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Russian Railroads - Board Game Box Shot

Russian Railroads

| Published: 2013
71 11 4

In Russian Railroads, players compete in an exciting race to build the largest and most advanced railway network. In order to do so, the players appoint their workers to various important tasks. The development of simple tracks will quickly bring the players to important places, while the modernization of their railway network will improve the efficiency of their machinery. Newer locomotives cover greater distances and factories churn out improved technology. Engineers, when used effectively, can be the extra boost that an empire needs to race past the competition.

There are many paths to victory: Who will ride into the future full steam ahead and who will be run off the rails? Whose empire will overcome the challenges ahead and emerge victorious?

User Reviews (4)

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Gamer - Level 8
Explorer - Level 5
Critic - Level 3
28 of 28 gamers found this helpful
“When 18xx meets Worker Placement”

Just to clear the heading from any suspicions, this game has nothing to do with 18xx other than the creators having only 18xx titles on their resume. RRR is as pure a worker placement game as you’ll find.

You are a railroad builder whose goal is to do the most impressive job on the Trans-Siberian RR aka score the most points after 6 or 7 rounds, depending on the # of players. The game contains a main board with the available actions and each player has their own personal board containing 3 railroad lines as well as an industrialization track. On each line you can place tracks of different quality with the higher quality scoring more points. The catch; higher quality tracks can never overtake a lower track so you’ll have to move the lower tracks before moving those you really want to.

Game play is fairly straightforward; on your turn you’ll place some of your workers (1, 2 or 3) on the main board on one action and perform this action. Most of the actions are about moving your tracks, industrialization token or building factories (for the industrialization track) and/or locomotives (scoring and sudden bonuses on the tracks). In addition you can pick up 2 rubles (which can be used as jokers), 2 extra workers for the ongoing round and of course the engineers you can hire. Each round one engineer is available for hire and they all have an action attached that will be available for the one who hired them.

At the end of each round you score points for how far you’ve gotten on each track, up to your locomotive level on that track, as well as points for how far on the industrialization track you are and these points are added to you total. The first couple of rounds there is not a lot of points scored but it quickly escalates and it’s not unusual to see scores of 100+ in the last round.

So, do I like it? Very much so, and I think that might be because unlike other WP games specialization pays off. Already from round 1 you’ll need to have an idea on how you will score those points in later rounds. Wondering a bit back and forth will almost assuredly result in you not winning so the first time you play it you are very likely to lose to someone who has played it before. The thing of beauty though, is that already for your second game you will have a much better picture of what to do.

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Critic - Level 2
18 of 18 gamers found this helpful
“Full steam ahead”

Going to try a new format for my reviews on here and my blog. Let me know if you think it’s better/worse. 🙂

Fun factor – 9/10
Replay value – 7/10
Components – 8/10
Learning Curve – 6/10

This weekend we got two games in so I am putting up two reviews this week. My group has played this game once before and we really liked it the first time we played and have been really excited to get another session in with this one. After finishing Tzul’kin a little early we decided to go for it.

Fun Factor: This game is one of my favorite euros because it’s just purely an engine builder. You start the game getting a very small number of points per turn (5-20ish) and by the last turn of the game get numbers around 150 if you did well. Last night my last two turns were 154 points followed by 167 points. It was awesome, I love this kind of thing in games. That slow build to a grand finale. I also really like that while I have found the strategy I enjoy using to attempt to win there are several other ways to go about getting the points needed to win games. There are 3 different railroads to build up and an engineering track you can build up. Any two of these I feel will work to get you a victory if you are playing smart. There are of course a couple things that I think would make some areas a little more appealing, like the engineering track just never appeals to me while I am playing. It does not seem to offer quite enough bang for my meeple as building up your roads. However, one of the people in my group thinks he can make it work to win so next game he is going to try it out.

Replay Value: This game is like many other euros in that the replay value comes from getting better and better at the game and building a better and better engine with each play through. Every time I finish a game of this I find myself going “man next game I need to try doing X instead of Y and I bet I would do even better”. If that does not appeal to you as replay value than I doubt this game would have much of a score here for you but for me I love it! I would love to see some expansions for the game so that I could get even more out of it but honestly I don’t know how they would do that without just adding little things. Possibly new player boards with new “routes” on them to change up the game would be loads of fun.

