Sid Meier's Railroads!

Review: Choo choo strategy

I'M IN MY early 30s, and have made it this far in my life without ever giving the tiniest toss about trains.

I can watch steam coming out of a train funnel, and feel absolutely no nostalgic twang for typhoid and top hats. And replacing the word 'Tycoon' with an exclamation mark is fooling no-one. If they hadn't wired my eyes open and sat me in the restraining chair, I daresay I'd have gone another 30 happy years without playing any kind of railway business simulator.

So it's confusing to confess that I loved this game. With Sid back onboard after a little holiday, they've actually created a passion I never had, and didn't want.


Railroads! is simple where it matters; building tracks that curve elegantly through the countryside is as easy and satisfying as slapping a spoilt child. Setting the route and consist - cargo to you and me - was intuitive enough for me not to need a manual or tutorial. At the start of the game, industries chug away fruitlessly, waiting to be connected to towns. It's a kind of Bizarro approach to the industrial revolution, but for all its nods to history and realism, Railroads! never forgets it's a game.

Once you're over the simplicity, you can begin to enjoy the complexity. Your first train, which will probably be shuttling humans and mail between towns, will bring in enough revenue to start reaching out to industry. The growth creeps up on you, too - from your first shuttle run to providing town industries, to buying those industries and eventually buying out your competitors is so smooth and balanced that it only becomes explicit when you nostalgically click on your old mail truck and notice that it's 70 years old and costing you $10,000 a month in maintenance. Don't be sentimental; scrap the junk and sack the driver.

It's impossible to pretend this game is anything more than what it transparently is - an accessible business strategy game with choo choos - but behind the faintly sickening opening video, there's a silo full of deep fun to be had here.

The verdict

RIP Hornby

  • Easy to get into
  • Sweet stylistic trappings
  • Hugely involving
  • Rarely overwhelming
  • Processor-heavy at times
  • Now do spaceships
2K Games
Sim / Strategy