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YMMV / Railroad Tycoon

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  • Accidental Aesop: Electric trains can be a huge risk to invest in, because electrified rail adds a lot of extra cost to laying track, and thus expanding your rail network is going to be a costly indeavour; compare to diesel trains which can run on normal track, making them seem more appealing. However, over time those diesel trains will cost you a fortune in maintenance (they almost universally cost a lot more in maintenance a year than electric trains), and in later years in-game electric trains will typically have better acceleration, reliability, and top speeds. The result is a Green Aesop with diesel trains seeming a preferable investment to electric but being more costly and inefficient in the long run, while electric trains will ultimately save you money despite the cost to impliment them.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Breather Level:
    • Mission 15 (of 18) in Tycoon 2, "Which Way To The Coast?", you're given 40 years to complete your objective, and for a silver or gold victory have to do it in 30 and 20 years, respectively. What is that objective? Personal net worth of $10 million. And the map just happens to be wide-open and flat with plenty of industry and long-distance passenger routes waiting to be exploited. With any level of competency, which you surely have to get to this point in the campaign, you can get that net worth value in ten years.
    • Mission 17 (of 18) in Tycoon 2, "Dilemma Down Under", is similarly simple. For a gold, you need to have three consecutive years with excess of 1 million in profits. While the lack of passengers, your main income in most maps, is intimidating, the map is chock full of industries near your starting cities. With a bit of luck in the placements of those industries, you can reach the objective quite easily, as long as you're keen to squeeze every penny out of your trains.
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    • Mission 6 of Tycoon 2's Second Century campaign, "The Super Trains", seems daunting at first because there's a lot of requirements you need to meet to get the gold. However, the mission is very simplified with no competitors to worry about and you only get to manage passenger and mail lines, so you don't need to think very hard about how to play, just start connecting cities and running trains of passengers. As for the gold requirements, it's quantity over quality — most of the individual objectives are pretty low and they all abstract down to you and your railroad being highly profitable, so the objective to connect four specific cities to Paris will result in a vast rail network that easily meets the mark.
    • Mission 12 of the Second Century campaign, "The Chunnel". It focuses on exactly what it says, with your objectives being to link the United Kingdom to various European countries and haul so many loads between them, and for the gold you also have to pay off several bonds you start with, and have to do it all within 20 years. Most of Europe is wide open and flat with lots of large cities to connect to London, Europe also tends to have lots of industrial plots that can supply London, you have a very large bankroll to lay track when you begin, and the mission lets you picks three good managers to start with. With a little luck in the placement of industries, you can run trains of both passengers and cargo between the UK and Europe and rake in tons of cash, allowing you to quickly pay off your debt and start expanding your network.
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    • Mission 11 (of 16) in Tycoon 3, "Argentina", consists of a flat, vast country with plenty of resources around and no competition, making for a refreshingly simple challenge after the devious "Orient Express" scenario. You can even get the average speed required in the previous chapter with a relative minimum of effort.
  • Character Tiers: The managers of Tycoon 2, though their groupings are not clear-cut; some are clearly useless and others will be employed for life once they apply. The former: any manager with only one effect, since inevitably another manager will offer that effect alongside others. The latter:
    • For construction discounts, John Work Garrett (-40% electric track building, -20% mountainous track building), Charles F. Mayer (-40% track building, -20% bridge building) and Robert Gerwig (-50% mountainous track building, -40% bridge building).
    • For profits, Bat Masterson (-50% chance of robberies, +5% passenger and station revenue), Oscar C. Murray (+5% all passenger and cargo revenue, +20% station turnaround), and George Nagelmachers (+15% passenger revenue).
    • However, there is also George Pullman, who is near-unanimously agreed to be the best manager in the game. Pullman gives a massive 25% boost to passenger revenue, with an extra 5% bonus to station revenue in general. Being that passengers are your main source of income in most maps, he's a Game-Breaker among the managers. The only real reason not to hire him is if your scenario doesn't allow for you to make proper use of his benefits — for example, if you're not hauling many passengers, or if you need a construction discount for rapid expansion.
  • Disappointing Last Level:
    • The last mission of Tycoon 2's standard campaign, for a gold medal, gives you twelve years to build a railroad crossing Africa north-south from Cairo to Cape Town, and to carry eight loads of cargo between them. And it is quite difficult ... if you start where the map spawns you, at Cape Town, at the foot of a mountain range with scarce resources nearby. However, you also begin with access to Cairo, which has enough population to supply three trains running passengers to the southern cities, and can begin raking in large amounts of cash easily by connecting it to other large cities in and around Egypt. And while the map is divided among territories to which you need to buy access, you only need to access one of two empires to connect to Cape Town, and the access rights to the German territory (i.e. Tanzania) are dirt cheap. Coupled with a manager to reduce track-laying costs and/or increase passenger profits, you can connect the two cities within just a couple of years and send your trains down to Cape Town — it's a long trip, but it won't take them until the time limit is up.
