UNION PACIFIC - Reviewed by Mike
I can add little to what has already been said about this updating of Airlines into a train game. The mapboard and components are of a good standard and the game certain plays quicker than Airlines. With the advent of Tikal and Giganten at the same time I'm afraid to report that this game has had very little play time, much less than I would have liked, so this review must be considered to be an 'initial reaction' rather than an in-depth analysis.
The distribution of the number of shares in each company and the number of trains they can run is spot on, leading to some interesting decisions as to which stock to take from the cards on display. The change whereby your hand is always maintained at 3 cards after playing your turn overcomes the problem with the 'bad flight deck draw', as the unwanted card is discarded and may be picked up by another player later, as it may be of use to them.
We had a little problem initially with deciphering which track sections the cards related to but that was soon overcome. The game builds up nicely with players collecting their own stock cards in various companies and expanding the network, which looks splendid with its range of colours. The decision of when to invest in the Union Pacific company provides an additional twist to the player's strategy, as the dividend payments in this company are worth nothing in the first scoring phase but worth considerably more in the later scoring rounds, so one has to weigh the options up very carefully.
We haven't played sufficient games to know if you can win without having a major stockholding in the UP, so I'd be interested to see the comments from other groups who have perhaps explored these options.
The two games we have played so far were both 4-player and were very close in the final scoring, with the usual lament that "if I'd only had another go I was about to play stock in Company X and become major shareholder...". This is one of the unique features about Alan Moon games, the use of the Wertung cards (Dividend Cards in this game) to give an unpredictable end to a game, so you are always taking a bit of a gamble if you don't lay those stock cards down !!