Raccoon Tycoon (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Glenn Drover
  • Publisher: Forbidden Games
  • Artist: Jacoby O’Connor & Annie Stegg
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 60-90 Minutes
  • Times Played: 3

Have you ever looked at a game, seen the title and had absolutely zero idea what exactly was going on? I mean, Raccoons are fine; they are wonderful creatures, if a bit moody. Adding Tycoon to them doesn’t really make much sense beyond the fact it rhymes, unless you were looking for a game all about trading and maximizing the value of your raccoons, which I am going to go ahead and assume that you weren’t. There aren’t many tycoons dealing in raccoons.

Raccoon Tycoon is an economic game for two to five players. You are a business tycoon in the town of Astoria, and through exploiting production of the goods available to you and the ever fluctuating market, you hope to make as much money as possible in hopes of profiting off the growth in the area. You are going to procure goods and turn those goods into the money that you need to purchase the lucrative railroads and towns that become available for purchase. All while populating your personal town with buildings to best suit your needs.

On a player’s turn, they choose one action to take out of the five different actions available to them. The first action is to produce goods. Every player at the beginning of the game is dealt three price and production cards. When you produce goods, you choose a card from your hand to play. The price and production cards have two halves, the bottom half tells what you are going to produce. At first you can only produce three of the items on the card, even if there are more. There are ways to increase that as the game progresses. After you take those good, you are going to manipulate the market a bit. The top half of the price and production card will tell you which goods are to be increased in value. Simply increase the prices shown on the top half of the card. Goods are not unlimited, at the beginning of the game you can only house up to ten goods at the end of your turn.

The second action that a player can do is selling one type of good. The amount of money the player will get for selling a type of good is the price on the goods market, multiplied by the number of the goods sold. After the player receives their money, they will adjust the market price down equal to the number of units sold.

The third available action is to start an auction to purchase a railroad. There will be two railroads on display that are available to be auctioned, and the active player chooses one and starts the bidding for that railroad. In games with three or more players, the auction will go around the table until everyone passes and a high bid remains, that bidder will pay their bid to the bank and take that railroad card into their possession. With two players it’s done a bit differently, with the active player naming a price for the railroad and their opponent choosing to bid higher or pass, either taking the railroad card or letting the active player have it. If the player who started the auction did not win the railroad card, they get another action. You want to collect these railroad cards in sets. Each railroad has four cards associated with it and the value of your set will increase the more cards of that same set you own.

Fourth on the list of actions is the ability of the active player to purchase a building. There will be four buildings on display in the building offer, and the active player must spend money equal to the cost shown on the tile they are choosing to purchase it. They then take the tile and place it in front of them in their “city.” Players also have the ability to improve a commodity building if they already have one in front of them, they simply pay the cost on the opposite side to gain the better building. The buildings will have benefits for the player who purchases them — anything from an extra good when producing, to gaining victory points at the end of the game for having certain items. The buildings also increase your storage space for goods by one for each building.

Last, but not least, a player may buy a town. You buy towns with goods, with each town having two costs shown on it. One will be paying with specific goods, and the other will be for paying with random goods. Either way, pay one of the costs and claim the town card in front of you.

The game moves along at a snappy pace because of this easy decision space and the fact that a player can only do one of these actions per turn. The game will end when two of the three stacks (buildings, railroads, or towns) are depleted, and no more remain on the board in their respective offers. Points are totalled at the end of the game for town cards and railroad cards, each building in your area is worth one victory point, and every town that you can pair with a railroad is worth two points. Some buildings will also give players extra points. You can play with mission cards, as well, which will reward players at the end of the game, if they have succeeded in their missions. After that, the player with the most points is the best tycoon!

My confusion about this game was a real thing. Looking at the box and reading the name, you have absolutely no idea what the game is really about. Couple that with the fact that it appeared at about the same time as Railroad Rivals, which was from the same designer and publishing house, and I constantly kept referring to this game as Racoon Rivals. Once I got past the confusion and that initial skepticism of anthropomorphic raccoons being tycoons of something, I found a game that is kind of right near my wheelhouse.

Giving each player only one simple action to do each turn makes for a game that feels lighter, and plays more quickly than I think it really should. There are some heady decision points in the game and the way that the designer has gone about designing this makes it all very approachable. It feels very Stockpile or Acquire to me in the sense that they’ve taken a grand idea and boiled it down to the bare essentials and made it feel like a full experience. Raccoon Tycoon does this as well with that simple market manipulation. Play a card to produce commodities and other commodities will go up in value. Sell off a bunch of those commodities to the marketplace and value of them will fall naturally. This market manipulation is the crux of the game. Using it to your advantage and conversely, to manipulate against your opponents, is so simple, and through it the game just flows.

We played Raccoon Tycoon the first couple of plays straight from the rule book, and that did create an issue. The rule book has a game end with the depletion of just one item, either Railroads, Towns, or Cities. That created a bit of a rush strategy, where if a player started just buying town cards, others would immediately jump in and create a “rush” for them ending the game prematurely. The new two-out-of-three depletion ending, created by the designer, prevents that and makes for a far more satisfying ending to the game, but it does also lengthen the game, which may be my only complaint. This is a lighter, gateway-style game and we’ve had four-player games go ninety minutes plus, and for this game, that may be overstaying its welcome just a bit.

As the game is drawing to a close, points become more difficult to attain, and marketplace selling becomes a bit less important. Money is worthless at the end of the game, unless you have the bank which is one point per $20 you have remaining, or if you have the mission card for most money at the end of the game. Funny thing, there are two of those most money mission cards in the game, and we’ve had it happen that two of us had the same mission, which can make for a bit of a weird ending, especially when the Bank building fell to another player by sheer opportunity. No other mission card is duplicated in the game.

Component-wise, the Premium Kickstarter Edition is full of all the bells and whistles. Metal coins instead of paper money being the biggest improvement, and I believe the only Kickstarter “exclusive.” The Premium Kickstarter version will be the only version on sale until that print run sells out, and then a smaller retail version will hit stores. The smaller retail version will not have the outrageously large raccoon starting player marker, gold foil box, or the tarot-size cards, and may have a slightly smaller box and board. This is the benefit of Kickstarter funding though, you get some things made with components that were not necessary, but do enhance the game play, or at least the look of the game as it’s being played.  

Wonderfully illustrated and fantastically produced, Raccoon Tycoon is going to be an attractive game for families and fans of light to mid-weight games to look at and play. While I think that it is a gateway style game, I think that this is more of a mid-weight game, nestling snuggly in between the likes of Stockpile and Acquire for me as far as difficulty. While the turns are short, the decision space can be difficult for some players. The market itself takes some getting used to in order to manipulate it the way that best benefits you. The length of gameplay versus the payoff in the end may be a bit of a downside to the game for some looking for a bit more , but Raccoon Tycoon is well worth the investment in the end if you enjoy these family-weight economic games.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Joe Huber (1 play): Raccoon Tycoon is a game that _could_ be in my wheelhouse – but in practice, the nice illustrations were really the only thing I liked about the game.  The game has a pretension of being comparable to Acquire, but in practice – it’s both more complex _and_ easier to get the hang of, a poor combination.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it.

I like it. Brandon

Neutral.

Not for me… Joe H.

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