Full disclosure: A review copy of Raccoon Tycoon was provided by Forbidden Games.
The last of the Forbidden Games set! Getting one of these done every couple of months is about the right pace, so I’m enthused about that. We’ve already talked about Railroad Rivals and Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates, so let’s see what’s going on in Raccoon Tycoon!
In Raccoon Tycoon, you seek to seek to make your fortune in the surge of production that’s defining life in Astoria, these days. New commodities are available, and from there you can envision new buildings, railroads, and towns to make life better for the inhabitants (and make yourself rich, as a bonus effect). Naturally, you think that your vision alone will lead Astoria into a bright new future, but you may have to contend with others to realize that dream. Which of you will make your big break as a titan of industry?
Alright, set out the board:
And set the Commodity Tokens somewhere nearby:
Place one of each token on the lowest point on their Market. Set aside the money, though everyone gets $10 to start:
You can keep your money secret; it’s not required to be public information. Shuffle the Price and Production Cards; give every player 3:
Now, take the Railroad Cards, and assemble the deck:
- 2 players: Remove Slyfox, Skunkworks, and Tycoon.
- 3 players: Remove Skunkwords and Tycoon.
- 4 players: Remove Skunkworks.
- 5 players: Use all cards.
Shuffle the deck and reveal two face-up. Now, shuffle the Town Deck (by VPs value; shuffle the 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s separately) and place it on the board as well. If you’re playing at two players, remove a 2, 3, 4, and 5:
Shuffle the 6 Basic Commodity Building Tiles with the +1 side face-up. Put four of them on the board and remove the other two from the game:
Shuffle the Advanced Building Tiles and place them face-down on the board in a stack next to the Basic Building Tiles:
The game may come with some bonus Missions (essentially bonus points at the end of the game for certain criteria); deal each player two and let them keep one:
Give the start player the Starting Player token and one commodity of their choice:
Give the second player two, the third player three, and so on. Note, though, that they must all be different. No player can take more than one of a commodity.
You should be ready to start!
So, in Raccoon Tycoon, you’re attempting to build up your little local and add trains and towns to become a tiny titan of forest industry. Along the way you’ll demonstrate the power of market economics as you manipulate the system to try and buy low / sell high, as one does. Once enough things have been bought, the game will end and the player with the most points wins!
On your turn, you’ll be able to perform one of the following actions:
Production is relatively straightforward. Play a card from your hand; you may gain up to three of the resources indicated in the red section. Boost all resources in the blue section by one Market Space for each time they’re pictured.
For example, if you had:
BLUE: Iron, Iron, Wheat
RED: Goods, Coal, Luxury, Goods, Wood
You would boost Iron by 2 and Wheat by 1, and you would be able to take 2 Goods and a Wood, if you wanted to do so (or a Coal, Goods, and a Luxury, or any other combination). Once you’ve done that, discard the card and draw back up to your hand limit to end your turn (3 cards).
Some buildings have a B or P symbol on them; they give you a bonus during Production. You may only use one B and one P per Production step. This is an important rule and I missed it once.
You may only hold 10 Commodities at a time; each Building you own (more on that later) lets you hold one additional Commodity.
This one’s fun. Choose a commodity and count how many of that commodity you have. Return any number of them them to the supply and gain money equal to their current market value times the number you sold. Then, move the token down equal to the number of the commodity that you sold.
You may choose one of the Auction cards and begin an auction by bidding any number between the minimum bid (the number on the bottom-right) or the amount of money you have.
In a two-player game, your opponent may then decide if they want to outbid you or not; if they pass, you take the card. If they outbid you, they win the auction. There are no additional rounds.
In a three- to five-player game, players may either bid or pass. If it gets back around to the start player, they may increase their bid or pass. Once all players have passed, the last player wins the auction.
The winning player pays their bid to the bank and takes the card. If the player who started the auction doesn’t win it, they may take any other available action.
You may buy any building for its printed cost and add it to your tableau. The Basic Buildings (and the Water Mill) are double-sided, so instead of purchasing a building, you may pay the cost on the back side to flip it over and use the upgraded version (it doesn’t give you extra commodity storage, though).
Refill the Building Row when you buy one.
Towns are interesting — they give you upfront points, and then even more points if you have a Railroad to pair them with. To purchase a town, spend the indicated number of resources. It can be the resources pictured or a higher number of resources of your choice; up to you.
So, there are three stacks:
When any two of these are completely depleted, the game ends after that round. Count your victory points and the player with the most points wins!
Incidentally, if any player ever holds $1000, they win instantly. So that’s fun.
Player Count Differences
I mean, if you like less variability, the auctions are a lot more predictable at lower player counts than higher ones. At two players, you either win it or you don’t. There’s also a lot less turnover on towns and buildings, which does help you plan a bit more. Personally, I like that control, so I’d probably prefer lower player count games. That said, at higher player counts you’re going to see a lot more market fluctuations; whether or not you can capitalize on them is more up to you. I’d probably keep this at 2 – 3 for me, but I wouldn’t mind higher player counts.
