer be chosen, a dividend phase is executed in which all players gain income from the railroad companies of which they have shares. After this dividend phase, the number of actions is reset, and a new round begins. The game ends after eight rounds or if one of the following conditions is met:

—Three or more companies have no more locomotives.

—Three or more companies have no more shares.

—The general supply contains at most three houses.

At this point, the player with the most money wins.

Note that this edition of the game is labeled for 3-6 players whereas earlier editions were labeled for 2-6 players. No rules appear to have been changed.

• The second John Bohrer title is Balkan Railways, which Winsome Games released in 2021 as an expansion for Iberian Railways and which Rio Grande Games will release as a standalone game that includes all the cards, money, and wooden bits you need to play the game.

Here’s the pitch:

The Balkans have long been a land of mystery and strife. The promise of the newfangled railways has brought unusual co-operation to the leaders of the disparate states of this land. Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Bulgaria, along with the powerful rulers of the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, see the immense bounty to be realized with railways connecting East and West. Steep mountains must be overcome, and isolated valleys must be reached to attain the goal of a true Orient Express. Merchants see the vast potential wealth to be gained and work to fund this dream and become rich themselves. Hooray for the Orient Express!

In Balkan Railways, players are rich merchants and powerful leaders investing their wealth and status in building railroads in this forbidding land. Loans are taken and serviced, opportunities must be recognized and seized. Savvy fiscal manipulators will come out on top in this no-luck economic knife fight.

• Aside from these titles, in its February 2023 newsletter Rio Grande Games mentions that Arctic Scavengers: Base Game+HQ+Recon is coming back into print in March/April 2023 and later in the year it plans to release Prussian Railroads, Pacific from Donald X. Vaccarino, and “a new production of an old favorite, Eminent Domain“. In a January 2023 thread on BGG, Eminent Domain designer Seth Jaffee noted that “It’s not set in stone yet how they will package the various EmDo content…”

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