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Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game Review and Rules

How to Play | Review | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

Setup

Assemble the various cardboard rides. Place all of the attraction markers face down on their corresponding space on the game board. Place one closed sign on the River Rapids space and the other closed sign on the Wooden Roller Coaster space. Place the month marker on the Mar Year 1 space and place the seven guest tokens on the park entrance space. Shuffle the event cards and place them in the center of the gameboard.

The banker gives each player 2-$1,000,000 bills, 1 $500,000 bill, and 5 $100,000 bills. Each player chooses a color and takes all of the cardboard tokens of that color.

Shuffle the attraction cards and deal two to each player. The rest of the attraction cards form a draw pile. Each player flips over their attraction cards and pays the bank the associated starting fee for both attractions. The players then flip over the attractions that are owned and each player puts one of their colored tokens by the rides they own to indicate ownership.

Attractions in Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game
The blue player marks their ownership of the cotton candy stall and the popcorn stall by placing one of their markers by the attractions. The yellow player controls the steel roller coaster and the bumper cars. The pink player controls the Merry-Go-Round.

Players decide whether they want to hire a handyman and/or a mechanic. By hiring a mechanic and/or a handyman a player can avoiding paying a penalty of $200,000 if they draw an event card that requires a mechanic or handyman during the game. If the player doesn’t have the associated worker they must pay the $200,000 fee or lose 2 guest points if they don’t have $200,000. Handymen and mechanics must be hired before the game begins and cannot be hired at any other time. The cost to hire a mechanic/handyman depends on how many players are playing the game.

  • 2 Player Game: $400,000 each
  • 3 Player Game: $300,000 each
  • 4 Player Game: $200,000 each
Mechanics in Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game
If a player hired a mechanic and draws this card, they wouldn’t pay anything. If they didn’t hire a mechanic though they would have to pay $200,000.

All of the players roll the dice and the player who rolls the lowest number gets to start the game.

Playing the Game

During a player’s turn they will perform three actions.

  1. Draw and follow the instructions on an event card
  2. Roll both dice and move the corresponding guest
  3. Score guest points

When drawing an event card it is read and followed immediately. The card is then placed in the discard pile. The event cards are self explanatory except for the auction cards. When an auction card is drawn, an auction is started for the next attraction in the attraction deck. The attraction card is flipped over and the player who flipped the card over gets to start the bidding. Bidding then passes to the player on the left who either must raise the bid or pass. Bidding continues until all but one person has passed. That player wins the attraction and pays the bank the associated amount of money. The attraction marker is turned face up on the gameboard. The player that won takes the attraction card and places one of their markers next to the attraction they just bought.

Auctions in Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game
An auction card has been drawn. The next attraction card is for the popcorn stall so the players will bid for the right to own it.

When bidding a couple rules must be followed:

  • If no one bids on an attraction, the player whose turn it is gets the attraction for free.
  • You can’t bid more money then you have.
  • If a player doesn’t bid higher than the previous bid, they are out of the auction.

In addition to the normal auctions there are a couple special auctions. Double open auctions means the top two cards from the attraction deck are flipped over and players are bidding on both attractions together. A blind auction has the top attraction card staying face down during the auction so players don’t know what they are bidding on. Finally a double blind auction has players bidding on the top two attraction cards without being able to see either of them.

After the event card has been handled, the current player rolls both dice. The color die indicates which guest will be moved. The wild symbol allows the player to move any one guest. The number die indicates how many spaces the guest will move. When moving a guest they can move in any direction but they cannot move through or land on the same space twice during the turn. A guest token can land on a space occupied by another guest.

After the guest has been moved it is time to score guest points. If the guest that was moved, lands on an attraction owned by a player, guest points will be awarded. If the guest lands on a space not owned by any player or a space with a closed sign, the guest scores no points. If the guest lands on a space owned by any player other than the current player, the current player and the player that owns the attraction gets guest points equal to the number of coins associated with the attraction landed on. If the guest lands on a space occupied by the current player, the current player gets twice the guest points that the attraction is worth.