- Buy low, sell high. You want to hoard certain commodities until you can sell them for as much as possible. Just make sure that your opponents don’t beat you to the market!
- Keep an eye on what your opponents have. Watch and try to anticipate when your opponents will sell. If you, well, beat them to the market, you can reduce the money they’ll get from certain commodities, which is cruel but also very useful for you. The best version of this is that you can drive the value of an opponent’s commodities low enough that they’re no longer valuable. The reason why this matters is that your opponents often cannot sit and wait for them to become more valuable, because that requires gaining resources, which might put them over their limit.
- The Auction House and Factory are both solid buildings. There are many good buildings, but Auction House makes it less valuable for your opponents to try and burn through the Railroad Cards (because you make $5 every time an Auction occurs) and the Factory lets you get a ton of resources. The other good ones are the buildings that let you sell two commodities and the one that gives you an extra VP per building, depending on your strategy. Make sure you don’t pass up a useful building!
- Know how much your money is worth. Generally speaking, it’s worthless. Only the Bank can make it worth something, and even then it’s $20 -> 1VP. You can almost always get a better exchange rate than that, even if it’s just 1VP per Building. The Bank just makes that clearer.
- Know how much your opponents’ money is worth. If your opponent has the Bank, you should only be auctioning things off at a slightly better rate than they’d get in VP. Five point railroad? Sell it to them for $95. Make them burn through money, if you can.
- If you see a bunch of players not going for towns, go for towns. They aren’t terribly expensive, they give a bunch of points (especially with Railroads), and you can get Buildings to make them more valuable and cheaper to purchase; both are good moves. Towns, at least in the games I’ve played, often end up being underutilized by all players. Use that to your advantage and score a bunch of points.
- I’m not sure the $1000 strategy is a good idea. I mean, you should definitely try for it, though.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art, as you might guess. It’s forest animals in fancy clothes! How could anyone not love that? It’s truly delightful and surprisingly well-done. Just all-around quite good.
- Pretty easy to learn. I get worried with some of these 60 – 90m games, but this one is remarkably straightforward. You can only do five things on your turn, and they’re each just one action.
- Another auction game I don’t mind. I think that’s because it’s pretty clear (at least in my brain) what money is worth over the course of the game, so I’m not quite as stressed about what choices I make with regards to auctions. Also, I generally don’t participate in them, so I’m not quite as worried about it.
- Good quality components. The Building Tiles are nice, the Start Player Marker is hilariously oversized, and the commodities are generally pretty nice, too; overall it’s a well-produced item.
- I like that there are a variety of different valid strategies you can use to be successful. You can hit Railroads + Towns, you can go Buildings, or you can try to become the Cash Lord, if that suits you. I don’t think any of those strategies are particularly infeasible, and I appreciate that the game allows you to do any of them, if you want.
- I like the money. It’s no Millennium Dollar stack, but it’s pleasantly plasticky and fun to use.
- The insert definitely doesn’t have a place for the Building Tiles. I’m told if you cut a hole in the spot where the Start Player Marker goes they almost all fit, but, that seems like a fairly aggressive move? I understand the appeal of insert design, but definitely make sure all the punched-out components fit in the box, not just the unpunched ones.
- It’s very easy to see where the Water Mill is in the Building Stack. The one issue with a double-sided tile is that, yeah, you can kind of see it no matter where you put it in the stack. It may have been worth having the other side be its own tile that you can just purchase once you have the Water Mill, but, I’m not a game designer, so who knows.
- Doesn’t seem to have much of a catch-up mechanic. This is one of a few games where I’ve had a player resign because there wasn’t anything that they could do to catch up to a player in the lead. That’s a perfectly reasonable response, but you’d like to see (especially in 60 – 90m games) something in play that can help players who are falling a bit behind in the game. I feel like this is a similar issue with Railroad Rivals and Extraordinary Adventures: Pirates, but this is a bit longer than those are, so it feels like it matters a bit more.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Raccoon Tycoon is definitely fun! Naturally, I’m a big fan of the art (cute forest animals in period-appropriate wear is very pleasant), but mechanically I enjoy how it’s again, a more friendly version of more intense / challenging auction / tableau / economic games. My normal game group isn’t a huge fan of those sorts of games, so I expect this to get played less frequently, but I think I’d still be inclined to break it out for fans of slightly longer games than my usual fare. I find it pleasant, though it’s a bit on the long side, for me. It does seem like the kind of game that I would expect to get an expansion in the near future, though; there’s potential for additional actions, extra boards, or more cards with their own unique effects to add to the mix that I think would be welcome in a game like this. Either way, this is a third strong entry in the Forbidden Games catalog, which I’m impressed by; it’s rare for me to like everything a single publisher (especially a single designer) has produced, so I’ll definitely keep my eye on this one in the future, even if the bright red boxes make it hard to miss. If you’re a fan of auctions and tableau building, I’d suggest taking Raccoon Tycoon for a spin. If you’re not, but you like great art, I’d still recommend checking it out!