Review: Steam: Rails to Riches (Nintendo Switch)

6 mins read

Review by Matt S.

Steam: Rails to Riches is a perfectly competent board game, which works well enough on Nintendo Switch. It’s no Wingspan, which is both a masterful board game and plays beautifully on Switch. It’s also not the board game I wanted to see most on Switch (where’s Lords of Waterdeep, Twilight Struggle, Tokaido or Dominion?). It’s not even the train-themed board game that I wanted to see most on Switch (where’s Ticket To Ride?). But it’s fine.

The basic principle of Rails to Riches is to build up a freight company via rail lines. In each of your turns, you’ll be laying down tracks to connect towns and cities together, building up your train network, and then using it to transport colour-coded cargo units to associated cities, which is how you’ll earn cash and victory points. There are a couple of bonus wrinkles that add additional layers of strategy, but in the interests of brevity, the main strategic consideration is that you want to build your train lines in the most well-travelled areas, as only one player can control a section of track, and if you control a bit of track that other players use, then you get a cut of their profits.

Like most Eurogames, there’s no direct conflict in Rails to Riches. Every player basically does their own thing, with minimal capacity to affect other player’s games, and it’s really only at the very end that the actual winner will be 100 per cent clear. This is a nice quality with modern board games, as this approach makes them more social, relaxing experiences where no one will feel attacked by the other players as they play, while still allowing players enough strategy that ensures that victories are won based on skill. Also, like most Eurogames, Rails to Riches has a ruleset that can be earned in a single, short session, which ensures that the maximum number of players can learn and enjoy the experience. I grew up in an era where “serious” board games would have hundred-page manuals, and while I personally enjoyed the complexity, actually finding people to play was never fun. The Eurogame wave has given us board game nuts plenty of variety to enjoy… and plenty of players in our family and friends groups to enjoy them.

The video game adaptation of Rails to Riches isn’t great, though, and that’s disappointing. The board is a bland and generally-dull looking pile of hexes, there’s a general lack of animation, and the interface is purely functional. None of this can be faulted, per se, but when you compared the absolutely beautiful, richly animated and breathtakingly designed Wingspan to this… this is a very distant second.

Aesthetics are one thing, but Rails to Riches has a bigger issue with the Switch port – the interface is truly obnoxious, filled with button commands that aren’t particularly elegant, and a density of information and inputs that can become quite confusing in application, even after a couple of rounds of play. This undermines the accessibility of the ruleset, and it’s disappointing that the developers didn’t put more effect into coming up with a solution to the PC interface that the game was clearly designed around. Again, to compare to Wingspan, we know it can be done, so it comes across as quite lazy that the developers didn’t put more work in.

Otherwise, Rails to Riches is a very no-frills experience. You can play offline against other players (that can deal with the interface), and AI (which is reasonable), and you can jump online if you can find people to play there. I don’t believe there is crossplay with the established PC version, however, and as much as I hate to keep making the comparison to Wingspan… I’ve enjoyed a lot of Wingspan playing online with my PC-based family and friends through lockdowns, and even if we were inclined to play this one as well, then we wouldn’t be able to.

As the PR reads “the official version of one of the best board games!” I think that’s a bit of a bold claim. It’s certainly an official version, but it’s not one of the best games that I’ve played this week, let alone of all time. I honestly don’t see the appeal in Rails to Riches. It’s a competent enough game, but it’s far too standard for Eurogames to be mechanically interesting, and the videogame adaptation is presented blandly. In addition, the Switch port suffers from a cheap and unintuitive interface, brought over with too little thought from the PC original. If you really love your board games, then this is perfectly fine, but it’s less “one of the best board games” as it is “just another one of a huge library of options that you may, occasionally, be in the mood for.”

– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

Previous Story

Nippon Ichi is getting time-loopy with its new one

Next Story

The catch-up coffee: Thursday, August 5, 2021

Latest Articles