Picked up a copy of this last night and played it at the FFGEC with three buddies. Here are my first impressions:
- Once the players know how the game moves, and gets an idea of which resources are worth what, the game moves along at a good clip. There were times during our first game when play stopped for literally minutes while some players worked out some strategy in their heads. I encourage this during the first couple playthroughs with FFGs, as there's lots to weigh, and I don't want to rush people through a game just to be done with it. Having said that, I think this game is right in the 90 minute range with 4 players.
- Bidding with license points is by far the most entertaining part of the game. With four players we had a good amount of bidding around. I worry about this phase in a two-player game. I think it might be minimally competitive, even with only two companies to buy from (with two or three players, you close a company).
- Nearly all of us underestimated the importance of moving your train down the track. We let the oil baron get ahead of all of us, and with some special action cards moving everyone's train back at some point, we were all paying for our own oil to the bank. A shrewd player could make a LOT of money by keeping their train ahead of everyone else's, and finding ways to crank everyone else back. $3k per plume is not a small amount of money, especially with several derricks per player.
The general feeling at the end of the game was very positive, with one player causing a massively hilarious endgame trainwreck (pun intended). The game works really well with four people, and I con only imagine how much fun it is with five. I worry about the viability of a two-player game, but I should be able to convince the wife to give it a shot, and I'll report back. If you like games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, this type of gameplay is right up your alley. It's probably one step up from these in the strategy category, but it's not overly complicated.