Russian Railroads

Design by Helmut Ohley & Leonhard Orgler
Published by Hans im Glück / Z-Man Games
2 – 4 Players, 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Russian Railroads

Designers Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler are train and railroad aficionados.  They both have a history of designing train games, with a heavy concentration on games utilizing the 18xx system.  They are quite popular within that world, but up until now, they have not really ventured into the realm of traditional European (German) games.  Until now.

Russian Railroads is the train duo’s first major foray into the world of European game design.  Set in Imperialist Russia at the end of the 19th century, the Tsar has ordained a major project:  construction of the Trans-Siberia Railroad.  To help usher Russia into the modern world, several lines on this railroad must be constructed.  As these railroads progress, improvements are made, new industries arise, and brilliant engineers add their expertise, all helping the railroads to expand at an even greater rate.  Russia will not be left out of the industrial revolution that is sweeping the world!

Interestingly, although the designers’ are heavily immersed in the 18xx world and system, there are few if any traces of that system in Russian Railroads.  Rather, the game is unmistakably a worker-placement affair.  Players will alternate placing workers on various spaces in their efforts to construct three railroad lines, acquire improved locomotives, recruit new workers, establish factories and more.  Points come in droves, especially in the latter stages of the game.  It is not unusual for players to score 400 or more points.  Yet, with all of these points being scored, I’ve seen victories determined by just one point.

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Linko (Abluxxen)

Design by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
Published by Ravensburger
2 – 5 Players, 20 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser


One cannot help but admire the incredible diversity of designers Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.  They are equally adept at creating deep strategy games, entertaining family games, children’s games and even card games.  Their body of work is amazing, and they continue to release top quality games that any designer would be proud to have created.

The latest in this line of outstanding games is Linko (Abluxxen in German).  It is a quasi-climbing game with similarities to games such as The Great Dalmuti and their own Who’s the Ass?, yet it has some clever new twists, including a highly original mechanism that I’ve not seen in any other game.  It is a delight to play, and seems one of those rare games that keeps both gamers and families engaged…and it is accomplished with what is essentially two decks of playing cards.

The game consists of 104 cards–eight each of values 1 – 13–plus five jokers.  Each card depicts a sly lynx, which I suppose is somehow related to the game’s title.  No explanation or theme is provided, but Herr Kramer provided the following information:

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Dale Yu: Review of Helios



  • Designer: Matthias Prinz & Martin Kallenborn
  • Publisher: Z-man / Hans im Glueck
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~60-90 min
  • Players: 2-4
  • Times played: 7 (3 on review copy provided by Z-Man)


Helios is a new spring 2014 release from Hans im Glueck which has just had an English version release from Z-Man. It is on the thinkier side, and (when viewed with Essen 13 release Russian Railroads), it hopefully heralds a return to more complex games from HiG.

While the varied mechanics can be overwhelming for a first game, once you are familiar with the game, it actually is pretty streamlined – I will try to give an overview of gameplay here –

The game is mostly played on the two different player boards in front of each player.  There is a common supply of tiles that sits in the middle of the table, but most of the rest of the action happens on the individual boards. Continue reading

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Guest Column – 1963 Game Diary – Sid Sackson – An Overview by Chris Kovac

From time to time, the Opinionated Gamers are happy to host writing from some noted gamers.  Chris Kovac is a good friend of mine, despite his Canadian-ness ;), who asked to contribute a piece on Sid Sackson.  This is a timely request given Joe Huber’s recent article on Acquire.




1963 Game Diary – Sid Sackson


An Overview by Chris Kovac



The following is an overview of a bit of gaming history, namely the 1963 Game Diary of the game designer Sid Sackson (1920-2002). Sid Sackson was a major North American game designer of the 1960’s – 1980’s who created such games as Acquire, Can’t Stop and Focus/Domination among others.


First some background on how I got a look at this game diary at the Gathering of Friends gaming convention Dan Bloom managed to organize a small behind the scenes tour of the Strong National Museum of Play. The Strong museum is located in Rochester New York and its mandate is collect and preserve toys and games as well as related material by American designers from colonial times to the present day. This includes collecting board and video games. Nicolas Ricketts one of the curators at the museum was nice enough to give us a behind the scenes tour showing us the storage rooms containing the board games of the collection including many of Sid Sackson prototypes. As part of the tour we got a chance to visit the research library at the museum where much of Sid Sacksons papers now reside including the game diaries. Julie Rossi one of the archivist at the library showed us a selection of the Sid Sackson papers including the diaries (from 1963 to mid 1990’s) and correspondence files. She was kind enough to forward to those that were interested the only diary which has been digitized (1963) and the correspondence files of Sid Sackson relating to the 3M company which published Acquire among other games. Now onto the overview of the game diary.

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Game Preview: Hyperborea

HYPERBOREA_coverDesigner: Andrea Chiarvesio and Pierluca Zizzi
Publisher: Asterion, Yemaia
Players: 2-6
Ages: 12+
Time: 90 minutes
Times played: many plays at different stages of development but this preview is about the final rules of the upcoming release

The game release is planned for this summer

Was almost 2 years ago that I played Hyperborea for the first time and was love at first sight. I really like Andrea Chiarvesio design and I think this one could be his best one.

