10th Apr2019

‘Raccoon Tycoon’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

raccoon-tycoon-box

As the name might suggest, Raccoon Tycoon is a game of pure economics set in a world full of anthropomorphic animals. It’s a game about producing and selling commodities at just the right moment, as well as expanding your town in order to increase production capacity.

Raccoon Tycoon looks fairly daunting at first glance, which I think is largely down to how many components there are, as well as their oversized nature. Double sized Railroad and Town cards take centre stage, partly because of their size but mostly because the artwork on them is stunningly detailed and often, very, very cute.

A series of six tracks printed above the card placement locations indicate the value of each of the commodities. Somewhere near each of these tracks, the players will pile the matching commodity tokens, each of which is a sculpted representation of whatever resource it is used for – wooden logs, luxurious bottles of wine, iron anvils and so on. Below the Railroad and Town cards is a space for large building tokens, drawn randomly (following the initial setup) from a pile. These tokens, unfortunately, feature artwork that is somehow underwhelming compared to everything else, yet by any other standard it would be absolutely fine. Most importantly, each building has clearly indicated benefits based on symbols that are easy to remember.

Whilst we’re on a roll with components, there are only a few more pieces to consider when thumbing through Raccoon Tycoon’s box, although I have left the most important part until last. Firstly among these last elements is a small deck of objective cards that – as far as I can see – are not mentioned in the manual at all. It turns out that you’ll deal these to the players at the start of the game as an additional means of scoring. There’s also a huge wooden raccoon that acts as the first player token. It’s utterly pointless, but fun!

Nothing else in Raccoon Tycoon would work without the final component, of course, which is the cards that drive the game. These cards are made up of a large, shared deck that players draw up from and can (usually) hold three of at any given time. I’ll explain next what these cards do, but the main thing is that they are the key mechanism for producing commodities and affecting their market price.

Ultimately, the winner of Raccoon Tycoon will be the player with the most victory points. VP is calculated at the end of the game as a product of various achievements. Collecting sets of Railroad cards provides a lot of points, for example, as does pairing Railroad and Town cards. Buildings provide a single point each, whilst many others provide bonus points and can be worth targeting.

According to the rulebook, a game of Raccoon Tycoon ends when one of the stacks of Railroad or Town cards is depleted. This does result in quite a rushed feel on some occasions, which has resulted in a clarification issued formally by the designer. The new rule indicates that the game should end when any two piles of the Railroad, Town and Building Token piles be depleted, which actually works much better.

On their turn, a player simply takes one action from a selection:

  • Firstly, they may play a card from their hand to receive commodity tokens from the top half of the card and increase the value of those on the bottom half
  • Secondly, they may sell commodities from their personal supply (in exchange for cash) and decrease the price of the commodities by the number sold
  • Thirdly, they can purchase a town card by trading the commodities shown or fourth, purchase a building using cash
  • Finally, they can bid for a Railroad, triggering an auction that everyone will be involved in, whether or not they choose to bid on that Railroad

Each of these actions has different strengths and weaknesses, and is therefore worth thinking carefully about. Playing cards is a balancing act between gaining resources that you need and trying to avoid making your opponents richer, should they choose to sell. Selling, of course, is all about choosing when to cash out of a valuable commodity before someone else does – since the value of a good reduces when it is sold.

Purchasing town cards is a good way of scoring points, especially if you have excess commodities, but Railroad cards, overall, are more valuable. As such, when a Railroad auction begins, all players are able to bid for that Railroad card in turn. The trick to obtaining Railroad cards is firstly to do so in sets if you can (as they are worth more) but also to avoid overpaying, of course. Buying cards to spoil the plans of your opponents is a legitimate tactic, of course.

Whilst Raccoon Tycoon is a game that poses players with some interesting decisions, the fact that there are only five actions (of which two will happen perhaps two to three times as often as the others) makes the game simple and fast. After only two or three turns, the players will understand the flow of Raccoon Tycoon and how they can affect their board state to drive themselves towards a clear victory.

This fast pace and clear path to victory makes Raccoon Tycoon an obvious and interesting choice as a gateway game. It’s very, very attractive to look at and will immediately catch the eye of anyone who passes a glance at it, whether they are a fan of board games or not. For more serious gamers, there are some slight issues – locking out auctions, min/maxing buildings etc, the kind of things that can take the fun out of a lighter game and spoilt it, but these are few and far between. Overall, Raccoon Tycoon is a good light to midweight game for almost any collection.

***½  3.5/5

Raccoon Tycoon is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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