Raccoon Tycoon Board Game Review
WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 2-5
You’ll like this if you like: Concordia, Le Havre, Catan.
Published by: Forbidden Games
Designed by: Glenn Drover
By Steve Godfrey
Raccoon Tycoon is a stock trading, economic game in which you’ll be buying railroads and managing resources…….wait! Before you doze off, did I mention this is all done using animals wearing Victorian clothing? Good, now I’ve got you back, let’s get into it.
How to trade with a sly fox.
A turn in Racoon Tycoon will have players take one action from a possible five. A production action will see you playing a card from your hand. Each one has two halves and you’ll play both of them. The bottom half will let you take resources of the ones depicted to a max of three. The top half will put the prices of those resources up one space on their respective tracks per one depicted. It’s then discarded and you draw a new one.
You can sell one type of resource at the current selling price and then drop the price by as many you sold. So if the price of coal is £6 each and you sell three coal, you gain £18 and drop the price down three spaces.
You can buy a building, which is as simple as it sounds. Buildings will give you game long bonuses as well as be worth 1vp per one you’ve brought.
When buying town cards you pay the resources and take the card. These are worth the victory points printed on them and are worth more when you can pair them with a railroad card. Which masterfully (if I do say so myself) segways me into auctions. You call an auction by choosing one of the two face up railroad cards and starting the bidding. Each one has a minimum first bid on it and you basically go round the table bidding until everyone but one has passed and the winner gains the card. The more you have of one type, the more points they’re worth. If you're the one who called the auction but didn’t win it then you get to take another action, including calling another auction if you want. The game will end when either all of the town cards or railway cards have been taken.
Do business bears steal picnic baskets?
The term stock market/ trading doesn’t exactly fill me full of excitement. It all sounds too 'mathy' for my liking and maths was never a subject I was good at or enjoyed. So much so that my kids know that asking me to solve a match question is like asking Garfield to enjoy Mondays or Yogi bear to stop stealing picnic baskets, it’s just not going to happen. Add to that that I still get confused by the whole orange juice stock trading thing in Trading Places.
It’s great to know then that Raccoon Tycoon has taken the concept of stock trading and boiled it down to its simplest form and made it accessible, and more importantly, fun to a larger group of people. Appealing to a wider audience seems to be one of the goals of the game and I think that’s most reflected in the “theme.” Why the air quotes? Well aside from the lovely art, there isn't much here that really gives you an overwhelming feeling of being in a world of animals doing big business. It’s one that you could easily swap out for your standard stuffy old men in top hats and the game wouldn’t change. It’s this that makes me think that the theme is there to give the game wider appeal……..but honestly, that's okay. For as negative as the above may sound, in this case it’s really not. I’m all for this. Raccoon Tycoon is a fun, and I would say almost gateway level game, so any way of drawing people into it and helping them discover a new type of game and mechanics gets a thumbs up, or, you know, whatever these animals have.
Do Raccoons have opposable thumbs?
Racoon tycoon delivers a decent amount of tension and, like pretty much all games with these open markets, an element of push your luck involved. Taking a production turn to grab resource’s and bump stock prices up is great if you're thinking about selling on your next turn. But then comes that claw biting wait, just hoping that no one sells that same resource as you wanted and dropping the price. At a full five players this is almost agonising. You even find yourself breathing a little sigh of relief when it comes back to your turn unscathed. This is also true of the building tiles and the town cards of course. It being the equivalent of saving your money up for that one toy you’ve had your eye on forever and just hoping that no one buys it.
There is a flip side of course because it’s entirely possible that you could be the one doing this to your opponents. As you watch between turns as they bump the price of coal up and, oh, look, you just happen to have a bunch of coal. You weren't going to sell this turn, but they’ve made it so inviting that it would be rude not to, you start to feel like a thieving Racoon….huh, maybe this is more thematic than I initially thought!
As I mentioned before, Racoon Tycoon tends to shine in how simple it is.The rules rundown above is pretty much it when it comes to the rules and you can have it up and running fairly quickly. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to get your teeth into though. For example, if someone triggers an auction, you may not necessarily want that card. But if it turns out that them winning it will nab them a lot of points, you then have to make the decision to spend the money to get the railway card to stop them having it, or spending the money on that really great building tile you’ve been saving up for. It’s also proof that just because they’ve made this game look cute, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a little cut throat. It is still business after all, just business involving skunks. The building tiles alone will give you just enough to be able to change your approach on subsequent games. While, for the most part you want to try and collect a bit of everything, some of the buildings will give you a bit more of a focus if you buy them. One of them for example will make each building you own worth an extra VP. So for that game, building a heavy strategy is well worth your time.
I’ve just googled it and no they don’t!
Once you’ve picked up the rules, which as I said shouldn’t take you long, turns can be really quick. So quick that in some games I’ve played someone was still sorting out their money for their last turn when it got back round to them. The only thing that tends to slow things down are the auctions. That’s not a detriment to the game though. Auctions in games can be hit or miss for me but it’s quite fun to watch the auctions in Raccoon Tycoon evolve over the game. In the early game, when people generally have less money, it’s fun to hear people say “ I can’t believe you paid twelve for that card, that’s mad” then cut to later on in the game and people are quite happily throwing seventy or more on a railway card like it’s loose change they found behind the sofa that morning. If you want to know just how competitive your friends and relatives can get just give them a fistful of money and the need to collect a dog in a top hat!
For two players the game works just as well for the most part. The tension between turns that I mentioned earlier isn’t as prevalent, the build up you get due to having to wait multiple turns isn’t there, and the auction mechanic for two can fall a bit flat. At two players the triggering player makes a bid, then the other player makes a counter bid if they want and that’s it, auction over. Part of the fun of watching and being part of auctions is that back and forth as you try and psyche out your opponent to see how far they’ll push. It’s like a huge game of chicken (I wonder what jobs chickens would do in the world of Raccoon Tycoon) While that happens a little bit at two players, as the first player you are pretty much taking a wild guess at what you should bid and you lose that fun push and pull. I’m sure that from a design point there’s a reason for this but we personally prefer to do this as a normal multiplayer auction.
A Beary good time.
Raccoon Tycoon is one of those games which takes a mechanic which could easily turn a lot of people away and extended a friendly paw to help guide you and provides a fun entry point. Will you be a hardcore stock trading fan after playing this? Probably not, but if you’re only going to have one stock game in your collection then this is a great one to have.