It’s a train game, isn’t it.
Well, there are trains (many, many wonderful (and stupid) trains), and there are tracks, but Snowdonia is not your typical stuffy old train game.
Snowdonia is a worker placement Euro game (one of the best in My opinion) which has players working to complete the railway up to the top of Mount Snowdon.
While you are all working on the same track, this is a competitive game in which you score points for laying tracks, building stations and completing contracts.
The Dai is Cast
The game is set up by choosing which scenario you wish to play, and there are a good number, and laying out the track & station cards around the edge of the board. This is one of the great things about Snowdonia – each expansion is just a deck of cards which replace the original station & track cards, add a few additional rules and make a completely different experience.
The main board has a number of actions you can take like gathering resources, digging out rubble to clear the way for laying tracks (another action) or building stations to name a few. Each action location is further split into worker slots and in true worker placement fashion, these are limited so not everyone can do what they might want to.
There is a deck of contract cards, 3 of which are drawn at the start and replenished each round. If no-one has taken a contract, then the leftmost one is discarded and the other cards shift across with a new contract appearing on the right.
These contract cards are in two sections – the main part is a one time action that can give you a bonus to specific actions and is then spent. You keep the card though as the top part shows a game end bonus. If you satisfy the contract (by having laid a certain number of rails, built a number of stations, or dug enough rubble (and usually a combination of these things)) then you can get a decent bunch of points at the end of the game. Going after these can be rewarding but also quite tricky.
The backs of the contract cards also have a weather icon on them and this can be sunny, raining, foggy or, depending on the scenario, snowy. There is a weather track on the board which indicated the current weather as well as the forecast for the next 2 days so you can try to plan what you are going to do. The weather affects what actions you can take and how efficient you will be at doing them. Sunny days increase the amount of rubble you can dig and the number of tracks you can lay while rainy days decrease this and foggy days restrict the number of action spaces available. These work rates are marked on a track so if you get a run of 2 or 3 sunny days, you can get a good amount of work done.
The way this weather mechanic works really changes how each game feels. You can have games where it’s very sunny and you can fair fly up the mountain or you could trudge through the fog gloomily laying the odd track and wishing you were in the pub.
It’s warm in here, boyo, leave me to my pint will you
Ah, the pub. You have three workers, but only two are always available. The third one is found in the pub and will only come out if you get a train to take him up the mountain. Firstly, this involves buying a train when it becomes available and then paying a coal cube (not a cola cube, he’s not that easily bought) to fuel the train. You only get him for that round after which he goes straight back to the pub.
This brings me on to resources. There are three types – Iron, Stone and Coal. Iron is needed to make tracks and build some station spots while Stone is used to build stations. Coal, as said, get’s your man out of the pub.
Resources are restocked at the end of every turn and drawn blindly from a bag. The bag has finite resources determined by the player count but also contains 5 white cubes. These white cubes are the game’s timer and represent “the company” coming in and doing work while you are messing about so keeping an eye on what resources are out is vital if you want to get a decent score.
When white cubes are drawn, they get placed on the AI track and will make the company dig, build or lay tracks so if you are not careful, the company will bring the game to a swift end.
The base game comes with 6 trains and each expansion adds more. Each train has it’s own different special ability like granting you a bonus to your dig rate, letting you convert more Iron into Rail tracks or giving you a free build action.
All these really change how you can play and combined with the weather and the variety of contracts available really give a ton of replayability to Snowdonia.
Not only do the expansions come with trains, but the designer, Mr. Boydell has been creating additional trains for many a year, both as physical promo cards given away at conventions and with other games in his stable and as print and play cards posted up on his blog on BGG. Many of these trains are funny, silly or rude, often being inspired by events on the news and in the gaming world and there are A LOT of them. Check out www.snowdoniacentral.com to see the full list.
The Solo Game
Technically, the solo game is played exactly as the multiplayer game and is a “beat your best score” but that is really doing it a disservice. Like in the multiplayer game, the vastly different ways the weather, contracts and trains can interact makes each game feel totally different and the AI is unforgiving if you linger too long hoarding resources. This makes for a very challenging puzzle of resource optimisation and action efficiency that is very satisfying when you nail it.
There is a campaign of sorts where you play through a number of games using each train in order and there have been various challenges posted on Boardgame Geek.
Ooh, It’s Big and Shiny
The Deluxe Edition (currently on Kickstarter) has collected all the expansions, many of them incredibly hard to find, (almost) all of the trains (even the print & play ones) and every other promo over released for Snowdonia and put them together in a lovely big box with a myriad up upgraded wooden pieces, all screen printed, as well as a larger board (with spaces to lay the track cards), more trains and some exclusive new scenarios. There is also the hint of a dedicated solo Automa to be added, but we will have to see, I wouldn’t be bothered if it doesn’t as the game is a superb solo experience as it is. Oh yeah, they have also added a set of cards that have each space on the board printed on each one so that you can use those to play the game if you are tight on space or want to take the game travelling. These were originally uploaded to BGG by a fan and I have used these many times when I have been working away as you can take them plus just enough pieces and cards to play solo and fit them all in a tiny box.
Snowdonia is My top Euro game and has been for a number of years, and I highly recommend going and checking it out.
Review by Paul Kellett
Preston Gamers Guild
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