Raccoon Tycoon gives players a family friendly introduction to the often impenetrable 18xx genre. It has stocks, it has markets, it has auctions, but it also has a fox in a top hat. And if that doesn’t get you excited for a board game. I don’t know what will.
Designer: Glenn Drover
Publisher: Forbidden Games
Raccoon Tycoon has this awesome presentation of cute and cuddly creatures dressed in clothes right out of the late 1800’s. You’ll play as a dog who’s a miner, a raccoon who’s a store clerk, or a bear who’s an upstanding gentleman.
And that’s all the theme you’re going to get.
It looks fantastic, but there’s no mechanical connection to this presentation. Meaning as soon as the game begins the theme falls quickly into the background. But that doesn’t make Raccoon Tycoon a bad game. Far from it. It just means there’s missed potential, as you’d have to be a serial killer not to want feel like you’re playing a cute raccoon in a tiny wittle waistcoat.
If you’re going to ask me what you’re doing in Raccoon Tycoon, it’s easier to tell you what you won’t be doing. Because there’s a lot. You’ll be getting and selling resources, constructing buildings, auctioning for railroad companies, and set collecting resources to build towns.
Don’t be concerned though, this medium weight game is easy to pick up and start playing.
At the start of the game you’ll be spending most of your time gaining resources by playing cards. These cards allow you to gain three resources, while increasing the price of resources on the market i.e. if the card shows grain, grain now can be sold for a dollar more.
If you’re not gaining goods at this point of the game you’ll be selling them. Doing so drops the price for the amount of goods sold. Combining this mechanic with the production cards creates a neat dilemma. For instance, the card with the coal you want, might increase the market value of the wine Bob already has. And if Bob sells his wine, that’s going to tank its price, of which you have a couple of bottles you’ve been meaning to get rid of.
That’s market trading baby; in all of its glory. Get low, sell high. Diamond hands. To the moon.
It’s also hugely influential on the outcome of the game. As Raccoon Tycoon is a game about capitalism, where the rich get richer, and the rest of us rely on some form of government assistance to bail us out. Except there is no government in this game and no catch up mechanism either.
Once you have some capital from selling resources, you can then buy buildings. These give you points, but more importantly: abilities. Which help you generate more money. Which you can then buy buildings. This is the core gameplay loop, and chaining together the best combination of buildings will determine if you’re the raccoon in a waistcoat, or the raccoon searching for scraps in the trash.
This loop is really fun, and the buildings you get are incredibly powerful. Making it feel as though your engine explodes with each addition. Raccoon Tycoon is also the type of game that allows you to run your engine again, and again. Letting you feel how powerful you’ve become.
The downside is with each building being unique, and with the market slow to refresh, luck plays a big part in what combination of buildings everyone gets, and therefore the eventual game winner. For instance in one of our 3 player games, a couple times the player between myself and the eventual winner would buy a building and the next building revealed was as though it was sent from the heavens, and snapped up by the winning player.
I didn’t even have a chance to contest.
This amount of luck is not an issue by itself, but when combined with the game time. It becomes one.
This by far, is my biggest complaint against Raccoon Tycoon. It doesn’t drive the players to the end of the game. In fact, it rewards players for stalling.
Let me explain.
The game ends, when all the railroad cards are auctioned off, or the last town card gained by trading in the correct amount of resources. Both of these are optional actions.
Despite there being too many cards to begin with. The auctions are an oddity, I found players only go to auction if they know they can win. Except in Raccoon Tycoon, you don’t know how much anybody has. You just see them amassing money, and then they see you amassing money. It becomes this cold war where everyone’s getting richer but the game is no closer to being over.
In my games, one player got a fantastic engine off and running, won the cold war, and then before ending the game, did a victory lap by collecting some of the towns as well. Because while individually town and railroad cards give you points. Together they’re worth extra.
They had a great time.
Meanwhile I spent the remainder of the game bemoaning my piddly little engine sputtering to make a dime and wishing for the pain to end.
This might seem like I’m piling on Raccoon Tycoon, and I am. But there’s a lot to like about this game, it has exciting auctions, super fun market manipulations, engine building so powerful it feels like you’ve found gold. This is understandably some people’s favourite game. For me, the game runs on way too long for a game that’s filled with luck, and doesn’t allow for me to do any long term planning.
Thanks for reading my review, I’m currently ranking all my board games in a best to worst list. You can see this games’ initial ranking below.