Components: Not too much to say here. The parts are great but Z-Man games always does good components. If you have a game from this company on your shelf you know what to expect here. High quality thick game pieces and nothing flimsy. Nothing really extra awesome though either. There are a couple of pieces that have some odd art on the back, namely there is a set of upgrades that you can choose from as you pass certain parts of different rails but the first time we played we thought you had to randomly select them based on the backing that these have. Which is a question mark. Why would you put the question mark there and then make it just something you get to choose. Don’t get me wrong here I really like that you get to choose these things and that its not random but it’s a bit of an odd art choice.

Learning Curve: So this game is definitely a heavy euro game. The game really clicks nicely once you get going but going through the rules for the first time can be time consuming and even after learning the rules I found that we still had the rule book out and in pretty constant use on the second run through of the game. However, compared to some other games in the same “class” as this one it’s rules are pretty good.

All in all I really like this game. It’s easy to keep organized and plays quite well in about 2-3 hours. It’s one of the best games I have played this year and I am excited to play again.

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Z-Man Games fan
I play red
Indie Board & Cards fan
14 of 15 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“I've been worker placement on the railroad...”

I played Union Pacific. I played Ticket To Ride. So when a friend said he had picked up ANOTHER train game, I was a little worried. But then he told me that this was a worker placement game. I was intrigued. Was my initial fears met? Or was I in for another strong worker placement game? All aboard to find out.


One of my complaints with Union Pacific and Ticket to Ride were the boring looking board, plastic pieces, and (for UP) paper money. Z-Man games gives us something else with Russian Railroads. The both the main board and individual player boards are bright, well laid out, and (in the case of the main board) dual sided for 3/4 players on one side, and for 2 players on the other.

Wooden meeples are always welcome. As were the wooden railroad tracks. The game features engineer cards. As these can be used as player specific placement spots (more on this later) they are made of nice thick cardboard.

The only complaint some might have is that the game does have a slight cartoony look and feel.


Besides the normal stuff (setting up board, players picking a colour, sorting out resources in to their own piles) there are a few unique setup elements for the game.

First, you need to shuffle the 10 End Bonus cards and remove 2 of them. This gives some slight variation to the game. What gives even more variation is the engineer tiles. While there are 15 tiles, only 7 are used. players will select 4 B tiles, and 3 A tiles and place them on the board on the round markers.

Lastly, players will need to select turn order. Something of note…turn order is not always clockwise or counter clockwise. Determine the starting turn order at random. Then shuffle the starting bonus cards and players will select one each in reverse order. This is nice as it provides a catch up mechanic for the player that doesn’t get to go first. As seasoned worker placement players know, going first is a BIG advantage.

Game Play – Basics

Russian Railroads is a worker placement game. At the start of a round once turn order is decided players will take turns in order by placing a meeple on an action spot and performing the action of the tile.

Of note is that players may use MONEY in place of a worker. This allows for additional actions, and in some cases (buying an engineer tile) players can ONLY use money on these action spots.

Once all players have ran out of meeples, money, or passed, the round ends. Players will score any end round points they are entitled to, and all engineers tiles are slide one spot to the right. In the event that the right most engineer has not been purchased, it is discarded from the game. Players remove meeples and money from the board, and the next round begins.

After the 7th round ends, players will complete all normal end round scoring, as well as score and end of game bonuses.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

So what exactly do those wonderful worker placement spots allow you to do?

The first type of action is track extension. Each player’s personal player board depicts 3 railroads, which can be independently extended over the course of the game. Depending on how far each track is extended, players will unlock additional bonuses, points, or extra workers.

On top of their being 3 different tracks, there are 5 colours of rail that can be extended on those tracks. Players start with a back rail on each track and unlock the other colours by extended the black rail on the first track. Of note, the colours must be placed in order (black, grey, brown, beige, and white) and the colours can not be extended past the colour that comes before them. For example if a player has black rail on the 2nd section of the 3rd track, then they can only place the grey rail on the 1st spot of that track.