    • The last mission in Tycoon 2's Second Century campaign is amazingly easy, particularly against the rest of the expansion which can be quite Nintendo Hard when it wants to be. The objectives are to get $15 million in book value, have the highest net worth of all four players (actual worth doesn't matter, just outrank them), and be the only railroad in operation. What makes it so simple is that you're given thirty years and some fairly flat terrain to work on, so making a profitable company is easy. With a bit of luck in the layout of resources you can easily buy out your competitors, the stock holdings needed to buy them out very likely giving you that superior net worth. With all three rival companies out of business, you have the rest of the time limit to get your company to $15 million book value, and if you're profitable enough to buy out three rivals and add their track systems to your own, you're liable to have that by the time you're alone anyway, and if not will be able to get it easily.
  • Goddamned Boss:
    • The AI opponents that focus on dominating you via the stock market. They can be nigh impossible to dislodge in Tycoon 2, to the point that if you see somebody like George Hudson or Jim Fisk in the game, it is usually a good idea to make use of your railway's early income (or even take on debt) just to buy back public stock until you control a bare majority stake in your own company — or even better, go for 100% ownership. This then leaves you free to push up your company's dividends to enrich yourself, buy up stock in their company, and hopefully put them out of commission. It's still hard to actually eliminate an AI opponent; even if you successfully pull off a hostile takeover of their company, the payout they receive from the sale of their stock can leave them with plenty of resources to buy into your company or start a whole new one.
    • More track-system-focused AI players can also turn out to be this, if their rail empire grows to block your access to cities and resources in a significant way. This is, however, much less of a problem when the map or scenario in question allows building track that is unconnected to your existing network, allowing you to open up a new market further away from active competition.
  • Good Bad Bugs: In Tycoon 2, building track one tile at a time is cheaper than to lay out one continuous track. Sometimes this is because when building a continuous stretch of track, the terrain will be adjusted to make the track grade less steep, which doesn't happen when building one tile at a time; other times, however, there seems to be no reason for it. Whatever the reason it happens, it can save a lot of money if you've got the patience to do it.
  • In Name Only: The Poptop sequels and Railroads didn't have much of the freedom, scope or open-endedness of the original game (and Deluxe). At least in Tycoon 2, however, a user can go into the single-player maps using the editor and remove the objectives and triggers that force victory conditions and a time limit on scenarios.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • There is no option to simply restart a campaign mission in Tycoon 2, you have to admit failure and select it again from the menu. And every time you resign, the narrator mocks you for it.
      "Couldn't quite pull it off, huh? Well, you can try it again, or skip it for the next challenge."

      "Weeeeeell that's alright, there's plenty of other career paths available!" *snicker*
    • The "clink-clink" of coins when a train arrives at a station becomes a drilling sound late in the game when you have trains arriving constantly every other second.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The prolonged "clink-clink-clink-clink-clink" associated with a rare or very huge delivery and payload that makes everyone in your company happy, at least for the fiscal year.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • In the original game, bridge washouts, which disallowed outright replacement and continued for a random length of time until the bridge would be spontaneously repaired. In the meantime, any train that accidentally proceeded into a washout would immediately be destroyed — not only with the loss of that train, but a drop in stock price and the removal of similar cargoes from the rest of the railroad (to represent the public's loss of confidence in the railway).
    • Dispatcher operation in the original game required pinpoint manual multitasking throughout the rail network to ensure that two trains wouldn't collide and demolish each other. Double track helped prevent this, but not entirely, and signal towers were necessary throughout the railroad to break track down into segments over which trains could enter and exit.
    • In Tycoon 2, when a train travels between two different territories, it has to go through customs. What this means in terms of gameplay is that the train gets to the station and sits there for an additional month or so, the value of its cargo continuing to degrade until it can formally arrive and your company cashes in. On the upside, you can speed up the process by adding a Customs House at the station, but you still can't eliminate the wait entirely.