Moving Guests Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game
The green guest has been moved to the merry-go-round space. If the current player is the pink player, the pink player scores four guest points. If it is another player’s turn, the current player will get two guest points while the pink player would get two guest points.

End of Game

Throughout the game the month marker will be moved down the calendar path. When the month marker reaches the game over space the game ends after the actions on the event card have been finished. Each player then receives one guest point for each $100,000 of cash they have. Each player adds up their guest points and the player with the most guest points wins the game. If two or more players are tied the player with the most attractions wins the game. If there is still a tie, the game ends in a tie.

Review

One of my favorite PC games when I was growing up was Roller Coaster Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. I have always loved theme parks and simulation games so Roller Coaster Tycoon was the perfect video game for me. I can’t even count how much time I spent playing those two games. Until a couple years ago I didn’t even know that there was a Roller Coaster Tycoon board game but when I heard about it I knew I wanted to try it out. My expectations for the game weren’t that high though since board games based on licenses are rarely very good. I have to say that I was surprised by the Roller Coaster Tycoon board game though.

Obviously the board game was not going to be a great representation of the video game since there is no way that the game could have included all of the mechanics of the video game without becoming a jumbled mess. With that said the game does a good job representing the theme park building mechanic while still making the game pretty simplistic. The game is not always the most realistic though especially since one of the guests in the game I played stayed at the park entrance for six months for some reason before they finally decided to enter the park.

At it’s heart Roller Coaster Tycoon is a roll and move game with some bidding mechanics mixed in. The game actually feels a lot like Monopoly. You purchase property/attractions around the park and receive guest points when guests visit your attractions. The game doesn’t have a lot of strategy so it will probably play best in family settings and with non-gamers. People who like heavy strategy games will not like it.

I think the most interesting mechanic in the Roller Coaster Tycoon board game is the roll and move mechanic. Being a Parker Brothers game it is not surprising that the game has a roll and move mechanic since a large majority of their games do. Usually I don’t like roll and move mechanics because they usually only add luck to a game and a lot of games rely too much on them.

I actually like the mechanic in Roller Coaster Tycoon because the game does something new with it. Instead of moving your own piece around the board, you are moving neutral characters around trying to score points by having them land on your attractions. This is interesting since it gives players more flexibility than a traditional roll and move. Luck will determine which guest you can move but you have a lot of flexibility of where to move them since there are multiple paths around the board and you can move a guest in any direction.

The roll and move mechanic is also directly related to the scoring mechanic in the game. I found this mechanic to be interesting since you need to make decisions on how to maximize your guest points with your move. If you are playing in a two player game, it doesn’t really matter since landing on the other player’s ride does absolutely nothing since both players will score the same number of points. It becomes more interesting with three or four players. Obviously if you can get a guest to land on one of your valuable rides you will do that. It becomes more interesting when the guest can’t land on one of your valuable attractions though. If you can land on an opponent’s attraction you might as well since while you won’t gain any ground on that player, you will gain ground on all of the other players. On top of all this players need to factor in trying to keep guests near their own attractions so the player can move them onto their attractions in a future turn.

When looking for attractions to purchase you would think that you would like to get the highest valued attractions. For the most part this is true since you will get more points if a guest lands on the attraction. The downside though is that the valuable attractions become targets for the closed signs. In the game I played I ended up getting both roller coasters. That didn’t do much though since they were constantly closed because all of the other players would move the closed signs to my roller coasters whenever they could. At the same time while the one point concession stands don’t give you a lot of points they seem to be landed on a lot more often than the other rides probably due to them being placed in the more accessible parts of the park. The concession stands also have two event cards that specifically move guests to them.

Roller Coaster Tycoon doesn’t revolutionize bidding mechanics but they work pretty well. The game uses your typical bidding system where bidding is done in a clockwise manner with players bidding until only one player is left in the auction. The bidding is very easy and gets the job done. The double open, blind and double blind auctions are really interesting since you don’t know what the other players are going to bid. The blind auctions in particular are interesting since you never know what you are going to get. You could get a great bargain or could way overpay.