Next are locomotive action spaces. These allow you to purchase a new locomotive and place it to the left of one of the three tracks. Locomotives are used for two things: to unlock bonuses on the tracks, and to score points. One of the nice elements of the game is when you upgrade an locomotive, you can move the old locomotive to an open track. As you can only have 4 total, eventually you will discard some of the trains from the game.

You will find that the locomotive tiles are double sided. The reason for this is that you can only purchase factory tiles, and place them on the factory track at the bottom of your player board. These can be used to score points and unlock actions and bonuses, depending on how far you extend the factory track marker. The marker is moved by yet another worker placement spot.

There are also some basic resources spots (for player order, to gain money, an extra worker, or upgrade tiles).

Finally, I want to mention the scoring. Round scoring is based on your how far your tracks are extended (both rail and the factory track), as well as the colour of the rails on those tracks. Additionally rail tracks score depending on the locomotive connected to the track. What this means is that scoring starts slow (think 2-5 points for round 1) and EXPLODES. Some may not like the super high scores you can get in this game (400+), but it’s great to see the engine you’ve built come in to play.

There is also end game scoring for most engineers, and bonus cards.


Let’s be honest…this is an abstract cube pusher with a gorgeous skin. Sure the fact that it’s railways makes sliding a cube (shaped like a railroad track) up a line a little thematic, but this game is not for those who require heavy theme.

For most euro gamers, this won’t be an issue. For others…the high end components and artwork should be enough for the worker placement goodness to come in to play.

Replay Value

This is tricky. Because there are only a limited number of types of actions, the engineers don’t add a lot of variability from one game to the next. Plus there is only 1 factory and 3 different rail tracks to master. But the more you play the more you realize that if you can combo two of those tracks together, you can end up with some huge scores.

Still after 10+ plays the game can become a little stagnant and you may not rush to get it to the table. Still, 10+ plays is a solid amount of game.

And Z-Man has seemingly addressed some of those concerns with an expansion giving new player boards with customizable tracks.

Over All Impression.

For the most part this comes down to if you like worker placement, and how important theme is to you.

If you need a rich experience ala Imperial Assault or Betrayal At The House On The Hill, this game is not for you. If you like SOME theme, and prefer it not come across as pasted on, this will be a solid choice.

For worker placement fans this hits a nice complexity/time spot. It’s not as basic as something like Stone Age, but it’s not as dense as something like Caverna.

Russian Railroads also scales very well thanks to the dual sided main board. This is nice for me as I’ve played a lot of two player games of Russian, and the 3-4 player games feels like a fresh experience.

Should you get the game? For most I’d say yes. Again, depending on how much theme means to you, you may want to try before you buy. For others there’s enough game to make your time at the table fun, with just the right amount of worker placement induced tension.

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Gamer - Level 4
5 of 5 gamers found this helpful
“Many strategic options”

At long last I got to play the classic, but impossible to get a copy of game, Russian Railroads.


You place workers in various amounts to build rail, factories, engines, hire additional workers, acquire coin, advance your factory tech, acquire more factories or engines, or hire an engineer. This is done until everyone passes, at which point scoring is done based off how far you progressed along your tech track and 3 rail routes using advanced rails. Reaching points on various tracks unlocks rewards while engines allow you other rewards and help score victory points. Each track has a different strategy involved for scoring and you can focus on them in multiple different ways. Scoring starts to get silly and the game is very self aware on this front as they have 100, 200, 300 and even 400 point tokens. After 6 rounds the game ends and whoever’s obscenely high score is highest is the winner.

The Bad

This is out of print, so out of print I had to order a German copy off “Amazon dot de” and print English rules to even get a hold of it. Also for a worker placement it is long, the box even warns you it is at least 2 hours in duration. That’s fine for me but some people can’t play one game that long

In conclusion

Worth the effort to find this and play it, it indeed lives up to the hype that I have seen over the years. I only wish I could get the expansions that also seem impossible to find now.


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