Hyperborea is a tactical “bag-building” game where players develop a civilization getting new technologies, improving production, conquering new territories and fighting enemies. Everything in simple-to-learn, not-so-easy-to-master for a 2-3 hours gaming experience.

Over centuries, six rival reigns were born from the ashes of the hyperborean civilization: the militarist Red Duchy; the Green Kingdom and its death delivering archers; the Purple Matriarchy fanatically worshipping the goddess of life; the skilled diplomats and merchants of the Golden Barony; the Coral Throne with its efficiently organized society and finally the secluded and enigmatic Celestial Reign.

It is a strongly thematic game, with combats, explorations, developing with well-tested core mechanics: the perfect mix of the best from American and German design school.

[Liga] Theme and materials are typical for an American style game but I know you are more fashinated by german mechanic. What do you think Hyperborea really is ?

[Chiarvesio] An hybrid. It’s a fancy American car with a strong and reliable German engine (and stylish Italian bodywork). It’s likely closer to the American style gameplay (direct interaction with your opponents, fighting, territory control) than to the German style of building stuff and scoring victory points, but it has elements from both worlds. Extremists of both genres won’t like this mixture, but other games have proved there are people out there that like to experiment different gaming styles. It’s a game for people tired of playing so many different games that all will leave you with the same feeling at the end.

In this preview, as you seen, are included also the answers to some questions I have done to Andrea Chiarvesio.

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HP got games with Ventonuovo

western_front_map_webI don’t know if this could be a new frontier of the print-and-play or just a singular event but I think it is something of interest to talk about. It was announced during last edition of PLAY: The Games Festival but got not a real widespread diffusion. What do you think about it ? Which future for the print-and-play if HP, the printer producer par excellence, directly support/produce games ?

The 15th of March 2015 Ventonuovo Games announced the launch of its new World War I historical wargame series named “1914: The World at War” which will depict some of the events that shook the world a 100 years ago. Thanks to a partnership with Hewlett-Packard, the game will be offered in its full version through HP web-connected Printers starting July 2014. Historical facts and maps, rules, and a tutorial will be available to HP web-connected printer owners with an Internet connection, free of charge. Customer can access at (in the US, UK, Germany or France) or at

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2013 Meeples Choice Awards: Final Results

The Spielfrieks user group has completed its voting for the Meeples Choice Awards and the winners are:


Russian Railroads dominated the voting.  The race for the last two spots, however, was very tight and Nations and Lewis & Clark finished closely behind.  Caverna, which has pushed its way onto the Geek’s all-time top 10 list, finished a distant ninth.

Here are the vote totals for each of the 27 games which were nominated.  For each game, the first number shown is the number of votes received during the final round.  The value in parentheses is the votes the game received during the nominations stage.

1. Russian Railroads – 28 (32)
2. Bora Bora – 18 (21)
3. Concordia – 17 (34)
4. Nations – 16 (17)
5. Lewis & Clark – 15 (20)
6. A Study in Emerald – 12 (16)
7. Amerigo – 11 (15)
8. One Night Werewolf – 10 (10)
9. Caverna: The Cave Farmers – 9 (17)
9. Glass Road – 9 (16)
9. 1775: Rebellion – 9 (12)
9. Madeira – 9 (9)
13. Spyrium – 8 (17)
13. Coal Baron – 8 (13)
13. Concept – 8 (7)
16. Bruges – 7 (17)
16. Forbidden Desert – 7 (12)
18. Augustus – 6 (12)
19. La Boca – 5 (10)
19. Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords – 5 (8)
21. Bruxelles 1893 – 4 (15)
21. Machi Koro – 4 (8)
21. Francis Drake – 4 (7)
24. Rococo – 3 (10)
24. Cuba Libre – 3 (7)
24. Prosperity – 3 (7)
27. Rialto – 1 (7)

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Quickie report from Origins

Due to a number of schedule constraints, including but not limited to my upcoming trip to Hamburg for the Kinderspiel des Jahres award ceremony, I was only able to spend a single day in Columbus this year… Here is a quick recap of my 6 hours at the show.  Just to see if I could do it, all of the pics are taken from my smartwatch (because I forgot my own camera and my smartphone camera lens has a big crack in it), and most of the text has been dictated into it.  My first smartwatch blog piece!



The view of the convention center from Vine St.  This was the site of many near-accidents as this street has suddenly become a one-way street, and people were constantly turning the wrong way down the street.

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Nominees for 2013 Meeples Choice Awards

Well, we’ve completed the first stage of voting for the Meeples Choice Awards on the Spielfrieks User Group ( and have come up with 27 excellent nominees for the award.  Now, everyone picks their three favorites of the group and the top three games will be the winners.  If you want to help us select the winning trio, come over to Yahoo and cast your votes.

Here are the nominated games, in alphabetical order:

1775: Rebellion
A Study in Emerald
Bora Bora
Bruxelles 1893
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Coal Baron
Cuba Libre
Forbidden Desert
Francis Drake
Glass Road
La Boca
Lewis & Clark
Machi Koro
One Night Werewolf
Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords
Russian Railroads

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Now less blurry

For wem


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