1830: Railroads & Robber Barons

Is 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons a match for Railroad Tycoon?

Last Updated on April 23, 2024

Before Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon, there was the board game known simply as 1830. The full title – 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons – was a 1986 railroad building board game by Avalon Hill that, along with their earlier release, Rail Baron inspired Sid Meier to design Railroad Tycoon.

Buoyed by the success of Meier’s game, Avalon Hill (also creators of a game called Advanced Civilization) licensed Simtex to provide a PC version of the game in 1993. Despite being a faithful conversion with superior AI, the PC version of 1830: Railroads & Robber Barons was released around the same time as Railroad Tycoon Deluxe and as such was overlooked. This is a great shame, as this is a superb share dealing and business management game, and faithful to the original.

1830: Railroads & Robber Barons starts the player off as a businessman with money to spend. You begin by investing in two or three companies as part of an overall strategy. With this phase complete, you then become the owner of a railroad during the early North American steam age.

The first stage of the game allows the you to determine the number of opponents, and the difficulty level. You then get to bid on company shares, then buy trains and lay railroads. Your main aim is to generate as much revenue as possible while forcing your competitors out of business. The game ends when a competing Baron goes out of business or the bank runs out of money – leaving the player with a distinct balancing act.

1830: Railroads & Robber Barons is a complex but involving PC business management simulation. As a board game adaptation it is a faithful reproduction of the original that translates reasonably well to the desktop computer platform. But as with most retro titles, however, there are a couple of aspects that don’t stand up to modern scrutiny.

Since PCs in the late 1980s and early 1990s were built to wildly differing specifications, a basic level of graphical compatibility was provided in most games. As a result, the in-game sound – renditions of some popular classical music – doesn’t translate well to modern PC sound systems. The graphics are more forgivable, however, but do appear blocky and slightly cartoony.

1830 Railways & Robber Barons: Like any board game, 1830 Railways & Robber Barons requires considerable time and effort to get anything out of it, and this adaption is no different. It has the odd foible and can appear impenetrable at first glance – however, the investment that you give to the game is returned by a deep business simulation gaming experience. Christian Cawley

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