I recently tried out some shorter, simpler Roll and Writes. Honestly, it was clearing out some backlog, although I am always hoping to find another 13 Sheep.
And the amount of decisions ranged from either limited to not really there are all. Which wasn’t all that surprising. That’s one of the dangers of game designs and these were basically prototypes.
But it made me ask if some of the PnP, R&W games I’d liked before are as good as I thought they were. In particular, 30 Rails. After all, the game has you randomly roll coordinates and rail shapes.
So I pulled 30 Rails to give it another spin. It had been a while. Either I’d have fun or an educational disappointment.
So, yeah, it’s good.
I regularly describe 30 Rails as the love child of Take It Easy and Metro and I see no reason why I should stop.
You have a six by six grid in 30 Rails. After you seed the grid with five impassible mountains, one mine and a bonus spot, you put a station on each edge. Your goal is to connect stations to each other in the mine. That’s how you get points and points are how you measure how well you do in the game.
Each turn, someone rolls two different colored dice. One die determines which column or row you are going to add a track in. The other determines the shape of the track. And yes, you determine which die is which before you roll them.
I just tried several games that used to days as coordinates. Now, you would think that only having to choose a row or a column would make a big difference in your range of choices. You would be wrong. It makes an enormous difference. And, in 30 Rails, if you filled in both the column and the row, that number becomes wild.
There’s actually a lot in 30 Rails that lets you make meaningful choices. You get some say in how the board is set up. Everyone gets an override that they get to use once for each type of dice. Heck, you get to rotate the track shape, although just about any tile laying game lets you do that.
However, comparing using two dice to get a maximum of two options with using one die to get a maximum of eleven options (and a potential wild mechanic built in), that makes the difference between a good gaming experience and a bad one.
I went back to revisit 30 Rails to see if it was as good as I remembered or if experience would reveal terrible flaws. And what I found was that the game was actually better than I originally thought.