RollerCoaster Tycoon Board Game Playtest Report

It was like seeing God in the Toys R Us. I was just there to kill some time looking at Legos, and really, honestly did not expect to be looking in the games aisle. And there it was. The video game that devoured so very many neurons during the late period of my dot-commery, transmuted into my new medium of choice. And at $20 for a substantially heavy box, I had to go there. Also, they had things you fold up so they’re 3D. I mourn my lost copy of Oh What A Mountain… I still mourn.

Anyway! Since I had a game night already on my schedule that very evening, here’s how it went. I could tell looking at the box that it was going to be Monopoly-like, with hints of Fast Food Franchise and the kind of indirection you get in, I don’t know, Kill Doctor Lucky? This game’s nothing like Kill Doctor Lucky. It’s just that there are all these Guest tokens that don’t belong to a particular player, and… yeah. Every turn, you turn over Event cards until it tells you to stop – this is how the game calendar gets advanced, as well as how auctions get called, bringing rides and attractions into your hands. You win the game with Guest points, which you get by rolling the dice and moving the specified Guest the specified number of spaces. Landing on a ride somebody owns gives them, and you, the ride’s value in points. Landing on a ride you own means you get to keep both sets of points. Other random crap happens in the Event deck as well.

You really only ever get to make two decisions in this game: whether to bid again on a ride, and which of two to five spaces to move the Guest you rolled to. We soon figured out that a good strategy was to have very few rides and to hold on to all of your money. Money you have left at the end of the game counts for points, so you could spend the whole game splitting enough Guest points with people to get a respectable amount, then pull ahead with your money. One possible solution to this problem is to remove the money-making cards from the deck and give ride owners money rather than points, thereby keeping ride-light players from having lots of money to stockpile after the start of the game. We also thought the handymen and mechanics were sadly underused, and got halfway through designing an expansion rule set to use them offensively.

Like Star Wars Epic Duels before it, RCT is an appealing yet kinda broken package that contains plenty of food for thought and tools for motivated gamers to do a little kit-bashing – all in the absurdly over-produced and under-priced Hasbro mass-market style. If you liked the video game (the third biggest selling PC game of all time, last I checked), you might want to have a look.