While the bidding mechanic is good, the mechanic has a problem due to the money situation in the game. It is surprisingly hard to get money in the game. The only way to get any money is to draw one of the event cards that gives out money. Since all but one of these cards gives the same amount of money to each player, players will regularly have the same amount of money on hand. This presents a problem since all of the players will have similar amounts to bid in the auctions. This leads to a situation where players essentially trade off auctions. One player will win one auction. Another player will win the next and so on. If all of the players have a lot of money the auction will go for a lot of money while if no player has a lot of money the auction will go for very little.

I give the game credit for trying to recreate the video game and in some ways it does a good job. Obviously it is a much simpler than the computer game since if it had every element of the video game it would take forever to play. One element of the game that feels tacked on though is the mechanic/handyman. While you have the choice not to buy them, I think they are pretty mandatory. Unless you are really really lucky, you will easily make your money back by not having to pay all of the fees when you draw the associated cards. There are a lot of cards that have the fees so you are likely to save a lot of money by purchasing both the mechanic and handyman. The reason this mechanic is pretty pointless is that all of the players will likely purchase both and if that happens every time one of their cards come up it doesn’t do anything other than move the month marker.

I really don’t know what to think about the length of the game. One thing I like about the game’s length is that it is somewhat fixed. The game won’t last forever like some games of Monopoly. The game can only last as long as one time through the event deck. If the cards that advance the month show up early in the game, the game could be considerably shorter but at the long end you should expect at max a one hour game.

While the one hour feels about right, the game kind of seems to end too early. This comes from the fact that it doesn’t really even pay to buy the rides that go up for auction near the end of the game. You will purchase these attractions and the game will end so you can’t even get anything out of them. Unless you can get them for really cheap you likely won’t get your money’s worth out of them. Since money is worth guest points at the end of the game, if you can’t get as many guest points as you paid for the ride, you will end up losing points by bidding on the rides added at the end of the game. I wish the game would have been made in a way where it was guaranteed that all of the rides would be owned for a given amount of time before the game could end. The game should have considered having players go through the deck twice with all of the attraction being sold in the first time through the deck. In the second time through the deck no new attractions would be auctioned but players could earn some guest points from the attractions they purchased.

I think by far the biggest problem I had with the game were the event cards. These are such a disappointment that I wish they were never included with the game. The problem is that most of cards don’t really do anything since either all of the players get the same amount of money, it is a mechanic/handyman card and the player has the associated tile, or something else where no player will gain an advantage over the other players. The event cards for the most part feel like a waste of time. The biggest problem though is not that the cards waste time but that some of the cards give players big advantages in the game while other cards don’t give the player any advantage.  The closed cards are the worst since they let the player mess with the other players’ best rides. There is also a card that gives just one player money and there are other cards that let a player move a lot of guests which could give that player a pretty big advantage. I honestly think the game would have been better if the event cards were never added to the game.

With the event cards and the roll of the dice, luck is a big determining factor in the game. While shrewd bidding can help you, if you don’t get lucky you won’t win. Roller Coaster Tycoon has some interesting ideas and could have been much better if there wasn’t such a reliance on luck.

The game’s components are kind of hit and miss. The 3D rides are cool. They take a while to setup but are easier than you would think. A lot of the other components are pretty typical of what you would expect from a Parker Brothers game. The artwork is pretty good but the components are mostly made of cardboard. The one component that I am most disappointed with are the player markers since they are just rounded rectangles. They serve their purpose but I think the game could have done more with them.

Final Verdict

Basically Roller Coaster Tycoon feels like a better Monopoly game. The game has some interesting mechanics and is still pretty fun despite its high reliance on luck. The game does some things right while other things could have been better. I think Roller Coaster Tycoon could be a game that could be immensely improved with some good house rules.

If you hate roll and move games or games that rely quite a bit on luck, you probably won’t like Roller Coaster Tycoon. Roller Coaster Tycoon has some interesting ideas and is one of the better roll and move games that I have played. If the game interests you I think you can actually have a decent amount of fun with it.

If you would like to purchase the Roller Coaster Tycoon Board Game you can purchase it on Amazon. Roller Coaster Tycoon

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