I’ve been talking about Bullet❤️ a lot lately, so I’ll give it a break this week.
Bullet⭐ is the follow-up to Bullet❤️ that I’ve been blathering on about incessantly over the past few weeks. Bullet⭐ is a standalone game, but it integrates seamlessly with its predecessor. The rules are identical, the only change is the 8 new characters and bosses that come in this new box. Also, owning both could give you the opportunity to play 5 – 8 player games, but I shudder at the thought of needing to separate the centres after the fact to ensure you have the correct number of bullets within each set again.
If you haven’t caught my previous posts where I rave over this game, Bullet is a puzzle-y, push your luck, pattern matching game for 1 – 4 players, designed by Joshua Van Laningham and published by Level 99 Games. In Bullet each player takes control of one of the 8 very asymmetric heroines and tries to out last their opponents. The game revolves around pulling tokens (called bullets) from your bag, placing them into your player board, and manipulating them to match patterns on your cards, so you can clear them from your board and send them to your opponent. The push your luck aspect comes into play as you pull bullets from your bag. Each bullet has a colour and a number, the colour indicates which column the bullet will go into, and the number indicates the number of spaces down it will go, skipping over any full spots. Should the bullet hit the very bottom row, BANG! You’re hit. Lose all your life and you’re out. The last player standing wins.
This week, I played the solo Boss Battle mode again. The first character I played from this set was Jane Doe, an interdimensional cop who yearns for justice, and has antlers popping out the sides of her hat. Jane’s special ability is that she has 3 special tokens in her bullet bag, and when they get drawn, they trigger a special action. I found Jane Doe to be very powerful, with only 2 AP you can put all her special tokens back from your board into your bag, and then promptly draw them, allowing you to clear one bullet, draw one pattern, and move two bullets to any spot of your choice. Each of those actions alone would be 1 or 2 AP on any other board, giving Jane Doe an amazing action efficiency.
I imagine in the multiplayer game, Jane Doe starts off strong, but wanes quickly. After that 3-minute timer goes off, you can’t trigger the ability that deposits those special tokens back into your bag, bringing her major power to a screeching halt. But for the Boss Battle mode, Jane Doe is a powerhouse!
The next character I played was Nawa and her sous chef Baku. Nawa is a Phillipino snake person whos ability kind of turns the game of Bullet⭐ on its head. Nawa has no Action Points at all, and her patterns only allow her to manipulate the bullets in her sight. Her sous chef Baku has 3 recipes that you can use over and over to your heart’s content. The trick of Nawa and Baku is to get your bullets set up in the correct locations with her precious few bullet manipulation actions, then she does a fantastic job clearing bullet after bullet. The obvious downside is that her ability to maneuver the bullets is so incredibly limited that if you can’t get your patterns set up early, you’ll be in a lot of trouble real quick. I really enjoyed Nawa and Baku, and wouldn’t hesitate to play with them again.
Ultimate Railroads – German Railroads
Russian Railroads by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard “Lonny” Orgler is a game that I’ve played a few times on Board Game Arena, and have quite enjoyed. It has almost a accelerated scoring structure where in that in the first round you might earn 8 points. Then in the second round you’ll earn 16 points, then 32, then 64, and it’s not uncommon for players to score in excess of 150 points in the final round.
Ultimate Railroads is the recently released big box edition of Russian Railroads, including the German railroads, American Railroads, and Asian Railroads expansions.
Russian Railroads is a worker placement game in which players are building rail lines. The action spots on the board allow you to advance track tokens along any of the three main rail lines. Each space on the rail line has a score, and each tier of track being moved down the rail line has a multiplier. Once the plain track as been moved far enough, it unlocked the next tier of track. Before you can score the tracks and their multipliers, you need to build a train. Each train has a number that indicates how far along the track it can go, and that’s the range that you get to score. Players need to balance advancing their plain track to unlock the next tiers, pushing each tier of track up the rail line, and buying locomotives to earn points. There is also the purple industry track that functions similarly to the tracks, but is logarithmic in scoring. At the end of each round, you add up your score, and the player with the highest score at the end of the game is the winner.
We played German Railroads this week, which includes wholly new player boards, and the inclusion of coal. The new player boards are modular, as you advance your plain track along the rail lines you get to place tiles on your board that will offer you different upgrades from what your opponents can get. In addition, the main line splits near the end. One track is longer and will reward you with more points, while the other track is shorter and less lucrative, but offers bonuses quickly. The coal module adds in coal (duh), which is a separate resource that you use to power your foundries. The foundries can have lots of effects that you can use on your turn, provided you have enough coal. The other benefit is buying a boilerman, which is the on the back side of each foundry tile. A boilerman is attached to either a locomotive, or a factory, adding a +1 to the effect. In the case of a locomotive, it reaches one space further. In the case of the factories, this adds to the benefit that you would normally receive.
Boy, I got thumped in this game. I waffled on the first turn between pushing my track’s first track up and moving my industry token up. By committing to neither, I felt a full round behind everyone else. I eventually committed to just pushing my centre track as far up as I could, eventually reaching the end and unlocking the very valuable gold tracks. Some strategies will offer more points quicker, but have a smaller ceiling. In the case of the factory track it’s somewhat easy to get to the 10, 15, or 20 point spots, but it caps out at 30 points. The tracks on the other hand require way more effort to push up, but can be incredibly lucrative, I recall one game where I earned over 150 points in a single round because I managed to get my gold track very high.
In the end, I lost with a final score of 215, while my friend, Bigfoot, had a score of 478. One day I’ll redeem myself, but for now, I’m going to go and nurse my wounded pride.
Russian Railroads is a game about action efficiency. The player who can do the most actions if most likely going to be the winner. This makes going first a pretty lucrative position. The most exciting part of the game shows up if you can chain and combo bonuses to get you more even bonuses, and it seems like all players will have one MEGA TURN at some point, where they trigger bonus after bonus and launch themselves into their endgame state.
I like Russian Railroads, but it can feel like there’s only 3 strategies to chase down, although the core puzzle is so good that I’m happy to play it again and again. I’m glad the Ultimate box exists, so we can inject some more variability into this game.
Odd typo in the rulebook