    • The dynamic supply and demand system of 3 works very well in general, but the generation of price islands on the station squares makes missions where you have to haul stuff to an specific place a pain, because the prices will tank often and the station won't accept more cargo for a sweet time, even when the local demand around the place hasn't been met and is still higher than in the point of origin. This is mitigated in the 1.06 fanpatch by allowing to haul at a loss, and a second, non-adjacent station can be used to work around the problem in any case.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The original Railroad Tycoon was the groundbreaking Trope Maker for the entire "Tycoon" genre. Along came Tycoon 2, which mostly retained the Wide Open Sandbox gameplay of the original but added a campaign mode and was light-years better in terms of graphics and user-friendliness. Tycoon 3 and Railroads are both newer and more advanced, but neither one comes close to the giant step forward from the original game to Tycoon 2.
  • That One Level:
    • Any level that involves personal wealth. The only reliable way to make money for yourself is to run a successful company and get paid through dividends, buying back public stock when you can to increase your stock price. Unfortunately otherwise, the stock market of the games is very much like the real-life stock market, in that it can crash at any time. The more stock you buy on margin, the more reliant you become on its price staying high so your purchasing power doesn't go down below zero and you're not forced to sell back the stock to get your purchasing power back in the positive. The problem that comes up is that selling stock lowers the market price, in turn lowering your purchasing power again so you have to sell more stock. Repeat until you own no stock and are several million in debt. Oh yes, and rival owners can short sell stock, lowering its price to start this descent into bankruptcy, and you can't stop them. This will happen. The only escape from the loop is to buy out other companies so your stock with them is liquidated into cash that won't fluctuate with the market, but that's only for other companies, takes a lot of money to do, and isn't so much an escape as a safety net that ensures you have at least some money when the market collapses and you lose your stock.
    • "Next Stop The 20th Century" in Tycoon 2. Bronze objective: have $10 million in industry investments — easy, just buy lots of industry. Silver objective: also have an annual profit from industry of at least a million, and for a Gold, do both ten years ahead of time. The thing about industry profits is that they are ridiculously low; even if you have a dozen trains running industry cargo around supplying factories and such with what they need, you'll only be making a few hundred thousand a year off of them. This mission rounds it off by making you buy access rights to neighboring countries and giving you three AI companies to compete with. And, each time you start the mission, the industries are randomly placed, so have fun restarting the mission over and over waiting for a winning map to appear.
    • "Croissants or Crumpets" in Tycoon 2 throws basically every handicap that it can at you. You start in politically and geographically unfriendly territory, with mountains and countries that you need to buy access rights to. You have to build all of your track connecting to existing track, and you only start with $800,000 to spend on laying track to a second city, building a station there, and actually buying a train to start making money. If you run out of money, you can't take out bonds in this mission. Finally, for the gold objective, you need to be the only surviving railroad. The major problem here is that your two competitors start in the northern part of the map, where terrain is flat and cities are large, so they'll be able to quickly build up powerful, profitable companies, and will funnel those proceeds into buying up majority shareholds of the company; as early as the start of the second year it's possible for one of them to have achieved 50%+1 stock ownership, which makes buyouts impossible and the gold unobtainable.
    • "Edelweiss Express" in the Second Century campaign is brutal. The gold objectives are a total of 2000 cargo loads hauled, $30 million in personal net worth, and $10 million in lifetime industry profits. You're set down in a small starting country with high fees to buy access rights to neighboring countries, the load objective means you need to constantly be expanding your network and adding more trains, the net worth objective means playing the stock market, and the industry profits means you need a lot of industry routes and to keep investing money in buying up industries. And the time limit for all this chaos is a scant 19 years.
    • "The Orient Express" in Tycoon 3: Connect Vienna to Istanbul, maintain an average express speed of 30 MPH, and build a personal net worth of $15M in 35 years. The amount of freight cargo generated by the map is not quite enough to fuel your growth, and express cargo has to be treated so carefully that it's a good option to skip it altogether, since maintenance stops (which occur automatically if a facility is in the train's path) should be scheduled in a way that they only happen with an empty train, and still a breakdown down in the line — let alone a express train suffering one — can tank your average speed beyond recovery. That leaves the industry game as the less hazardous way, and not building railroads at all until the last years or so is a viable strategy. The game even anticipates this, calling you out when you choose the industrialist path and asking why you even entered the railroad business in the first place.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The East Africa map ("Rhodes Unfinished" scenario). It's a fun map, and it feels awesome to be connecting all these African countries, but then you realize this is the late 19th century, and you are a European empire connecting African colonies. Puts an interesting twist on the usual ambiance of tycoon games.
    • There are also several maps set in the pre-Civil War American South, which would mean that any agricultural enterprises the player purchases would likely be operated by slaves — and later destroyed by the war.