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Yeah ok I love this. It's a mix of perfect information and psychological warfare. The incentives are easy to read and assess value for yourself, but have you figured out what other people value? When do you take a hit to wound another player? Do you know when other people will do the same? No, you don't. And that's why this is great.
GAMEPLAY Players are railroad tycoons moving the Northern Pacific line from Minneapolis to Seattle and investing in towns along the way. On a turn, a player can either connect the rail from one town to the next closest in order or place an investment cube in a town not yet connected by the rail. When a rail line eventually connects up to a town where a player has an investment, that player takes back the cube from the board and moves one more cube from the general supply into their personal supply. A round ends when the line reaches Seattle, at which time good and bad investments are tallied. A player’s good investments are the number of cubes in their personal supply, and their bad investments are the number of cubes left on the board. NP is played over three rounds. THOUGHTS With the mass publication of Winsome titles like Paris Connection (SNCF), Chicago Express (Wabash Cannonball), and now Northern Pacific, I hope this is a trend that has some staying power. Winsome train games, from what I’ve seen, comprise a few recurring elements: simple rules, relatively short playing time, and player interaction that stretches to the horizon. NP fits this description to a T. Every turn is spent cajoling people to join you in your investment of a town or push the train forward. The big investment cubes add a neat twist in allowing you to take double the investment cubes from the supply. I also like that bad investments don’t really count against you (other than those are the VP that you didn’t manage to score) but sort things out in the event of a tie-breaker. NP works great as a thinky filler game that is easy to teach and creates a lot of table talk. PROS -Player interaction is high but not punishing. Yes, you can skip by someone’s town, leaving them with bad investments, but bad investments more likely represent positive VP you weren’t able to make, not VP you lost. -Easy to teach and learn. -Fills a nice thinky-filler niche. NEUTRALS -I get that the art direction was to make NP look like an old-timey map but it’s really very brown. I don’t hate it but Rio Grande definitely didn’t do themselves any favors. -NP really only works at a player count of 4 to 6. I suspect 5 or 6 is the sweet spot but I’ll need more plays to find out. This could be difficult as your average gamer seems reluctant to play a “train” game.
Takes the Winsome concept and strips it down to the gritty basics of emergent alliances. Super accessible with out the inscrutable opacity of a typical stock-and-rails game since nobody is going to need to figure out how much they should bid or how much to par something at. I think it's quite wonderful, and wipes Paris Connection off of my radar, mostly because it has next to zero setup time. And yes, the game plays in 10 minutes or less. Glad Rio Grande picked this one up.