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Raised this from a 9 to a 10 today (2/20/14). Five years after first playing it, the game remains one that I would play anytime with any number. It is not a 10 with five or six, mind you, but with three or four, it has become my favorite game. The vicious interaction between player, forced cooperation, and cold-hearted manipulation of the game mechanics make it a winner.
3.29.18 I had been so, so eager to play Chicago Express. Billed as a game with minimal rules overhead (I’d quibble with that a bit), high player interaction, and dirt-dry theme of building train routes, I was thinking this is the game for me. There are three actions: auction a share of a company, expand a railroad line of a company that you have a share in, and develop a station on a hex. The player with the most personal money wins. In the end, I was a bit let down but still intrigued. We all agreed that it’d be worth playing CE again in the same group in order to understand and develop strategies. Despite a somewhat lukewarm first play, I am eager to play again. PROS -Great dry look. -Turns are snappy. -Easily enter into uneasy partnerships with rivals. CONS *This is after a first play of a game that is, by all accounts, quite opaque. - I don’t know if I felt it to be opaque but I did find that the game can be decided early on and it can be difficult to find an optimal move. -It seems like a dominant strategy to get two shares of a company and ride it for all it’s worth. I ended last place with only one stock of each company but one while all my opponents had at least one company where they had two shares. -Spending money on shares always seemed better than not spending. I didn’t feel like my opponents were ever in a hard spot even after they spent a lot on a share.
A game played almost entirely above the board, and it develops into the best metagame around, and it becomes a sort of multiplayer Go/Chess match with infinite replayability despite its static setup. You can thank the auction for that. It is incredibly tactical in the best possible way: the game states changes in an instant-- and frequently. Act, react, plan, shift gears. Accidental kingmaking is a huge issue with new players due to the high level of opacity, but a game zips by in about 45 minutes, so getting it to the table is very easy. The rules are clean, and easy to explain in about 10 minutes. This is Winsome's masterpiece, and the other games that have developed on CE's ideas have just added complexity without giving players more interesting things to do.
I think this is my new favourite 60 minutes-ish game that is just a bit of bite-sized fun. This probably beats out China in terms of favourites but I think China is more accessible to non-gamer types. 2009-09-28 - Bought